Avocados are a tasty and healthy snack for us humans, but can the same be said for pet tortoises? Should tortoises be eating this fruit or can they actually be quite dangerous where strict avoidance is necessary? I have spent some time looking into this fruit and whether we should be feeding it. What is to follow is all that I have been able to find.
So, can tortoises eat avocado? Tortoises should not be fed avocado under any circumstances. It should not be fed, even in small amounts or even infrequently to any species. This is because avocados contain an anti-fungal compound called Persin. This is highly toxic to many animals, including tortoises. Consumption of Persin can cause organ failure whereas in extreme cases it has been known to cause death.
A tortoise’s dietary needs and requirements depend largely on the species.
What each species should eat and does the best eating is entirely dependent on the natural environment in which the species came and has evolved.
For the most part, tortoises have a mostly omnivorous diet; but it must be said that some species rely on more leaves, stems, and leafy vegetables than others. Some require more protein, some should eat more fruit, etc.
Therefore, tortoises are often divided into two classifications when it comes to feeding; and the diet must be adapted accordingly.
So while it is important that you look into the specific dietary requirements of your tortoise species, nonetheless, no tortoise species should be consuming avocado.
We will look at the harmful effects of avocados in all species of tortoise in the following sections, so be sure to keep reading!
Why Are Avocados Not Safe For Tortoises?
Avocados look so appealing, and they taste delicious, it’s hard to imagine that this innocuous-looking fruit could be so toxic to so many animals including tortoises.
While humans can eat avocados without incident, tortoises simply cannot.
Avocados are not safe for all species of tortoise for several reasons, which we will now take a look at one by one.
Firstly, avocados contain an anti-fungal compound called Persin. It is abundant in avocado, and can be found inside the skin, stone and even green flesh of the fruit.
This is a dangerous toxin, and can make a tortoise extremely ill or even kill them in higher doses and extreme cases.
Secondly, avocados are known to contain a higher amount of another compound known as Oxalic Acid (or Oxalate)
You need to be very careful of Oxalates when feeding your tortoise.
If ingested too regularly or in too high an amount, it can lead to a number of negative health sues in your tortoise.
As it is found in so many different vegetables (in varying amounts), we need to be very careful that the amount we offer does not begin to compound.
Another high oxalate food, which you will often see not recommended to tortoises for the same very reason is spinach. Its also abundant in most other green leafy vegetables.
But why is Oxalic acid so bad?
It binds to important minerals and essentially means that your tortoise is unable to absorb them!
And as you can imagine, tortoises require quite a few of these to remain healthy.
One mineral that is crucial to tortoises is Calcium. This needs to be at an optimal level in tortoises for optimal bone and shell development. It needs to be carefully balanced with another mineral called Phosphorous; being in the favor of Calcium by at least 2:1.
So, if your tortoise was to consume more foods high in Oxalate, such as Avocado in the diet, it means that they will be getting less calcium, along with other essential minerals. It can soon lead to several nutrient deficiencies.
From a nutritional perspective, avocados are not theoretically ideal either. They are high energy, and high in fat.
Here is nutritional profile of just 100 grams of Avocado – which works out to be about a half of an small-sized avocado:
As you can see, avocados are high energy, both in terms of fat and even carbohydrate content.
Avocado would be very easy to overfeed from an energy perspective and your tort could easily run into issues with excess weight gain. Remember, there will naturally be other sources of fat in the diet.
Additionally, you can also see that the calcium/phosphorous balance is not ideal either (being 1:4) phosphorous heavy. Also consider that the Oxalate reduce the bio-availability of calcium even more!
What Can Happen If A Tortoise Eats Avocado?
What would happen to a tortoise if they ate avocado would depend on many factors, namely – the age of the tortoise, the species, how much is fed and the type of avocado.
Specifically, the Guatemalan and Nabal varieties of avocados are considered the most toxic, containing more of the compound Persin than others.
Universally however, there are some common symptoms and effects that are likely to occur regardless of the avocado variety. They are predominantly negative.
Persin can result in fluid building up around the heart, lungs, liver, and kidneys, causing those internal organs to fail. In extreme cases it can even result in death. T
There is no known antidote for avocado poisoning, although a vet can give your tortoise supportive care for their symptoms if some was accidentally fed.
In fact, this would be the most recommended approach. Getting your tortoise some expert support during this time should take priority.
Treatment would include giving your tort intravenous fluids to dilute the toxin. This is the care often given to this reptile who needs to clear out a toxic substance from their system quickly.
Poisoning symptoms usually appear within 12 hours of a tort-eating avocado; death can occur anytime within the first two days of ingestion.
So, if you think your tort has consumed avocado, you will need to monitor them closely.
Generally, the more that is eaten the susceptible your tortoise would be to experiencing the more dangerous effects.
While a very small amount is unlikely to lead to significant issues, it would not do your tortoise any good.
Other Foods Tortoises Should Not Eat?
Again, the types of other foods a tortoise should not eat will depend on their species and age.
