Hello~ I hate to be a bother, but I stumbled across your blog and thought you may be able to help me. I’ve got an older Russian tortoise that I’ve had for a few years now, and her beak has begun chipping in the last year or so. I mixed up her diet a little and it seemed to help with her activity level, but I still worry. Is this a more common issue or could something be worse than I thought?
Hey There! thanks for the ask! Not a bother at all.
First I’ll point you to this post from a few weeks ago. While the care sheet is different the issues are pretty much the same for both Russian and Sulcata tortoises. (I recommend http://russiantortoise.net/care_sheet.htm the whole site is great!). So if you give the link below a read and it seems like your torts beak is causing trouble you might consider a vet visit as a check up and for a beak trim.
When you say this has been going on for a year, do you mean that the it continues to chip regularly or that the chipping isn’t correcting itself? Also, when you mention you changed up her diet her activity level changed, had she been particularly lethargic? The lethargy is probably the most worrisome as that, combined with beak growth issues, can be a sign of bigger issues.
How is her shell? Do you notice white patches anywhere? Uneven growth? Those are troublesome signs as well, of Pyramiding, metabolic bone disease…
As I said in a previous post about beak chipping, its hard to tell without a picture of the beak and shell and info about behavior changes. With tortoises you want to identify particular issues but you also have to look at them as a whole. Is the issue isolated to chipping? or is it more.
You’ll wanna make sure you’ve got the proper diet, UVB, Temperature, humidity and substrate. Humidity is a tough one if you live in colder climates. When the heat is on it dries out a lot so I make sure to ‘clean’ the substrate with boiling water once a week (without your tortie inside!) and having a warm mist humidifier close by. You always want to make sure she’s getting regular soaks in warm water for 20 minutes or so (once a week… more often if its dry).
It should be noted that tortoises, like most reptiles, shed. They’re not snakes so you won’t see one big tortie shaped shed, you’ll see some peeling and shedding over time. That’s normal and as long as you keep up with soaks and keep humidity & temps right, they’ll take care of it themselves. Zoya had a little peeling right on her chin and it made her look like she had a beard for a week.
You’ll also want to consider having a cuttle bone in the enclosure. It allows your tort to manage their beak themselves by chewing on something a little harder, and it is a great source of calcium which keeps shells and beaks nice and strong. Chewing on things like cuttlebone, stones, etc can cause chips to occur. As long as they aren’t impacting eating, or accompanied by other issues, it will likely right itself with growth. Otherwise, a trip to the vet for a trim will fix things and your vet might be able to show you how to trim the beak yourself in the future.
Varying the diet of your tort is a really important part of care. Seems strange but you want to mix up the greens so she gets a good amount of calcium and vitamins, all provided at different levels by all the greens recommended for a healthy tortoise diet.
I know that’s not a specific “WORRY” or “NO PROBLEM” answer. You know your shell girl the best and can hopefully take this info and decide if its time for a vet visit. I’m not a vet of any sort so keep that in mind. I can only impart the information I’ve got and point you in a whats hopefully a helpful direction when making the decision. I always say its better safe than sorry. If issues continue a check up can only either identify an issue or give you piece of mind. Can’t hurt. Feel free to send some pictures, I’m happy to share with others here in case anyone has some more info that might help you.
Keep us updated! Shell hugs to you both and I hope this helps!
Anyone else have any thoughts?