If you have recently got a pet tortoise, then you may not have yet seen any poop. Or have you? What does it even look like, and how do you tell it apart from the habitat substrate or identify if and when something could be wrong? Here is what you need to know.
So, what does tortoise poop look like? A lot of factors influence healthy tortoise poop, but essentially it should be firm, well-formed, and be a brown/greenish-brown color. If it’s runny, dry/crumbly, or contains undigested food, then there’s something wrong and you should likely consult a vet.
Having to check out your tortoise’s poop isn’t the highlight of being a tortoise owner, but it is a handy way to check how healthy they are and if there is anything is wrong.
So, let’s dig in a little deeper and see what else other important information you can learn from your tortoise’s poop.
What Should My Tortoise Poop Look Like?
Tortoise feces should be smelly, solid, and hold its shape – what you’d expect most animal poop to look like, essentially. It might contain white urate deposits as well. Though, factors including diet, age, and health of the tortoise will influence what ‘normal’ is to each pet.
The benefits of checking your tortoise’s poop can be a little confusing to decipher at the start.
Most tortoises tend to urinate and defecate at the same time, which results in green-brown poop with spots of white.
When a tortoise pees, not only do they release normal urine, but they can excrete a by-product made from urates.
This by-product comes from the digestion of protein. It is stored and released from the bladder of tortoises.
Because it’s a semi-solid substance, it can be easily mistaken for white poop.
Especially if it’s excreted without pee, meaning it’ll be drier and more solid in shape.
If your tortoise’s feces is brown or green-brown, they are healthy.
If their poop is brown/green-brown with white deposits, this is also a sign of a healthy, happy reptile.
When Can Tortoise Poop Look Different?
Tortoise feces can look different when they are unwell or dehydrated. Dehydration in tortoises results in dry, crumbly poop or grainy urate deposits. Runny poop with or without undigested food could be a sign of parasitic infection or an upset in their diet.
Two of the biggest culprits for unusual feces in tortoises are nutrition and hydration.
When it comes to nutrition, most tortoises only need a very low protein diet as they are mainly herbivores (they only eat plants).
However, some tropical species, like the red-footed tortoise, are considered omnivores (eats plants and animals) but for the sake of simplicity, let’s stick to the majority of species.
Tortoises need leafy greens and weeds to be healthy because this is what they would normally eat in the wild.
You can give some fruit as a rare treat but even then, only give a very small amount.
Too much sugar will upset their gut biome and result in watery feces.
If there is a lot of urate deposits, more than what’s normal for your tortoise, they are getting too much protein in their diet, and this needs to be scaled back.
When it comes to giving leafy green vegetables, make sure to give a variety.
If you make the mistake of only giving, say, iceberg lettuce, your tortoise won’t be nourished from that as it doesn’t offer much other than water.
Runny poop can be because of an issue with their diet, but if you’ve ruled that out and your tortoise’s feces is still runny, poop parasites like threadworms may be the culprit.
If you suspect them to be the cause of your tortoise’s bowel upset, especially if they’re lethargic too, collect a stool sample and bring it to your vet for testing.
On occasion, you may be able to identify the worms yourself in the poop by their characteristic white lines, but they are incredibly hard to find, which is why the vet is your best bet.
Dry, crumbly poop is a sign of dehydration.
To help hydrate your tortoise, give your pet fresh water and fresh vegetation.
Another great hydrating trick would be to let them soak in a shallow bath (no higher than their chin), so they can absorb water through their mouth and cloaca.
Also, using a spray bottle on the mist setting, spraying their skin and shell in their enclosure can help with hydration.
If this doesn’t fix your tortoise’s dehydration problem, make an appointment with your vet to find out what’s going on.
What Is the Best Diet for My Pet Tortoise?
The best diet for your tortoise is one that mimics their diet in the wild – it should be species-specific. Most tortoises eat lots of leafy greens, weeds, and vegetables with minimal protein. Give them plenty of water, so they stay hydrated. On occasion, you can give them a fruit treat if you want.
