Sudden Death in Tortoises

Sudden Death in Tortoises



Hello, my name is Joseph. I live in Ghana(West Africa) and i am a Veterinarian. I am a small pet practitioner but recently undergoing wildlife training in a resort. Most of what i am learning is hands-on field experience. There is no senior vet on site so I basically use my knowledge in veterinary medicine and also consult. They are 5 tortoises on site; 2 aduts and 3 young ones. The young ones; 1 is 8 months and the other 2, 6 months. One of the younger ones was found dead without warning and no visible signs of external trauma. I wanted to ask, what the possible causes of abrupt death in young tortoises? Hoping to get a prompt response from you. Thank you.



Here is something I wrote back a year ago.

However this may not apply in your case if it dies suddenly from disease.
Actually there is very little sudden death in disease in these animals which do everything slowly, including die.

Most people dont realise the presence of disease in tortoises because they are unfamiliar with the subtle signs.


Let me know if this helps.




Sudden Death in Aldabras.

Sam Pascucci 4/28/20


Explanation of sudden death. 

The animal was considered perfectly healthy at the time of its death.

There was no known underlying disease 

The animal was active and eating within 24 hours of its death.


Overheating in the sun: This happens to folks as the summer comes around the Elevation of the sun changes

This reduces the shade and they overheat.


Freezing:  Aldabras can freeze to death, young animals can freeze even at 55 degrees depending
on rain or wet wind chill factors:


Drowning:  Flipping over in a bowl or odd-shaped pan.
Being  trapped in a hole or being held down by cages mates when rainwater raises.


Ants:  Red ants can attack suddenly and kill small Aldabras. 
Check around your enclosure for aggressive Red ants, if your pen borders a neighbor house check there as well.


Poisons: Animals can eat poison Frogs, Antifreeze, Roach and Bug Killers, Rat poisons, Ant Poisons, some disinfectants are toxic to tortoises as well as plant and lawn Fertilizers.

Antiparasitic drugs can cause sudden death

Bad reactions to medications and some antibiotics..

Choking on seeds, Choking when vomiting, choking while vomiting from high


Many Fruit seeds can be poisonous in abundance.

Vitamin A and Vitamin D Toxicity 

When Aldabras get too hot they will foam at that mouth, throw up and die. 


Physical Death:

Flipping over and dying in the Sun in an hour
I have seen animals die from just being flipped over in hours.  

I have seen an animal flip over in the sun so long, only to right himself 
at the last minute and then die from the event. leaving the owners baffled 

Falling Trees and broken branches.

Ingestion of glass or a metal object that punctures the bowel.

Predator attacks, #1 Dogs, Racoons, Rats, Coyotes, Foxes and other animals

Small animals can be carried away by Predatory birds.
Physical trauma falling 

Being Crashed or Stepped on.

Being attacked by a cage mate 





What are the most common reasons for sudden death..

#1  Heat Stroke, Flipping over and lack of shelter.

#2  Dog Attacks, Raccoons, Coyotes and foxes
#3  Ant attacks (losing multiple animals)

#4  Freezing, improper winter shelter (losing multiple animals)

#4  Poisons plants 

#5  Rat Poison




Chronic death from disease

Improper routine health checks 

Someone didn't notice how sick the animal really was
so it wasn't really a sudden death but a chronic death from disease.



Watch for my next videos 
#1  How to determine if your tortoise is sick and what to do about it.
#2  Most common disease related to deaths it tortoises 



Thank you Sam. This will be of great help to me. I will investigate and revert. They are sulcata tortoises by the way.


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