The case of the French-bean eating star tortoise
"I bought UV light and food as recommended by the pet shop, but my star tortoise just would not eat them," the owner said to me. "She eats only French beans and that was the only food she ate for the past 7 years."
The tortoise hospitalised the tortoise again but this time, I noted she had paler tongue and was purplish. Her shell borders ooze red blood. She passes red blood.
One week ago, the owner came as she was constipated for 2 weeks and was not eating. "Her shell is very thin," I said. "Not enough calcium. Eating French beans solely for 7 years has caused this problem. A tortoise should be eating a variety of food including shrimps and multi-vitamins and minerals."
But the tortoise just would not eat any other food. For 7 years. I asked Dr Vanessa to give her one ml of enema salts using a one-ml syringe. She pooped on the water and became more active. I gave an antibiotic injection IM. She went home but still would not eat.
So, this time, she was much weaker and her eyes closed most of the time. With so much blood leaking from her shell lines and fresh blood from her anus, the owner felt it was more humane not to let her suffer anymore. She was euthanased and cremated.
Another client with the jaw-abscessed rabbit saw the tortoise and told me how she successfully reared two tortoises now 8 years old. She showed me her i-phone images. The tortoises looked great. "I did a lot of research," she said. "I got one when she was a 50-cent coin size and then there was another one left at the pet shop. The operator asked me to take it and so I did."
"How do you train them to eat a variety of food?" I asked.
"I feed them by hand when they were young," she said. So, that was the solution to picky tortoises.
"I am more interested in how you toilet train them," I said.
"Star tortoises are not to be immersed in water as they are desert tortoises," she stated. "I put them into the water and they poop. Other times, I don't put them in the water." Normally, we don't immerse tortoises in water by use of a sloping platform for them to go up to be dry. However, medication and critical care powder was put into the water for this tortoise to drink. It was too late to cure her.
"It is excellent toilet training method," I said. "Are they still doing it now?"
"Now, the situation is haphazard since I have a domestic worker to care for them as I have a baby to care for." I requested her to write and share her knowledge as star tortoises are not common in Singapore due to a ban.
Intelligent owners nowadays know much more about the management of exotic pets than me if they have them as pets. Vets can't know everything. Now there are hermit crabs from Batam for sale and the pet shop operator has more knowledge of nutrition and husbandry than any vet in Singapore because we don't see hermit crabs in years. And today, an owner phoned me about his rat who chipped his tooth. What to do for sedation? Zoletil?