We are worried about tortoise is dead! What do we do? She's foaming and has red fluid coming out of her mouth and is

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Customer: We are worried out tortoise is dead! What do we do? She's foaming and has red fluid coming out of her mouth and is unresponsive. Please help!
JA: I'll do all I can to help. What is the matter with the tortoise?
Customer: She is unresponsive. Bleeding or red fluid out of her mouth with foam. Eyes have a film over them.
JA: The Veterinarian will know what to do about this bleeding. I'll connect you ASAP. Is there anything else the Veterinarian should be aware of about the tortoise?
Customer: Sulcata 12 years old. Lives in temperate cold climate.
Answered by Anna in 37 mins 5 years ago
30+ years of experience

17,038 satisfied customers

Specialities include: Reptile Veterinary, Herp Veterinary, Exotic Animal Medicine, Amphibian Veterinary

Please help!
Hello. I apologize for the delay. Different experts come on at various times. I just logged on and saw your question. My name is ***** ***** I'm a biologist with a special interest in reptiles. I feel horrible to give you bad news, but I believe you deserve honesty. From what you have described, I'm afraid your tortoise is probably dead or near death. Bleeding from the mouth doesn't occur for any minor conditions that you could treat yourself.The best thing you can do is take her to an emergency clinic. If you need help finding one, give me your location, and I'll try to locate one for you.
On your own, there are a couple of things you can try. Bring her inside and place her under a light where she can warm up. You can also provide a special soak. Buy some Pedialyte and prepare a shallow bath consisting f half Pedialyte and half water. Soak her for about 20 minutes. Be sure to hold her head out of the water.
If she is alive, you should see definite signs of life after the soak. I know you would like an effective home treatment, but I can't lie to you. Your tortoise is, at best, ***** ***** condition and a vet visit will be the best thing to do. If you have more questions or need help finding a vet, just let me know. I'm sorry not to have better news for you.Anna
We are very far from a clinic. Is it worth trying the soak? Should it be warm water?
Could the symptoms be a sign of getting too cold?

Yes, go ahead and try the soak. The water should be about 90*F.

What temperature was she exposed to?

Internal organ damage can occur from cold. That's why I asked the temp.

It's been in the 20's at night and 30's-40's in day. She has a small cabin all to her self with a heat pad and heat lamp and area to burrow in straw. She lived in same location past 2 winters. But it's not insulated out there and it has been cold. Last few days she's been lethargic and slow to respond but was responsive yesterday. Today when we checked her, these symptoms.
We are soaking right now.

If she had gone into hibernation where the temp remained in the 40's, she would probably have been OK. If she stayed in her house, that would make a difference, too. If she came outside at all when temps were lower than that, cold could be responsible. It does depend a little on what kind of tortoise she is, but most of them do not do well with cold. The desert tortoises are more likely to hibernate in tunnels where they are safe, if they can go deep enough.. The Russians, Sulcatas, etc. need warmer temps. With them, it's best to bring them inside for the winter.

If the cold is to blame for her condition, there is little that can be done. Do provide a soak and keep her where it is warmer. If too much damage wasn't done, her body may be able to fight for life and gradually recover. There is no way to be sure, but it can't hurt to try. If you find that she is alive, provide two soaks per day. If you'll tell me what kind of tortoise she is, I'll give you the correct temps for her.

Glad you're soaking her. Let me know what happens.

She is Sulcata. She has not been outside in the temps at all but her cabin got too cold I'm afraid. And if we see no signs of life after the soak, should we still leave her inside for a period of time to see if any change? When do we know there is no chance?
How do we tell if she is alive or dead? She has been unresponsive before but then responded later. What do I do to determine that? Thank you by the way. We are in crisis. Thank you.
She still has blood coming out of her mouth. And we've done the bath for about 25 minutes...

You're welcome. I understand that you are in crisis. I feel helpless, too, that I can't give you more help. I woudl leave her inside for a few hours, keeping her between 75*F and 85*F.

