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fatty liver question

Posted: June 28th, 2018, 7:01 am
by Kfen
A friend of mine just recently had a spider tortoise die. He had it necropsied by a vet who does not have much experience with reptiles. She determined the cause of death to be fatty liver. My friend was there and the liver was fatty and discolored. I am skeptical if that was the true cause of death. The tortoise was active, eating, drinking, and passing waste regularly right before death. From my understanding, usually reptiles become lethargic and stop eating with fatty liver disease. Also from my brief perusing the internet (dangerous I know), it seems as though reptiles store fat in their liver during times of not eating. His spider tortoises slow down greatly for a few months over the winter and eat hardly anything at all. So my questions are:

could the fat in the liver be from brumation?
Are reptiles ALWAYS lethargic and stop eating before succumbing from fatty liver?

The tortoise was fed a variety of greens, some vegetables, and occassionally mazuri tortoise diet. Not exactly the type of stuff I would associate with fatty liver.

Re: fatty liver question

Posted: June 28th, 2018, 11:00 am
by Jimi
Bummer for your friend to lose an animal.

I don't really have answers for your questions; I could speculate (ignorantly...) but reserve judgment for now. However on this:
a vet who does not have much experience with reptiles
I will share the opinion, that this might be "very not helpful". Over my life I have moved around quite a bit. I have kept herps since, well, early elementary school (early 70's - a while ago now). Sometimes you live in a place where you can find a good herp vet. Usually, even in 2018, you don't.

The best "good vets with little/no herp experience" that I have experienced, were very open with me about that and basically invited me to co-doctor my animals. We literally go through the books together, to come up with a diagnosis and - if the animal is still alive - a prescription.

There are some fundamental differences in metabolism and also in related "dynamic anatomy", between animals that have a "high income, high expenses" way of life, and those with a "low income, low expenses" way of life. If most of your practice lies in spaying cats and dogs, well, the guts of an animal that goes without food for 3-4 months a year are probably gonna look familiar, or pretty weird, to you depending on what time of year you look at them. I just can't believe that "a liver is a liver, is a liver". Extreme example - you ever gut a shark? That's a weird liver...but not to the shark.

Again, sorry for your friend's loss. Turtles are unique, for "herps". There can be quite a relationship there, between the species, the keeper & the kept.

Re: fatty liver question

Posted: June 28th, 2018, 4:47 pm
by Kelly Mc
The liver is involved with almost every vital system of the body. Animals can live with alot of function loss but if ducts get involved in chronic fat accumulation than yes death can be attributed to the tissue changes that include fat and fibrous areas.

Usually this is diagnosed by copious bile on necropsy.

Somehow on the internet it turned into a Term and a controversy because of people defending feeding preferences.

Re: fatty liver question

Posted: June 28th, 2018, 5:03 pm
by Kelly Mc
Oh boy ok Im just going to say it.

I would never feed Mazuri or any pelleted diet to Egyptians, Stars or Spiders.

Just wet weeds. Dandelion, pulled out wheat grass. Mostly dandelion as the staple which was sold at safeway and the asian stores. I also got some other weeds there.

Wet weeds.

Re: fatty liver question

Posted: June 28th, 2018, 5:03 pm
by Kelly Mc
Yeah - I know, I know.

Re: fatty liver question

Posted: June 30th, 2018, 4:07 pm
by Kelly Mc
I dont mean to sound flip at all, I am just so not wanting to get in a debate.

As time goes on hepatic and renal conditions are being noted in older reptiles, or younger animals fed novel matter regularly, as well as other impacts like chronic dehydration (imperfect water presentation) and temps that impair optimum metabolism. Toxic by products build and cause harm. Symptoms of lethargy are common but often creep by unnoticed until desease is acute. With tortoises, beginning lethargy (which can mean many conditions) is sleeping in the day while pulled in the shell. Healthy tortoises may nap in the day under a heat source, but they extend themselves, neck and feet relaxed, to access as much contact with heat and light waves, instinctively.

