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Myrtle, A Seven Year Old Sulcata

Tortoise Myrtle was a Sulcata tortoise that came to me in February of 2008. He was in awful shape. His owner had brought him to a vet who was keeping and treating him for Metabolic Bone Disease (MBD) with daily injections of calcium and vitamin A. At the point that I received Myrtle he had already received four such injections out of the course the vet wanted to continue of two weeks. Myrtle was on a diet of spring mix and carrots. Any vet who knows a bit about nutrition would know carrots and even spring mix have a good amount of vitamin A so there was no deficiency, and would also know that injecting vitamin A can cause Hypervitaminosis A which would lead to a whole different set of problems for Myrtle. Luckily the owner got him from the vet and as she had planned to surrender him at the end of his treatment, surrendered him after getting him from the vet.

Upon receiving Myrtle he munched on a few greens but not with the usual gusto that a  Sulcata does. He was not able to walk which the vet thought was from the MBD, and which I also thought as well, until several weeks went by and Myrtle really wasnít eating much, but worse, there was no poop either. I had been continuing daily soaks to keep him hydrated, but itís really odd to not have any poop and no appetite for a Sulcata. I contacted the owner to find out when was the last time he ate well and was told banana, but he vomited. Thatís when bells went off and I realized this tortoise was not walking because of an impaction, not because of the MBD as first thought. So off to the vet for an x-ray for confirmation, and sure enough, a blockage in his intestines.  My next question was what substrate was the tortoise kept on and how often was he soaked. At the advice of the vet he was kept on aspen bedding. He was soaked maybe once a week but no water bowl for self soaking was provided. In my opinion aspen is way to dry for Sulcata to be kept on and since Sulcata are known to eat everything in sight it is very likely they are going to eat it. For five months, from March through July I tried everything I could think of and my vet helped with all he could think of to get Myrtle to poop. He was tube fed that whole time because he ate very, very little if anything at all and our hope was that if we could get food in it would get things moving, and of course we added things to help get the blockage moving. He was also given enemas to try to help things along.

When that first bit of very wet poop first appeared that early morning in July I could not have been happier.  Little by little Iíd see a little more each day and Myrtle began to eat a bit on his own and then one day at the beginning of August he pooped a real Sulcata poop. Friends told me I should have taken a photo of that poop and I sure should have since I waiting six months for that one. Of course rather than take a picture I took it apart to see what was in that mass of black tar like poop. Sure looked like shavings to me so my conclusion was a mass of aspen bedding caused that blockage. Being as he was not kept well hydrated and not fed a high fiber diet that mass just built up and sat there causing that blockage. That poor tortoise suffered for over six months. He was not given proper care for the seven years of his life which was obvious by the condition of his shell. I know he was loved by his owners but they were given poor information and the tortoise suffered because of it.

 Every morning while Myrtle was here I dreaded looking in on him for fear he would be gone. I really had my doubts as to whether or not he would survive or not, he was that bad, that weak. When he finally came around and began to eat and walk around it was such a joy to see him acting like a Sulcata should. I was thrilled to share with his previous owner that Myrtle had recovered and was well enough to be adopted to his new home in Louisiana.

On August 18th 2008 I shipped Myrtle via DHL to his new home. He arrived save and sound. His new owner called to tell me he was outside checking things out and doing well, grazing in the sunshine.  I got a follow up email a few days later that he was continuing to do well, getting around, slowly as he did, but getting around.

On Sept. 1st, 2008 I received a most distressful email from his new owner. Myrtle has passed in his sleep during the night. I was shocked, beyond words. Devastated. This was a tortoise that one could not help but get attached to. He won my heart and to get that news was so upsetting, it was like hearing I lost a loved one.  I am not usually one to get all emotional, but Myrtle sure has a place in my heart and I will never, ever forget that wonder tortoise with such a strong will to survive.

I wish I knew what went wrong and why he suddenly died like he did but I donít have the answer. I know his little body was terribly compromised because of the condition he was in and the health issues he battled with the impaction, but I really thought he was going to make it with his strong will. He just never seemed to give up. He will be greatly missed.

RIP Myrtle.

Myrtle Struggling to Walk in March

Myrtle the sulcata

Myrtle the day he left in August,

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