Getting a soft shell is a relatively common problem for Horsefield tortoises, especially for Horsefield tortoises that are very young. When considering the problem of soft shells, it is important to acknowledge just how important it is that developing tortoises get adequate nutrition. They also must be raised under the most ideal environmental conditions. Cold-blooded animals like tortoises are even more susceptible to their environments than warm-blooded animals, particularly with regards to light and temperature conditions. Caring for tortoises is all about managing and monitoring those conditions properly, regardless of some of the challenges involved.
Tortoises and Calcium
Tortoises that are developing soft shells are most likely getting inadequate UVB radiation and suffering from calcium deficiencies. Both factors could be contributing to the problem. Many tortoise owners fail to make sure that their tortoises are getting adequate levels of calcium. Tortoises are herbivores that mainly eat plant foods and vegetables, which will contain some calcium, but will rarely meet all of their calcium needs.
Giving a young tortoise cuttlefish bone can help prevent that tortoise from developing problems with soft shells in the first place. If tortoise owners identify the soft shell problem early enough, and start giving their tortoises supplements at the right time, they may be able to prevent any lasting damage. Bok choy is a vegetable that contains more calcium than many others, so if tortoise owners run out of cuttlefish bone at the wrong time, occasionally giving the tortoises bok choy can still help. Bok choy should not be given to tortoises on a regular basis, but it works well as an occasional supplement.
Tortoises and UVB
Many tortoise owners make the mistake of keeping their tortoises indoors too often. Most other pets can be kept indoors without suffering any ill effects, so it’s no wonder that tortoise owners may be used to that system. In fact, since ultraviolet radiation is famously dangerous for humans, it’s no wonder that humans have a tendency to forget that many other creatures require UVB radiation for other reasons. Tortoises will develop soft shells if they aren’t getting the right levels of UVB radiation.
It is difficult to simulate the correct level of UVB radiation in an indoor environment. Obviously, tortoise owners should try to do their best with regards to indoor UVB radiation, but giving tortoises opportunities to spend time outdoors will make all the difference for them. The outdoor environmental conditions are still the ideal ones, so it is no surprise that tortoises will respond better to these than they will to others. Different tortoises will vary somewhat in their responses to all environmental conditions, which is why it is important to monitor the health and behavior of a pet in all conditions.
Young tortoises are vulnerable in the sense that the little things that they experience early in life can have a huge effect on them down the line. Tortoises develop much more quickly than humans, so this vulnerable period is, in some ways, even more of a fragile time for them than it is for humans. It’s important to identify problems with soft shells. Tortoise owners should learn to recognize the signs. They should speak with their veterinarians if they suspect that there’s anything else going on with their pets.
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However, tortoise owners should not be overly concerned. As long as they are attentive and keep track of their pets, their pets should develop normally and go on to experience long and healthy adult lives. Preventing and addressing problems like soft shells can make that happen. Tortoises can be very resilient animals in the right hands and in the right environment.