Tortoise Poop & What It Tells About Tortoise’s Health

The information is current and up-to-date in accordance with the latest veterinarian research.

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Do not be disgusted by your tortoise’s poop. The feces of the pet actually tell a lot about its health. Allow me to introduce a few points.

A well-formed and firm brown or greenish poop indicates a healthy tortoise. The pet will poop 2 – 3 times a week. However, runny or bloody feces or tortoises not dumping for days are signs of sickness. A healthy diet, regular soaking, and sometimes medication is necessary to treat the pets.

Let’s get into more details.

What Does A Healthy Tortoise Poop Look Like?

A healthy tortoise produces well-formed and quite firm feces consisting of the end digestion products. The fecal matter of the tortoises is odiferous, and the color of the poop can vary, depending on the ingestion. Usually, healthy tortoise poops are brown, greenish-brown, and dark brown. 

Any deviation from the shape and form of the tortoise feces indicates abnormality. For example, a runny stool poses 3 probable causes, parasite attack, low fiber intake, and undigested food.   

Stool sample analysis will confirm a worm attack in the tortoise. You need to look into the other two possibilities if the result is negative.

In the upcoming sections, we will explore different poop conditions in tortoises and their meaning.

Why Is My Tortoise Poop Very Dark And Black? 

People have interpreted black tortoise poop in two different ways. One group thinks thick, black poop is healthy. However, another group claims it is a sign of intestine bleeding.  

Of course, internal bleeding is a severe concern, and emergency care is mandatory. A call to the vet will clear your doubts. 

Again, chances are that a change in the diet is causing black poop. So, consider any recent modifications in the tortoise meals.

Switch to another food list for 3 – 5 days if you find any. Observe the tortoise poop color to notice changes. Keep your tortoises hydrated by soaking, offering drinking water, or providing water-rich vegetables throughout the time. 

The tortoise poop color should return to dark brown or green after a week. Take the pet to an expert if you see no progress at all.

Why Is My Tortoise Poop Dry And Hard?

A well-formed and firm feces is considered healthy for tortoises. But if the poop is too hard, dry, and crumbly, then the tortoise is dehydrated. The urates of a dehydrated tortoise are also dry and gritty. 

You can confirm dehydration in tortoises by other signs too. For example, 

  • Weight loss
  • Appetite loss 
  • Fatigue 
  • Sunken eyes 
  • Dry skin 
  • Flaky scute 
  • Thick saliva discharge 
  • Shrinking posture 

The tortoise will usually poop once it gets rehydrated. You can hydrate your tortoise by following the below tricks,

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1. Build A Water Source In The Pen

Though tortoises are not fans of water, they still need it to survive. Hence, you need to make water accessible to these pets. Providing a shallow water bowl or building a source with minimum water depth will work.

2. Soak The Tortoise Regularly

Tortoises absorb water when bathing. Soaking the tortoises in lukewarm water (90 – 100F) for 20 – 30 minutes is recommended.

3. Balance The Humidity In The Enclosure

An ideal humidity percentage in the tortoise pen is 40 – 70%. The level can go up depending on the species or subspecies. You can maintain the humidity inside the habitat by daily misting the substrate. To monitor the moisture percentage install a hygrometer.

4. Add Water-Rich Foods To The List

Cucumbers, iceberg lettuce, cactus pads, etc., are low in nutritious value. But they are rich in water content. Adding these vegetables in small portions is an excellent trick to hydrate the tortoises.

What Does Tortoise Watery Poop Mean?

The tortoise with runny feces is suffering from diarrhea. Ignoring the condition for an extended period can threaten the tortoise’s life. Let’s look at the symptoms, causes, and treatment of watery poop in this pet.

Symptoms

  • Watery poop 
  • Weight loss
  • Appetite loss 
  • Fatigue 
  • Sunken eyes
  • Dehydration, etc.

Causes 

1. Wrong Diet

Tortoises eat anything you offer them. But, of course, they can not digest them all. The undigested food stays in the stomach and leaves the system in watery feces.

Similarly, iceberg lettuce and cucumber are rich in water content but low in nutrition. Filling the tortoise with these vegetables often causes diarrhea. 

Furthermore, tortoises are big fans of sugary fruits. But as you know, sugar is not good for their health. Though fruits are okay as an occasional treat, a regular feed can lead to watery poop.