Generally speaking however, tortoises do have an element of instinct as to what they can and cannot eat. For example, those that free-range in a garden should know instinctively the plants that could harm them.
In a garden environment, tortoises know to avoid certain plants, this includes bulbs of all kinds, including foxgloves and tulips.
That being said, this does not mean we should be careless nor ignorant. We must educate ourselves as to what plants are harmful. This is especially true of tortoises whom spend the majority of their time indoors.
Tortoises that live indoors are at higher risk of several health-related issues, where they are supplied with food. Its usually our ignorance that puts them at risk.
Keep in mind that Grazing and Mediterranean species should never be fed fruit. For those that do, citrus fruits (oranges, limes, lemons, grapefruit) should never be fed either.
With this in mind, consider the list of toxic foods below that are harmful to almost all species of tortoise:
- Auricula (Primula auricula)
- Azalea (Rhododendron species)
- Bean Sprouts (Various )
- Buttercup (Ranunculus species )
- Daffodil (Narcissus pseudonarcissus)
- Foxglove (Digitalis species)
- Hydrangea (Hydrangea species)
- Iris (Iris species)
- Morning glory (Ipomoea species)
- -Wood anemone ( nemone nemorosa)
You should also avoid feeding sweetcorn or maize to your tortoise; it is not recommended and will do more harm than good.
Better Foods To Offer Your Tortoises
Fruit-eating tortoises can consume grapes, melons, raspberries, and blackberries. Mango is also a sweet treat, but it can be quite sticky and attract wasps.
Bananas and cherries can be offered in moderation as they have a very high sugar content, which can lead to a lot of health problems even for fruit-eating species. Always remove the stone of the cherry in advance.
Fruit-eating tortoises also appear to love strawberries, according to reports from many owners. They often cite that strawberries are sought out, and when growing in the garden, are soon devoured.
The fruits mentioned above can be offered to rainforest species like the red-footed tortoise and yellow-footed tortoise.
Remember, these fruits must still be provided as part of a mixed diet and in moderation. If your rainforest species consumes too much fruit, especially in one sitting, this is likely to result in diarrhea.
Grazing and Mediterranean species should never eat fruit, it is of no advantage to them, and it will only do them harm.
So, aside from fruit, you can look to introduce the following items to almost all tortoise species:
- Chicory (Cichorium intybus)
- Clover (Trifolium species)
- Coleus (Solenostemon scutellarioides)
- Dandelion (Taraxacum officinale)
- Field bindweed (Convolvulus arvensis)
- Hawkbit (Leontodon species)
- Hedge mustard (Sisymbrium officinale)
- Mallow (Malva species)
- Plaintain (Plantago species )
- Shepherd’s purse (Capsella bursa-pastoris)
- Vetch (Vicia species )
All of the items mentioned above can grow from seed quite quickly. Do not use shop-bought plants like coleus as they can contain harmful pesticides.
You must not offer food sprayed with chemicals to tortoises because this will likely elad to health complications.
It is okay to provide Mediterranean and Red-foot species a small amount of grated carrot among their greens. You can also offer Brussels sprouts in moderation.
Ultimately, tortoises need variety in their diet to ensure that they acquire all the nutrients they need to thrive.
Food must include a source of Calcium and Vitamin D3. They are vital for healthy bones as mentioned earlier.
Make sure you offer foods that are easy to consume and do not requite a lot of biting. , This helps their beaks develop correctly, and it prevents the front of their mouths from becoming overgrown.
Food must always be fresh, and all leftovers must be removed at the end of the day, as it may well become a health hazard.
Make sure you supply your tortoise with fresh drinking water, a shallow dish is best.
Avocados are entirely unsafe for tortoises of all species and many animals. Therefore, they should be strictly avoided. There is no benefit to feeding them, even in small quantities, and there are plenty of other better food options available.
Tortoises need variety in their diet to ensure they receive all the nutrients they need to thrive. Thankfully, this means that you do not need to limit a tortoises diet to only one plant.
Interestingly, tortoises allowed to free-range in a garden will not only enjoy grazing all day and browsing but will instinctively know which plants to avoid. Whether or not they would instinctively avoid an avocado is not worth the risk and should not be tested.
When it comes to feeding your tortoise, they seem to do best when allowed to graze over the day, as opposed to eating set meals.
If you keep your tortoise indoors and supply them with food, you must be aware of the foods to avoid and make sure fresh food each day. Never leave scraps of food behind their enclosure, as this can be a health hazard due to bacteria build-up.
Make sure that you offer a varied and seasonal diet to your tortoise, that closely aligns with what the species does best with.
You should educate yourself on your specific species, and try to find out exactly what they need and are able to safely eat – both in terms of specific foods along with vitamin, mineral and macro-nutrient requirements (protein, fats, carbohydrates).
It should resemble their wild diet as much as possible and as far as you can.
Nonetheless, avocados are not a safe food for any tortoise species.
I am a practiced pet owner with decades of experience owning a number of different pets. I am also the main writer and chief editor here at Pet Educate; a site I created to share everything I’ve learned about pet ownership over the years and my extensive research along the way.