It used to be said that tortoises are bullet proof. This was said especially of sulcata tortoises. We now know that isnt true - its just that the bullet moves Slowly. With smaller species I assess no wiggle room. I've had groups of animals where I held back individuals for significant time frames, 8, 12 years and more while others of the group were homed and encountered different feeding and keeping. I have a collective reef of data, absorbed through the years and this has been of note . So I have some experience in long term history in stating that there isn't any wiggle room re smaller tortoise species.

I'm not demonizing pellets, but know the formulas are calculated guess work. I prefer my own calculated guess work in feeding them.

Hepatic issues run in tandem with renal conditions with reptiles.

Re: fatty liver question

Posted: July 1st, 2018, 5:02 am
by Kfen
Thanks for your input.

Jimi, he knew the risks going with a non-herp vet. He has a close relationship with her and got it done for free, within 24 hours, and was involved. And I wouldn't mind your "ignorant" speculation, because I doubt it would be ignorant at all.

I am open minded and like to hear all thoughts.

Kelly, I always value your opinion, so don't worry about sounding any way. I know the pellets are formulated with best guesses, but I still find it hard to believe that we wouldn't hear about this more. There are many people that use them as a staple. In this case they made up only a small portion of the diet. I forgot to mention this was also a young animal- I believe around 7 years old. For what its worth, he is not planning on using pellets anymore with his remaining group of spiders.

So one theory I purposely held back on is this: Sansevieria. Most websites and people list it has safe for tortoises. This was planted in the enclosure. Bites were randomly taken but never significant quantities, until right before the tortoise in question's death. It got mowed down, and this particular tortoise had thick green "smoothy" in its digestive tract. Anyone have any ersonal experience using these plants as food, either positive or negative?

Re: fatty liver question

Posted: July 2nd, 2018, 4:25 pm
by Jimi
Hmm. Tough case. Between this
active, eating, drinking, and passing waste regularly right before death
and this
this was also a young animal- I believe around 7 years old
I share your curiosity about some sort of acute intoxication maybe being involved. And wonder if the routine diet was just fine. You did say
fed a variety of greens, some vegetables, and occassionally mazuri tortoise diet
That doesn't sound like an over-reliance on processed food.

Back to this:
the liver was fatty and discolored
Colored like how? Colored by what? Bleeding? Bile? Fatty like morbidly obese, or just "a little padded"? Got pix? Compared them to a series of (not just one or two) normal & "fatty liver" pix?

With toxins, you know, "the dose". Maybe Sansevieria consumed in a large amount is harmful, somehow, whereas in small amounts, it isn't. Or maybe the tortoise got into something else entirely. They're often curious and can be "orally fixated". Was this an indoor enclosure, or outdoor?

You note your friend has other animals, including of this species. Long history with them? Mortalities? Like this one?

What I'm getting at is this - things die. All that lives was born to die. Everybody that's kept animals long has killed some by doing dumb stuff, and also had one or more die under very weird circumstances. Mysteries, so to speak.

Meanwhile, humans seek answers. Humans seek patterns, going so far as to invent them when none are conveniently enough at hand. Now, it could be that your friend has a husbandry issue that needs to be resolved before he kills his other animals. And it could be that he's a tortoise-keeping God who needs to keep doing exactly what he's already doing. Making up same damned story could impede that. For all we know, the tortoise had a stroke. Or some genetic predisposition to liver failure, that had nothing to do with the husbandry. Or, it ate something it shouldn't have, a tainted bug or whatever. Maybe some of those greens had a heavy dose of bug-killer on them. Heck, maybe after eating something bad the tortoise felt yucky and hammered that Sansevieria in a pique of self-medication.

We also don't know much about the conversation with the vet. Your friend could have nudged the vet in that direction, by speculating about fatty liver. Or, maybe the vet just knows that's what kills a whole lot of pet herps and figured "odds are...". Medicine - actual care-giving - is frighteningly non-scientific. Lots of retroductive hypothesis masquerading as fact. To some extent we're all just Guinea and our pets and our livestock. How many false positives? How many recoveries in spite of treatment, not due to? Who even asks such things? Not enough people.

I would just urge him to keep an open mind, is all. Don't jump to conclusions, don't mis-diagnose and mis-prescribe. It would be a shame to screw up a perfectly good husbandry routine.


