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Hibernation Horrors

Wake up to tortoise hibernation horrors

Tortoise owners are being warned of the dangers their pet may face during hibernation - especially now with the extreme weather we are experiencing. Says specialist vet Mark Rowland:

“While the recent very cold weather has had far reaching implications with our lives in general, it has the potential to cause serious illness and even death in hibernating tortoises. Even hibernating at sub zero temperatures for a few days can result in frost damage and that, coupled with the bad winters and recent poor summers, has meant that many tortoises fail to regain weight lost in previous hibernations; a fact that has serious health implications.”

Mark has issued some pointers to help counteract these potentially life threatening issues. He says:

  • hibernating tortoises must be checked regularly;
  • if they have urinated they should be woken up;
  • if they are seen to have woken they should be kept awake. Advice on waking them or keeping them awake should be sought if you are unsure.
Post hibernation, Mark has highlighted some of the signs to look for which require immediate veterinary attention:
  • eye problems (bleeding into the eye, lens cloudiness) including blindness;
  • severe frostbite and gangrene on the legs;
  • signs of inactivity;
  • swellings on the body or head;
  • green coloured urine;
  • failure to eat or thrive.*

He adds: “It is important to remember that these animals have often been sick for many weeks in hibernation and so may be desperately ill. Simply bathing these animals in tepid water is a good first aid tip but is no substitute for seeking veterinary attention. Ideally a vet who regularly treats tortoises may be sought but all veterinary surgeries will be able to offer treatment (or refer to a veterinarian who is more comfortable treating these animals).

Tortoises are not native to this country and require our care and intervention to survive. A harsh winter is a warning sign that these inoffensive creatures may require our assistance as they wake from their hibernation.

For more information, visit The Trinity Vet Centre Website or contact:

Mark N Rowland, Trinity Vet Centre
Tel: 01622 726730,