29 Mar WINTER IS GOING AWAY
Warm weather is already here, not sure if for good, but tortoises are starting to wake up from hibernation.
During hibernation two important things happened which might have severe consequences now:
- Immunosupression: During hibernation the tortoise immune system has been slowed down due to low temperatures; when the temperature rises, immune system becomes active again, but often this re-activation happens more slowly than the proliferation of infectious agents. This gap causes that many tortoises suffer from infectious diseases such as mycoplasmosis or herpesvirus in the months following hibernation.
- Dehydration: During hibernation there is an important loss of water in the tortoise’s body. If the tortoise’s hydration status was not adequate right before entering hibernation, this loss of fluids can cause diseases like renal failure or gout. Symptoms often appear one or two months after exiting hibernation, that is why it is so important to correct hydration status as soon as they wake up. The best way of doing this is by bathing the tortoise in tepid water twice a day until they start eating; then the frequency of baths can gradually decrease (once a day, three times a week, etc.).
Health checks after hibernation must focus on weight control (there is usually a loss of 1% of the weight), the presence of symptoms of infectious diseases and the establishment, if necessary, of measures to correct water losses.
It is interesting to perform a blood test in this moment. On the one hand, we must remember that chelonian blood values change with the season, especially after hibernation, so we must be careful when interpreting blood test results. On the other hand, having a database of blood test results for a patient helps interpreting this results.
Post-hibernation check-ups complement pre-hibernation check-ups, which allows discarding diseases that can compromise the tortoise survival during hibernation and controlling the tortoise’s parasitic load.