I have a couple of concerns and I hope you can help me out. I have a sulcata tortoise a little more than a year old. It’s beak chipped on one side. I was wondering if I have to file the rest down? Is it a sign of poor nutrition if it’s beak is breaking? I am getting worried. I try my best to keep it healthy but sometimes I feel like I’m doing something wrong.

Hey There!

So Its really hard to say without seeing your torte’s beak.  The first thing I’d say is don’t trim your tortoise’s beak yourself! Unless you’ve been trained by someone definitely don’t try it. While a cracked beak doesn’t necessarily mean something is wrong, it can be a sign of serious health problems. 

The severity of the crack and how its impacting your tort is how you’d decide if it needs attention.  If its a bit of unevenness that’s not causing trouble eating, and not part of an overgrown beak, then (as long as you’re feeding an appropriate diet and providing the proper amount of UVB / temperatures gradient) it should work itself out.  Healthy torts with the right diet and environment usually maintain their beaks and nails through eating and climbing and other day to day trouble making. It won’t look like your shell got a manicure though, so keep that in mind.

That said, If he/she is having trouble eating, If the beak is overgrown, that’s much more worrisome.  Its a sure sign that he/she isn’t getting the right diet/ lighting/ etc and could potentially have a vitamin deficiency or be developing a type of metabolic bone disease  These are serious issues and require vet attention for sure. 

So I guess my advice is to keep a really close eye on your shell friend. If you notice other issues (The overgrown beak, lethargy, weakness, loss of appetite, abnormal shell growth etc) definitely find a herp vet in your area and make an appointment. It’ll ease your fears, identify any underlying issues, and any trimming that might need to be done will be done by a professional (who might be able to show you how to do it yourself should you need to). 

Heres a good care sheet for Sulcata tortoises. Check here too and make sure you’re diet and set up are all good. At only a year old he/she still has quite a bite of growing to do and its important to get that growth going in the right direction. 

The Sulcata & Leopard Tortoise: Sulcata Care Sheet

Thanks for the ask and keep us updated on your shell. If you’d like to send a picture I can share it here and see if anyone has any thoughts. 

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