Wednesday, October 9, 2019

Rescue Tortoise Challenges: Rehydration

Nelson, the Hingeback

A bit less than a week ago, I brought home a Hingeback Tortoise (Kinixys Homeana) to join my New Hampshire creep. He's a spectacularly beautiful tortoise, which is perhaps how he wound up in trouble.

The keeper he'd been living with had purchased him from a dealer at a Reptile Expo but was unable to keep Nelson in the manner that would support his growth and health, so she tried to find a better living situation for him... something I'm hopeful that I can provide.

I find his irregular scute pattern interesting.
When I met with the young woman to bring Nelson home with me, I picked him up and instantly knew something was wrong... that he was seriously underweight for his size, seriously dehydrated. A healthy tortoise of his length should have a density, a heft to them, like a mango... Nelson felt more like a hamburger roll.

All of the Hingeback Tortoises come from Africa, Nelson's type typically lives in rainforests and swamps, but he'd been kept in an open-top tortoise table.

When I got him home and washed and weighed him, he was 125g. I began an aggressive campaign of rehydration therapy.

Oftentimes, the advice is to soak a dehydrated tortoise in a mixture of a carrot-heavy babyfood and warm water, but I wanted to take a more scientific approach, and did some online reading about tortoise rehydration and oral rehydration therapy, and averaged a number of the articles and forum posts that made the most sense to me to come up with the following formula and method:

 I've soaked him twice a day, for an hour at a time; after nearly a week, his weight has increased to 180g, a 44% increase from his initial weight, due almost entirely (I believe) to rehydration... I've seen him eat a bit, but since starting the rehydration therapy, he seems to poop at least that much (things coming unblocked with the addition of more liquids into his system).

Nelson has a carapace length of 10.0cm, and employing the Donoghue Ratio (a formula for suggesting an 'ideal target weight' for tortoises) implies an ideal weight of 191g for a tortoise of Nelson's length... my thinking is that when he reaches this weight (even though it's a generic formula developed using 11 species of tortoises and turtles), I'll back off to soakings once a day, then eventually every other day.

I hope that Nelson continues to improve and that once he gets beyond dehydration, I'm able to provide him a living environment that supports his health and growth.

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