Re: fatty liver question

Posted: July 3rd, 2018, 6:25 am
by Kelly Mc
Because there are always unexamined components to health issues presented on forums, heck even At Hand, in a veterinary format, with a tortoise God or other, these discussions can only be conversant.

That is why I basically stuck to sharing per that click on issue, I have interests but seek no pattern to be sure. A virus could have killed the tortoise.

I have wondered if hidden anomalies, subclinical organ impairment from the captive born egg, could show up later in life when bodily demands or health stressor has its way.

It seems we like to think we have it covered but we so have only pawed the surface.

Exacting scientific data with most of these types of issues will probably not happen, just like human medicine - there are drug mechanisms for instance, not fully understood yet prescribed by doctors.

Tortoises eat alot. Any regular part of their diet I believe, has impacts.

Re: fatty liver question

Posted: July 9th, 2018, 5:02 pm
by Kfen
Again, all great thoughts and responses. The liver was white. I'll send a link to this thread to my friend and see if he wants to chime in. Im not really sure why I haven't already.

Jimi, you brought up something that I thought about when I was typing my last response: pesticides. Some store bought plants are treated with systemic pesticides these days. I mentioned this to my friend and he told me that plant was purchased at a big box store only a few months prior.

I understand we may never come to a conclusion, especially here over the internet where no one including myself has actually seen any parts of the tortoise. If it is a diet thing, I would be nice to know because that is easily fixable for the rest of his group.

Re: fatty liver question

Posted: July 10th, 2018, 6:41 am
by Kelly Mc
Man kfen that really pulls up a repeating pain for me. I truly would rather find a worm in my fruit.

How long was it from first note of irregular behavior, ie; malaise, no eat etc, till death?

The duration can be a clue to a mechanical death. A mechanical death is old school zoo vet term for death caused by external mishap, like chemical exposure, obstruction, temp injury.

Re: fatty liver question

Posted: July 10th, 2018, 3:39 pm
by Kelly Mc
The reason I ask is one of the hallmarks of a mechanical death is its sudden, swift in either no symptoms or a brief severe presentation before death.

Chronic dietary influenced issues and pathogenic illnesses usually show to a keeper, a guy who has spider tortoises, quite honestly, would see things that your less experienced baby sulcata owner, would not, so the power of observation is actually a factor.

Reptiles can linger a significant time when morbidly ill

Re: fatty liver question

Posted: July 11th, 2018, 2:07 pm
by Kfen
As far as i know, there were no abnormal signs that my friend saw before death. Tortoise was eating and acting as usual. Thats why I immediately questioned the fatty liver diagnosis. I did send him a link, not sure if he read it yet. Would be better if he joined this discussion.

Re: fatty liver question

Posted: July 12th, 2018, 7:27 am
by Kelly Mc
I can't help but think how cool/useful it would have been to get the necropsy on video.

Since the vet had disclosed not doing a lot of reptile work, she kind of dropped the ball for herself imo. The opportunity will never come up for her again probably.

Its very sad that he lost the spider, they're such nice tortoises.

Re: fatty liver question

Posted: July 12th, 2018, 10:49 am
by Kelly Mc
Personally I dont think the plant can be ignored, if we are sincere in seeking an answer, even if for the value of building on fragments of shared experiences and ideas - you just dont know how they can lock together with a future circumstance, but they can.

Weighing what information is available I would feel more apt to follow what has been solid in evidence for intoxication in other animals, other chordates, before I would trust a list of plants deemed safe/unsafe for tortoises.

Re: fatty liver question

Posted: July 12th, 2018, 1:05 pm
by Kelly Mc
Theres alot of material on saponins which is cited as the toxic element in sansevieria and a light peruse had some liver dynamic stuff with saponins of other species, pos and neg, and some mention of toxicity with poikilotherms as well as dogs and cats.

Yet how many of us here, as animal folks, have had our chinchilla or iguana or cat chew on these types of plants with no effect - scads.

But there is a cause for everything and so its worth exploring!

Jimi may pop up with more plant data, if he hasnt found me too annoying!

Re: fatty liver question

Posted: July 13th, 2018, 8:27 am
by Jimi
if he hasnt found me too annoying!
Oh, not in the least, no no no.