More than half of UK vets saw tortoises with weight loss or anorexia following their last hibernation, research has revealed.

Tortoise 2
Vets should advise owners to delay tortoise hibernation by keeping their pets warm using heat lamps, according to the BVA.

According to the BVA’s findings – taken from its spring 2016 Voice of the Veterinary Profession survey, which was completed by 1,648 of its members – vets believe these health problems stem from the way tortoises have been hibernated.

Moving on

Traditionally, owners were advised to place their pet in a shoebox in the attic – however, modern advice has moved away from this concept. Therefore, the BVA has teamed up with the BSAVA and the British Veterinary Zoological Society (BVZS) to make sure hibernating pets have a healthy rest this winter.

BVA president Gudrun Ravetz said: “We have a far greater knowledge now of a tortoise’s health and welfare needs; however, it’s possible those who have had tortoises for decades may not be aware of the new practices.

“We would always encourage tortoise owners make sure their pet has regular health checks with their vet to ensure good health and that they are equipped with the most up-to-date advice to prevent health problems.”

Deciding to delay

Although the weather is getting colder, the BVA said vets should advise owners to delay tortoise hibernation until November or December by keeping their pet warm using heat lamps – this will avoid an overlong hibernation that can result in:

  • depletion of energy stores
  • dehydration
  • accumulation of toxins

Also, to ensure good hibernation husbandry, the BVA, BSAVA and BVZS have compiled some tips to help owners ensure their tortoises stay healthy while having the best possible winter rest.

For more information, visit the BVA website.

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