Tortoises Waking

March is when most tortoises start to think about coming out of hibernation. It is often a difficult time of the year for them as the weather can be so variable: one week sunny and warm, the following week arctic again.

At the beginning of the month have a peek to see what your tortoise is doing. If there is no sign of him and he is still under his newspaper then leave him alone. If he has started to move to the top of the box it is time to start to wake him up.

Begin to wake him with a daily bath. This should be warm water and the level depends on the size of the tortoise but should be below the level of the nostrils. Remember his responses are going to be slow. If the water is too deep he will not be able to respond quickly enough. Warm water starts to get his digestive tract going again.

Do this for a few days. You may see your tortoise drink the water and this quite normal. He shouldn't pass anything at this stage. If he does it is likely to be thick 'egg white' fluid which is urine. You shouldn't be worried about this.

Check your tortoise's eyes. Gently bathe them with cotton wool and warm water. THis will remove any discharge and dust that may have built up over the hibernation process.

Check your tortoise's mouth. It should be nice and pink and healthy loooking. If the tongue looks white and 'fluffy' we should have a look at him as this could indicate a condition called Stomatitis.

If you have one, place a heat pad into his 'home'. This will provide a constant source of heat and should help prevent him slipping back into hibernation if the weather turns colder.

After a few days of bathing introduce food. Anything that you know he likes that will 'get him going'.

When we have sunny weather try to get your tortoise outside as much as possible. The sunlight will help him to wake up.

If, after a couple of weeks out of hibernation, your tortoise has not started to eat then we would recommend that your make an appointment. Tortoises can suffer from a condition called Post Hibernation Anorexia which can be serious if left untreated.