Because we can't see them breathe, it is very difficult to tell if a tortoise or turtle is dead or alive. The head and legs often appear limp, and feel limp when you touch them. Eyes may be sunken, but that can also be a sign of dehydration in a living turtle. The eyes in a dead tortoise are usually open. The skin of a dead tortoise may feel warm to the touch, rather than cold. Eventually, the limbs and head will stiffen, but that can take from a couple hours to days.

In this case, I suspect internal bleeding. You've done a soak. Now keep her warm for about 3 hours. At the end of that time, let me know if there's any change.

She has clear bubbles coming out of her mouth. Could that mean she's breathing is this a sign of life? Help! What do we do? Thank you!

That usually means fluid is coming out of the lungs. I am concerned that could be where the blood is coming from, too. The bubbles could mean she is breathing, but they can come out without breathing as well. There is nothing else you can do for now. Just keep her warm, and wait. I know that's hard, but there really is nothing more to do.

Thank you!
One more question while we wait. If she survives but does have internal bleeding, what is the next step? Could she recover? As I mentioned we are far from a clinic and I need to plan to take to one asap if that's what needs to happen.

If the bleeding stops, she could survive. A clinic would definitely be the next step, but finding one that sees reptiles on a holiday weekend may be difficult. If you'll give me your zip code, I'll see what I can find.

your life signs gave us a bit of hope. Her limbs are not hard, her eyes are shut and her skin is cold. For what it's worth. We wait...

Difficult as it is, that's all you can do. This link will take you to a directory of reptile vets:


If you don't find anything, I may be able to find others if i have your zip code. I'll be here off and on this evening, and will keep an eye out for any responses from you. I'm keeping you in my thoughts.


My goal is to provide you with excellent 5 star service – if you feel you have gotten anything less, please reply back, I am happy to address follow-up questions. Please remember to rate my service after you have all the information you need. I will greatly appreciate a positive rating as that is the only way I am compensated. Thank you!

I'll be logging off for the night soon, but wanted to check and see if there have been any definite signs of life. I hope so.
No definite signs. Still foaming at mouth but no blood that we can tell. We are in 96041 zip code. Nearest would probably be in Redding, CA. Any ideas?
The closest vets I could find in the zip code director are all about 100 miles from you. You can take a look at the list on the following page:http://www.reptileveterinarians.com/150/96041/I don't know what to make of the foaming. It has gone on for so long. It is late here, so I'll look for more vets tomorrow morning. I hope she makes it through the night. You've done all you can; try to get some rest tonight.

Hello again,

I see you have opened a new question, asking about temperatures. You didn't need to pay twice to get that information; you could have posted it as a follow-up to this thread so you wouldn't have to pay twice. I would have closed the other question as a duplicate, but since another expert responded I'm not able to close it.

No one has done any studies to determine the exact temps that will kill. To do that, scientists would have to expose Sulcatas to low temperatures and wait for them to die. No one wants to do that. We do know that when exposed to temps below 50*F, they are very likely to get sick. When kept outdoors, their night time boxes should be heated at least into the 60's. The 70's are better yet. Some authorities even recommend the 80's. You can confirm this information on the following reputable sites:



Most experienced tortoise keepers and breeders believe anything below 40*F will be fatal. In your case, what it really comes down to is how cold her box was. If it stayed in the 60's, that would not be the cause of the problem. Even if temps are not cold enough to directly cause death, being chilly makes respiratory infections more likely. Such infections can spread to the lungs (pneumonia) or result in septicemia (blood poisoning), and if severe enough, result in bleeding from the nose or mouth. If not treated promptly, these infections are fatal.

I hope your tortoise made it through the night and you are seeing some signs of life. I couldn't find any closer reptile vets, but there is an exotic animal vet in Redding. You can give them a call to see if they see tortoises. Most exotic specialists do. Here is their information:

VCA Asher Animal Hospital

***** |Redding,CA96002

Call(###) ###-####/a>


She didn't make it but we felt better trying everything we could, with your help. Thank you.
You're welcome. I'm so sorry for your loss. I was hoping for a better outcome, but it wasn't to be. You certainly did everything possible under difficult circumstances. I know that words don't really help, but all I can do now is offer my condolences. I'm sorry.Anna
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