2. Parasitic Attack

Tortoises biting dirty substrate, eating unwashed vegetables, or drinking from unclean water bowls often suffer from parasites. In other words, tortoises ingest worms or larvae from filthy environments.

Those parasites grow their population and start living off the tortoises. Consequently, these pets lose appetite and weight and become lethargic. Vomiting and pooping worms are two common signs of parasite attack.

Treatment 

  1. The tortoise diet should include high-fiber, low-calorie, and low-protein items. An occasional treat of fruits is okay to bring variety to their taste bud and boost their appetite. But filling the tortoises with sugary fruits is highly discouraged. Follow a healthy diet routine for the tortoises to avoid diarrhea, vomiting, or stomach ache. 
  2. Keep the habitat clean. Maintain hygiene for the bottom substrate by immediately removing poop or leftover food. 
  3. Take a stool test for the tortoise to diagnose a parasitic attack. Deworming the tortoise at least twice a year is necessary. 

Why Is Blood In My Tortoise Poop?

Blood in the tortoise feces is not usual nor healthy. An immediate observation is required to determine the problem. Here are 3 probable reasons behind bloody poop, 

1. Foreign Item Ingestion

Tortoises will eat up anything on their way. Maybe you have mistaken a foreign object in the feces for blood. Check the poop thoroughly to confirm the condition.

2. Intestine Injury

Ingestion of foreign items, for example, wood, plastic, etc., cause cuts when passing through the internal tracts. The blood will leak with the poop. Take the tortoise to a vet and run x-rays to detect the foreign object. Your tortoise may need surgery to remove the object from the tract. 

3. Cloaca Injury

Tortoises can hurt their cloaca vent when mating, laying eggs, or passing feces. A proper checkup and treatment from experts help the pets heal quickly. 

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How Often Should Your Tortoise Poop? 

There is no exact pooping routine for the tortoises. The species can take a dump twice or thrice a week. This frequency depends on the tortoise’s diet, age, and health condition. Here are some examples,

Tortoise Poop Routine Based On Age

1. Baby Tortoise

The hatchlings have a shorter gastrointestinal tract. As a result, they do not have the option to store and digest food slowly. Thus, the babies poop every day.

2. Juvenile Tortoise

With growing age, the pooping frequency decreases. The tortoises now have a developed digestive system to process meals. A juvenile tortoise releases waste twice or thrice a week.

3. Adult Tortoise

Tortoises, after 14 to 20, start facing a slow metabolism. It means they start eating less and pooping less. You can not actually predict their waste-releasing frequency. But pooping every 2nd or 3rd day is healthy.

4. Senior Tortoises

Most adult tortoises will go through a complete metabolic shutdown. The pets consume a small amount of food. So, you can not expect them to poop daily. These tortoises may take a dump every four days or once a week.

Tortoise Poop Routine Based On Diet

Obviously, diet plays a massive role in the tortoise’s pooping frequency. For example, the species live on a high-fiber diet, including grass, hay, vegetables, and green. 

Stuffing a meal with high calories or protein messes up the pets’ digestive system. Hence, they may suffer from diarrhea and poop more often than usual. Likewise, low-fiber diets can cause constipation in the tortoises, making them poop less. 

How To Help A Tortoise Poop Healthy 

As mentioned, healthy poop of tortoises should be well-formed and firm. Also, they will take a dump twice or thrice a week. The color and texture of tortoise poop and the frequency of releasing waste vary depending on the species, age, diet, etc. 

Hence, it is tough to say whether your tortoise is pooping healthy. However, the tricks below will somewhere ensure a healthy pooping function and frequency in your pet,

1. Keep A Log Book 

Check the tortoise substrate and the soaking bath for poop. Look at the form and consistency of the feces. Next, enter it in a log book to keep track of the tortoise’s fecal health. 

You can guess anything abnormal just by looking at the entries. For example, the pet suffers from diarrhea if the feces has a liquid-like consistency. Likewise, not pooping for days indicates impaction or constipation.

2. Review The Diet

Tortoise meals include 70 – 90% grass, hay, weeds, and vegetables. The reptile may consume a small portion of protein depending on the species. Besides, a sprinkle of supplements on the meals and an occasional fruity treat is also part of the tortoise’s diet. 

