Mouth rot is an umbrella term that is used to describe when your tortoise’s mouth becomes inflamed. The infection can be viral, fungal, or bacterial. The most common form of mouth rot is known as infectious stomatitis. The good news is that sulcate tortoises are hardy and will remain healthy and happy in a well-maintained habitat. Unfortunately, all tortoises are vulnerable to mouth rot. Knowing what it is, what to look for, and how to prevent it can make a significant difference to the long-term health of your reptilian pet.
What Is Mouth Rot
Mouth rot in sulcate tortoises is an opportunistic infection, usually occurring in pets with a weakened immune system. The mouth is brimming with bacteria and microbes, which don't normally cause any harm, but when the immune system is weakened, your tortoise could get sick from an unrelated illness. This can be a result of bad habitat and more.
It is very important to know the symptoms and causes of mouth rot in sulcata tortoises, so you can quickly identify if there is a problem. This infection can spread to the esophagus, lungs and can result in death if not treated effectively.
Sulcata Tortoise Mouth Rot Symptoms
Being able to quickly identify mouth rot is the best course of action for your sulcate tortoise, which is why you need a good understanding of the symptoms your pet may experience. The most common symptoms include:
Loss of Appetite
Due to the infection being in the mouth, it can make eating exceptionally uncomfortable for your sulcate tortoise, which may result in loss of appetite or eating very little. If you notice your pet is not eating as it normally does, check the mouth for inflammation.
Knowing your sulcate tortoise’s habits and eating can make it easier for you to quickly identify when there is a loss in appetite.
Stress and Discomfort
Another common sign of mouth rot in sulcata tortoises is that they may become stressed and show their discomfort. It's not very easy to tell with sulcatas, but a tortoise pacing in the room when it's not normal of their personality or being more lethargic than normal, it could be a sign that your pet is stressed or uncomfortable. If you have had your tortoise for some tie and it has always been happy with your around and is now defensive or shy, this could be a sign of stress.
Discharge from the Mouth
By inspecting your sulcatas mouth, you will be able to quickly identify any trauma or discharge. Bleeding, ulcers and unusual redness are all cause for concern. You may notice white bumps, looking similar to cheese, with yellow discharge on the tongue and in the mouth, these are all signs of mouth rot. You will notice your tortoise will drool quite a lot as a result.
There are a few common causes that can result in mouth rot in sulcata tortoises, including:
- Improper nutrition – poor diet can cause an increase in infection risk
- Dirty habitat
If you suspect your sulcata tortoise has mouth rot, you are going to want to visit your reptile vet soonest to have a thorough analysis carried out and an accurate diagnosis. The vet will take a full history of your pet, along with temperature ranges in the habitat, humidity levels and diet. A variety of tests will be carried out to identify what type of infection the vet is dealing with. This includes bacterial cultures, fungal isolation and more.
In some cases the vet may take x-rays of your pets head to identify which organs are involved. Treatment is dependent on what type of infection your tortoise has that has caused the mouth rot. Usually it includes an oral cleaning using prescribed medications without causing tissue damage. Antibiotics are also prescribed along with anti fungal agents.
The good news is that with the right care and attention you can prevent the risk of mouth rot. Though, bear in mind, that no matter what you do, your sulcata tortoise can get mouth rot at any time, even if you have taken every possible precaution.
It is essential that you keep the habitat clean to prevent the risk of microbes attacking your pets immune system. You need to spot clean daily, throwing away any poop and left over food. Food not eaten within three hours should be removed. The water dish must be cleaned daily and fresh water provided.
Do a thorough clean once a month. This involves cleaning the entire habitat, changing the substrate and cleaning any accessories.
Monitor Temperatures and Humidity
You will want to buy yourself a digital thermometer and hygrometer, which will enable you to monitor your pets temperature and humidity at a glance. Ensure your temperatures range between 78ºF and 86ºF (25ºC to 30ºC). Humidity can range from 50% to 70%. Remember younger sulcatas require higher humidity levels.
Providing your sulcata with a well balanced diet is imperative to boosting the immune system. Offer dark leafy green vegetables, which are rich in Vitamin C. Vitamin supplements can help you manage any shortfall in the diet.Take the time to get to know the habits of your pet. Being observant can help you quickly identify if there are any issues.