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Posted By: Sue - Veterinary Nurse

How does your Tortoise weigh up?

As the days get shorter and the nights colder, tortoises are slowing down, in some cases they have stopped eating and are already in pre-hibernation wind down.  The exceptionally warm weather recently had some of them eating again,  delaying the process for a few more weeks.  The exceptionally hot Summer has been good for tortoises, though in some cases they have been so active they have actually lost weight.

It is important to weigh your tortoise regularly, especially important if you have more than one, otherwise how do you know if they are eating well? I find keeping a monthly weight record gives me a good indication of how my three are doing.  A long drink in the bath will make a difference to their weight so always weigh before bathing or after bathing. This is very useful when it comes to this time of year and I am thinking how long to hibernate them for,  usually between 12 and 14 weeks, never longer than 16 weeks. 

Do weigh them during hibernation, checking to see if they have lost weight, more than 7% or if they have emptied their bladder they need to be woken up early.

On waking give them time to acclimatise to the warmth before giving them a warm bath as they will be dehydrated after their long sleep.  They will then need to be kept warm above 15C with a heat lamp to bask under until they can go outside in late Spring.  They should be eating within 24 hours.

Make sure you have everything available in case you need to wake them up earlier than expected.  Remember you may need to buy a new bulb as UVA/UVB bulbs become less effective and need replacing every year or two (check the small print on the packaging for details).

This article is based on Mediterranean species of tortoise that hibernate.  Also females carrying eggs will weigh more so bear this in mind.

If you are concerned about hibernating your tortoise please book a pre-hibernation check at the surgery we will be happy to advise you in more detail.

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