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Turtle won't eat...


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#1 Rose Rose

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Posted 19 September 2011 - 07:03 PM

Okay, so I've read enough about box turtles to know that they can be really picky eaters, and also that they sometimes just fast for a while, but I'm worried about my little guy. His diet is just awful, and for the past week or so he's hardly eaten anything at all.

We found him in our driveway a few months ago (he's an ornate, and was given a clean bill of health by the only turtle vet I could find), and I took him in just to keep him from getting run over/eaten. Couldn't locate his owners, and then fell in love with him and decided to keep him. He was a picky eater from day one, though. He'd probably been with us for a week before I got him to eat anything, and for a while he would eat only fruit (apple, cold banana, and sometimes strawberries, melon and mango). I started buying him live mealworms and his appetite perked up and was fine for a while, though except for green peas he wouldn't eat veggies. But now he won't eat peas or fruit, and has stopped eating the mealworms as well, except for a half-hearted bite now and then.

He's housed in a 50 gallon Rubbermaid tub set up on a table in our backyard, under a carport roof. I did add a new kind of bedding recently, 'Desert Snow' (white flaky stuff) that was recommended by the guy at the pet store. I also use a coconut substrate and dirt. He usually gets 15-20 minutes outside each afternoon, and gets a couple hours of direct sunlight in the morning before it's blocked by the roof. I'm not sure if this is the best setup for him but is the best I can do at this point because we have three dogs and a small yard.

Anyway...any tips on getting him to eat? Suggestions as to what he might like? Cutting up the worms won't work even if he was still eating them, because he hates dead worms and won't touch them.

Oh, and his name is Sherlock. I can't post a pic right now b/c I'm on the wrong computer, but he's a handsome little devil ; )

~Rose

#2 Turtle_Whisperer

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Posted 19 September 2011 - 08:15 PM

When in doubt, don't take anything a petstore owner says for a grain of salt.

I hope that what you mean by "white flaky stuff" you are referring to pine shavings. They aren't the greatest but is safe for the most part. A mixture of moss/coconut/topsoil is ideal. Sand is a no no.

The lack of diet can be a combination of things, mostly stress. Being wild and an Ornate box stress could be a big issue. Did the vet do a full checkup including testing for internal parasites? All wild turtles have internal parasites. Stress lowers their immune system and can cause worm payload to become overwhelming!

Let me tell you the story of my three-toed boxie, Olivia. When I first got her she was very light (almost weightless) and wouldn't touch anything unless it was meat. Not long I noticed a few pinworms leave with her meat feces and that's when I realized she was burdened with parasites. After a month of feeding her ground up medicated pellets with turkey sandwich meat and box turtle dry food all the worms were gone and she quickly gained weight and produced eggs! Now she is heavy with more eggs...but is doing very well.

I don't know what the area is like where you live, but if it is a well populated neighborhood and the turtle is light it may very well been a recent discarded or lost pet. Poor diet will need to be retrained with patient introduction of new foods mixed with its favorite. Do not use mealworms, they are hard for turtles to digest and they do not get much out of it. For live food use earthworms/nightcrawlers. Turkey sandwich meat is good too, but can't have any artificial flavoring/smoke in it and you will need to thoroughly wash it before breaking it up to mix with the other food.

I also want to add that even if you know for certain that the turtle had previous owners, it should be considered wild unless otherwise proven captive born and raised.

#3 samsmom

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Posted 19 September 2011 - 09:13 PM

Consider also that fall is coming, and turtles notice the shorter days and cooler nights. For turtles that hibernate, it is time to start slowing down. Have you considered how you plan to take care of him during the winter? There is a lot of advice about hibernation on this site.

[:welcome] Also, welcome to TT

#4 Turtle_Whisperer

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Posted 19 September 2011 - 10:28 PM

For hibernation you really have to evaluate the health of the turtle. If the turtle is underweight, sick or injured in any way then hibernation is out of the question.

#5 Rose Rose

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Posted 20 September 2011 - 10:51 AM

Thanks for the responses. I have assumed that he is a discarded/lost pet because he's so tame - he sticks his head out to be scratched and the vet said he was the friendliest turtle she'd ever seen (he let her poke and prod at him without any sign that it bothered him, though he was not at all lethargic). I never considered releasing him on his own because we aren't anywhere near a suitable habitat for turtles, and he is unable to close up his shell completely (vet said this was probably due to an old injury -- he has a bad scuff on his shell so was probably mauled by a dog at some point).

I'm not going to try to hibernate him this winter because I'm just not confident enough in my turtle-mom skills yet. I'll move him into the garage when it gets really cold and buy him a light/heater/whatever is needed (haven't researched that much yet since it's still a ways off).

I've tried feeding him meat (turkey and chicken) but he wasn't interested. I'll look into getting him earthworms...there's only one decent pet store near here and they recommendeded the mealworms, but I'm sure they must have earthworms too. (We did try a couple of worms from our yard when we first got him, but he was probably still too stressed to eat anything then).

#6 Turtle_Whisperer

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Posted 20 September 2011 - 01:03 PM

If you have an Academy nearby they have worms too.

#7 samsmom

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Posted 20 September 2011 - 09:30 PM

It's good that you have a plan for hibernation season. Even turtles that don't hibernate will slow down and eat less with the change of seasons. Many of my boxies enjoy nectarines, salmon (cooked), and yams (microwaved); all of these smell good, so that seems to get their attention.

