Tortoises have quite a complex digestive system, which is highlighted by the fact certain species of tortoise will react differently when fed the same food. For example a Red-footed tortoise can cope with higher amounts of sugar in their diet, whereas a tortoise such as the Hermann’s will face digestive upset due to too much sugar.
Tortoises don’t poop as regularly as other animals like dogs and cats, but if haven’t pooped in 4 or more days then there may be a problem. Tortoises should poop every 2-3 days however they can also get constipated which can prevent them from pooping. This can occur for various different reasons.
In this article we’re going to cover the reasons why a tortoise may become constipated, how you can help them, and other related topics so continue reading!
Can A Tortoise Get Constipated?
Tortoises can become constipated like every other animal. Your tortoises colon’s job is to absorb water from foods that’s been digested in order to turn it into waste and be excreted. However if stools remain in the colon for too long and don’t get excreted they can become hard which makes it difficult for them to pass through.
Constipation can usually be corrected by an improvement to the tortoises diet, particularly with added fiber as it’s known to relieve constipation due to improving stool frequency and consistency.
Let’s look out for some of the signs indicating your tortoise might be constipated.
How Do I Know If My Tortoise Is Constipated?
Obviously the number one way to know your tortoise is constipated is if they aren’t pooping. Your tortoise won’t need to go to the toilet every day so that doesn’t make them constipated. Signs your tortoise is constipated can include :
- They haven’t pooped in 4 or more days
- They’re straining while pooing
- Their stools are hard and lumpy
- They lose their appetite
They Haven’t Pooped In 4 Or More Days
The number one way to figure out if your tortoise is constipated is to monitor how often they poo. Tortoises typically poo every 2-3 days, this is completely normal for them so anything longer than 4 days there’s a good chance they may be constipated.
They’re Straining While Pooing
If you notice your tortoise has to strain in order to poo then that’s a good sign they’re constipated. You might notice their strains are accompanied by a grunting sound. This occurs due to stools being hard to pass during constipation which can lead to the straining, we explain below.
Their Stools Are Hard And Lumpy
Constipation causes hard stools as a result of the colon absorbing too much water. With normal bowel movements food will move through the colon which will absorb water and push the stools through the bowels to be excreted.
However with constipation foods stays too long in the colon and therefore an excess amount of water is absorbed which leads to hard and lumpy stools that are difficult to pass.
They Lose Their Appetite
A tortoise with little or no interest in food can be suffering from constipation. As stools stay in the colon for longer than they should, this leads to an increase of bacteria building up in the gut. This increased bacteria often causes a nauseous feeling which in turn creates a loss of appetite.
4 Reasons Why Your Tortoise Is Constipated
Constipation can occur for a number of different reasons. The most common reason for a tortoise being constipated is a lack of quality nutrition. Tortoises need a high fiber diet full of greens, vegetables, and plants to ensure their digestion system runs smoothly.
- Their diet is poor
- Not drinking enough water
- Parasite infestation
- Incorrect basking temperature
Their Diet Is Poor
Tortoises will usually from constipation due to a poor diet that lacks quality nutrition. A tortoise’s diet needs to be high in fiber filled with foods like bananas, collard greens, broccoli, and other leafy greens.
Fiber plays a huge role in preventing constipation as it increases the size, along with softening your tortoises stools. This leads to better bowel movements. It also helps with water retention in the colon, this prevents stools from drying up and making them hard to pass through.
Not Drinking Enough Water
A tortoise that’s not getting enough water is more prone to becoming constipated. When a tortoise is dehydrated their intestines are unable to provide enough water to the stools. This then causes stools to harden and dry up, making it harder for them to pass through.
You should always ensure your tortoise has access to fresh drinking water at all times in their enclosure. High water foods such as celery, cucumber, broccoli, and watermelon are all great ways to keep your tortoise hydrated.
Tortoises are susceptible to being infested with gastrointestinal parasites such as oxyurids, ascarids, and protozoans. As these parasites lie in the intestines of tortoises it can lead to digestive problems like constipation among some other issues.