Providing the best diet for your tortoise is one of the most important things you can do to keep them healthy and happy.
Leafy green vegetables and weeds are your tortoise’s best friends.
Most species of tortoises are native to semi-arid climates, which are full of grasses, plants, and succulents.
However, there are a few species where they need a higher protein diet, but these species are the exception.
Although it may seem harmless, the interchangeability of calling your tortoise a turtle can be very harmful to your tortoise.
Turtles require a higher protein diet than most tortoises, so make sure to stick to tortoise-approved feeds to prevent long-term digestive issues.
A diet of leafy greens and vegetables should consist of about 80% of their food intake. You can easily buy mixed salads from the store but make sure to get a varied selection.
Ones that contain mostly iceberg lettuce won’t nourish your reptile (though it may be a good option to help hydrate your dehydrated tortoise).
Go for salads containing rocket, baby spinach, and kale.
Although these salads only contain trace amounts of protein, this is the perfect amount for your tortoise.
If you have an abundance of weeds or flowers in the yard, you can give them to your pet (after washing, of course).
These weeds and flowers include dandelions, clover, thistle, and brambles. Remove any thorns you find before giving them to your pet.
Once or twice a week, you can add in vegetables like peppers, broccoli, and cauliflower.
They can provide a nice change from their normal foods, but these vegetables should never make up the majority of your tortoise’s food.
Rare treats like mangoes, pears, and strawberries are tasty to tortoises, but only small amounts should be given and only once every few weeks.
Too much sugar will cause digestive issues for your reptile and their microfauna.
When it comes to water, provide fresh, clean water every day to avoid dry and crumbly poop.
How To Ensure Healthy Pooping Function And Frequency In Pet Tortoises
On average, most tortoises defecate every 2 to 3 days because of their slow metabolism. How often they go depends on the species, age, diet, and health status. Each tortoise has their own routine of how often they poop, so monitoring when yours goes is important to know what’s normal.
Let us consider some of your options.
Check For Evidence
An unfortunate catch to figuring out your tortoise’s pooping schedule is that tortoises are well known for eating their feces.
This makes it very difficult to know how often your pet actually poops.
If there’s no evidence of poop for a few days, but your tortoise looks and is acting normal, they’re probably just gobbling up the poop before you can see.
Consult A Vet
However, if there’s no poop for 4 or 5 days, they’re not eating, or they’re lethargic, bring your tortoise to the vet to get checked out.
Introduce Natural Laxatives
If you’re concerned but don’t want to go to the vet straight away, you can help increase your pet’s poop schedule by introducing natural laxatives.
Pumpkins are a great laxative that encourages your tortoise to defecate.
Some tortoises don’t like the taste of pumpkin, but grating and mixing it into their salad might trick them into eating the pumpkin.
A warm bath for about 20 minutes is another natural laxative. Just make sure the water doesn’t cover their mouth and stays warm to help get your tortoise pooping.
Be mindful; this could take a couple of days of trying before your tortoise is relieved of their constipation.
While it may not be the most exciting of topics; the poop of your tortoise can tell you a lot about their health.
That’s if you know what you are looking for and can differentiate what it is supposed to look like, from any issues.
Hopefully, by now you have a greater understanding.
And if you notice that your tortoise isn’t pooping normally or the feces is off-color, you have some area to explore to help resolve it at home.
If that fails, or if you are in doubt, do take them to a vet where they can conduct a stool sample, run analysis, and tests to ensure you have a healthy tortoise.
Just be careful not to confuse it with their substrate!
But certain smells can indicate something is wrong and may need investigating.
I am an experienced pet owner with decades of experience owning a number of different pets, from traditional pets like dogs and cats, to the more exotic like reptiles and rodents. I currently own a Cockapoo (pictured) called Bailey. I am also the main writer and chief editor here at Pet Educate; a site dedicated to sharing evidence-based insights and guidance, based on my vast pet ownership knowledge, experience, and extensive research.