#8 BoxTurtleLover

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Posted 21 September 2011 - 03:37 AM

Most wild turtles, or turtles kept by people that were found in the wild and may have been released or escaped, have parasites which can affect their appetite and weight. The best thing to do is to take your turtle to a vet that sees reptiles/exotics and have a checkup and get a stool sample checked. Only certain medications eliminate certain parasites and anything over the counter doesn't work for all worms and worming has to be done periodically (i.e., dosages given once, given again a few weeks later and then maybe a few weeks after that) to eliminate any and all worms. A turtle hibernating with parasites can die as the worms do not hibernate and continue to draw nutrients and/or blood in the case of hookworms. Do not rely on over the counter medications when you first get a turtle to solve any problem because you are just wasting your money - get a checkup and a stool sample done and educate yourself all you can about ornate box turtles and their requirements for housing and diet. They love crickets by the way....keep us informed!

#9 jg44

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Posted 21 September 2011 - 08:11 AM

Where do you live?

#10 Rose Rose

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Posted 22 September 2011 - 09:57 AM

I'm in L.A. I don't really know when I should move him from outdoors, since most of the time the weather here should be fine for him. I think I'm probably going to set up a second, smaller enclosure in the garage for cold nights and days, and just move him back and forth. Would that be confusing or traumatic for him, to have two different homes that he switches between?

For a while I had an outdoor area where I let him run free for a couple of hours now and then (it's completely fenced off so he was safe from our dogs), but I went in one day and found the neighbor's cat sitting on the wall looking down at Sherlock, so I'm scared to put him in there by himself now, since he can't protect himself.

#11 jg44

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Posted 24 September 2011 - 01:44 PM

How big is he?

How do you know he is a boy?

Is he a Ornate or a Desert Ornate?

Pine shavings very bad for most turtles.

The only reason Ornate's can live as far North as Wisconsin is the Sandy Soil they dig down in for overwintering. Sandy soil is preferred for Ornate's. Sand is not bad.

If your turtle is a male ill bet it's captive bred. There are no wild ornate's in Los Angles. Desert Ornate's range stops at Arizona.

My ornate's get 70%-Meal worms, Super worms, Sardines (thawed), cooked shrimp (steamed no seasoning), Cray fish, June bugs, crickets (gut loaded), pill bugs (related to shrimp),worms (not from sporting goods store-high in protozoa), 20%-Vegetables, 10%-fruit.

http://www.tortoise.org/cttcmemb.html

#12 jg44

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Posted 24 September 2011 - 01:52 PM

Go to turtle meeting get expert advise for free.

So Cal is a full of turtles and turtle people.

My first choice would be: http://www.octortois...TC/Welcome.html

Many to choose from: http://www.tortoise.org/cttcmemb.html

#13 Rose Rose

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Posted 27 September 2011 - 02:57 PM

Just following up on this...I still can't get Sherlock to eat. I bought him some nightcrawlers, and he nommed on one for a bit at first but since then won't take even a bite, though he does sniff at it when I put one down for him. There are two that I just left to burrow around in his enclosure, in case he gets hungry.

I don't know if he's an ornate or desert ornate - what's the difference? I am quite sure he's male because of his tail and his red eyes (and the turtle vet confirmed this).

How long can he fast without it starting to get dangerous? It's been over a week since he's eaten anything (maybe longer).

#14 samsmom

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Posted 27 September 2011 - 08:59 PM

They can go weeks without eating. It's a good idea to know your turtle's average weight (use a postage scale) so you know when to really worry.

My local experts say desert boxies have more lines per scute, so that is how they decided my girl Rosina is a desert boxie (see my posting for her picture).

#15 BoxTurtleLover

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Posted 28 September 2011 - 03:44 AM

Please post a photo of your turtle, of the shell and plastron. We can tell you if it is a desert (t. ornana leuteola) or ornate box (t. ornata ornata). Desert boxies require different care than t. ornata ornata as they come from a dryer area and require more protein in their diets. No box turtles are native to your area so your turtle may be stressed from many factors. A photo would help.

#16 Rose Rose

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Posted 29 September 2011 - 06:37 PM

I'm not on the right computer right now for posting a pic but will later tonight. Just wanted to give an update - Sherlock started eating again! He took a tiny bite of chicken this afternoon, and just now he started eating a mealworm. Still no interest in the nightcrawler, though.

#17 Rose Rose

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Posted 03 October 2011 - 08:50 PM

Okay, here's my handsome little guy:

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I'm pretty sure he's not a desert ornate.

He's back to eating his mealworms, but won't eat anything else. I'll try some shrimp/fish tomorrow. He seems pretty peppy, though, unlike last week when he was kind of moping. I *think* (not sure) that I may have just not had enough substrate in his enclosure. I was having problems with ants and kept taking some out, and I think it ended up being too shallow. Anyway I added more and that may have done the trick. I'm using a combination of plain potting soil, sphagnum moss and coconut substrate.

#18 TurtleDean

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Posted 05 October 2011 - 06:16 AM

Try serving the mealworms with a few peas in the dish, the mealworms will eat the peas, hence he will be eating peas in their guts and associate the peas with food and so on... The ants are a nusiance and can bite him when he's asleep. you should do what you can to remove them. Make sure he has a soaking dish, otherwise he looks healthy.

#19 Rose Rose

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Posted 05 October 2011 - 08:46 AM

Oh, awesome idea about the peas; thanks! I do sometimes toss a bit of carrot in the mealworm container, too.

He does have a soaking dish; a terracotta saucer about 7" across. He takes a little bath every morning. Sometimes he takes his food in there too. I change it twice a day.




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