The worst cases of parasites are able to cause a total blockage of your tortoises intestines which means nothing is able to pass, such as faeces.
A parasite infestation is accompanied with a loss of appetite, nausea, and swelling. To determine if your tortoise has a parasite infestation you can examine their poo for signs or take a stool sample to your vet to be examined.
Incorrect Basking Temperature
If a tortoises basking temperature is incorrect they will be able to digest food properly which can result in constipation and problems like malnutrition as they aren’t getting essential vitamins and minerals from the food they’re eating.
A basking temperature of around 95-100 degrees Fahrenheit is enough to warm them up to efficiently digest food.
How To Help Your Tortoise While They’re Constipated
Constipation can be quite painful, especially if your tortoise has to strain in order to go to the toilet. While it may not be completely preventable there are some key things you can do to reduce the likelihood of your tortoise becoming constipated :
- Feed a well-balanced diet
- Ensure they are hydrated
- Fix their basking temperature
- Soak them regularly
- Give them natural laxatives
Feed A Well-Balanced Diet
As a poor diet is one of the main causes of constipation, improving it will only reduce your tortoise’s chances of having digestive problems.
Tortoises need a diet high in fiber and calcium, full of foods such as plants, flowers, and vegetables as they are herbivores. As we discussed above, fiber plays a big role in preventing constipation due to its benefits to the gut and overall digestive system.
Ensure They Are Hydrated
Making sure your tortoise is drinking enough water will also be beneficial when it comes to preventing constipation. There are a few ways you can do this. Tortoises can be hydrated through regular soaking, drinking clean water, or eating foods with a high water content.
Ensuring your tortoise drinks enough water is not only important for staving off constipation but will prevent kidney problems, bone issues, and much more.
Fix Their Basking Temperature
As we covered above, a tortoise living with an incorrect basking temperature won’t be able to effectively digest food. If this is the reason for your tortoises’ constipation then upping the basking temperature in their enclosure will be a quick fix.
A temperature of 95-100 degrees Fahrenheit is recommended to warm them up enough to ensure their digestive system is working properly.
Soak Them Regularly
Giving your tortoise a warm soak is a perfect home remedy for treating your tortoise’s constipation. This is due to the fact your tortoise is able to hydrate themselves while being soaked. They can drink the water and also absorb is through their cloaca.
Soaking a tortoise is relatively simple and the benefits for them are endless.
- Get a shallow container and fill it with lukewarm water. Your tortoise’s head should be able to poke out of the water, however they should be chin deep.
- Spend 20 minutes letting your tortoise soak in the water, ideally they should spend this time to hydrate.
- Remove the water and dump it down a drain or in a toilet, this water will be full of germs and bacteria so you want to discard it.
Tortoises like to defecate and in water so this should present them with some encouragement to do so.
Give Them Natural Laxatives
You can force your tortoise’s body to defecate with the help of some natural laxatives however they should be a last ditch option after trying the above cures.
You can feed your tortoise natural laxatives such as :
- Prickly pear cactus pads
Natural laxatives work by adding bulk and weight to your tortoise’s stools in order to make it easier for them to pass.
How Often Do Tortoises Poop?
There is no one set timeframe in which a tortoise will poop. There are a few variables that go into the answer, however as a general rule of thumb tortoises should poop every 2-3 days.
This can change depending on the species of tortoise, its age, diet, and other environmental factors. Don’t be concerned if your tortoise isn’t pooping every day as it’s completely normal for them not to.
You should start to be worried if they haven’t pooped in at least 4 days as this is a sign of constipation or other health problems that can affect their digestive system.
Tortoise Not Pooping – Final Thoughts
A tortoise that isn’t pooping could be constipated. Like all other animals tortoises can become constipated due to a poor diet, lack of hydration, parasite infestation or incorrect living environments.
A tortoise that isn’t pooping can usually be treated at home by giving them a warm soak, some water, and increasing fiber in their diet. Constipation usually isn’t very serious but if it continues for a length of time and your tortoise isn’t eating it might be time for a trip to the vet.