Furthermore, baby tortoises require a balanced diet every single day to build a solid structure. On the contrary, juveniles and adults can live with a 5 days a week feeding schedule. Most importantly, all tortoises drink water every day.

Now, if you notice any abnormalities in the tortoise poop, review the past meals of the tortoises. Look for any discontinuity in the food selection or modification. Switch to another meal routine and wait for progress.

3. Soak The Tortoises  

Tortoises tend to poop in the water. There is no scientific study explaining this phenomenon. But yet, experts suggest soaking the tortoises regularly. 

Soaking fulfills 3 purposes. First, the pet’s skin and shell get hydrated. Second, the reptile drinks water, and finally, it releases waste in the tub. 

Many tortoises will not poop or pee until you offer them a bath. Of course, you can not take that risk. Therefore, soak the pet tortoises regularly. 

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The baby tortoises need soaking every day. But the juvenile and young tortoises prefer bathing twice or thrice a week. On the other hand, the ideal soaking routine for adult tortoises is once a week.

Soaking can be confusing for beginners. Hence, I have written a detailed bathing guide for the tortoises in my previous article. Do not forget to check it out.

4. Focus On The Cleanliness 

Besides a wrong meal, a parasite attack is another reason for runny feces. So, if your tortoise exhibits abnormal pooping behavior, look at the cleanliness of the enclosure. 

Tortoises can dump their poop on the substrate too. You need to clean the waste almost immediately. Otherwise, it will entice larvae and other worms in the pen.

5. Talk To A Vet

In some cases, abnormal poop poses a sign of some other disease. Call a vet and consult the situation with him. 

Do Tortoises Suffer From Impaction Or Bowel Obstruction? 

Let me clarify one thing first. Bowel obstruction and fecal impaction are not the same.

Bowel obstruction in tortoises is caused by foreign object ingestion, for example, pebble, soil, etc. Surgery is usually necessary to remove the object from the system.

You need to take the tortoise to a vet first. He will do an x-ray and other tests to confirm the condition. Later he will prescribe a suitable method to ease the pain of the tortoise. 

On the other hand, hardened poop in the system leads to blockage and is responsible for impaction. This condition is treatable with lifestyle changes. But in critical situations, the tortoise may have to face surgery. 

The signs of tortoise impaction are: 

  • Tortoises do not poop for 2 – 3 days.
  • The pets strain to poop.
  • Straining often causes prolapses. 
  • Tortoises can not eat and vomit frequently. 
  • You will notice breathlessness and lethargy in the pets. 

Offering the tortoises a balanced diet and keeping them hydrated can help them return to their daily routine. Natural laxatives, for example, mashed banana and pumpkin, often influence the poop pressure in pets. Vets sometimes inject medicine-grade laxatives for quick recovery.

However, avoid putting small pebbles or stones in the enclosure to prevent impaction or bowel obstruction. Also, do not mix walnut shells, cat litter, sand, or corn cob with the substrate. Instead, only use the best substrate to cover the pen bottom.

Do Tortoises Suffer From Constipation?

Constipation is a similar situation to impaction but less severe. The tortoises refuse to poop for 2 – 3 days straight and exhibit other symptoms. Such as, 

  • Lethargy 
  • Poop straining 
  • Reduced appetite 
  • Stress 

Usually, dehydration and a low-fiber diet lead to constipation in tortoises. A balanced diet and a regular lukewarm water bath will help them return to the normal pooping routine. Besides, feeding the tortoises natural laxatives also comes in handy in this situation.

Does Tortoise Poop Smell? 

Tortoise excrement does have a damp smell which is hardly noticeable. But the intensity goes up depending on the diet of the pets. Sometimes the undigested food comes out and spreads a foul odor. 

Similarly, if the poop piles up for days, it will start rotting. As a result, the smell becomes unbearable. 

Finally, the poop smell sometimes depends on the subspecies. Many tortoises release odiferous feces without eating anything bad.

Before You Go

Do you know turtles in the wild eat their own poop? Yes, learn the interesting points on turtle poop from the below articles.

How do turtles poop? 

Do turtles eat their own poop?

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About Author

Muntaseer Rahman started keeping pet turtles back in 2013. He also owns the largest Turtle & Tortoise Facebook community in Bangladesh. These days he is mostly active on Facebook.

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