It's important as a tortoise owner to get to know your pet.
Unfortunately, this includes getting to know what is normal feces and what is not, which helps you identify if your tortoise has diarrhea, enabling you to identify the cause and put a treatment plan in place to get your pet back to health.
Normal tortoise feces contain fecal material, which is a formed mass of digestive end products.
The color, volume, and consistency are dependent on the food you have fed your pet over the past few days. Normal feces are brown to a green/brown color.
Diarrhea in tortoises can result in dehydration, the same as in humans. This is why you want to identify if your tortoise has diarrhea and ensure you treat it quickly to reduce the risk of dehydration and other complications.
The symptoms associated with diarrhea in tortoises can include:
- Runny feces
- Inactivity / Lethargy
- Lack of appetite
- Possible weight loss
Before you start looking at what caused diarrhea, you need to know about their waste, such as what you think is feces, which could in fact be urine.
Tortoise poop is similar to bird poop in that it has white paste, which can be on its own or with feces, such as brown poop. The white is urates, a by-product found in urine, which is stored and then released from the bladder of the tortoise.
Diarrhea can be caused by a lack of dietary fiber to parasites, there are a number of reasons why your pet may have a runny stool. If it managed to get hold of some fruit, this could also be a cause.
It's important to provide your tortoise with a varied diet that is suitable and will reduce the risk of diarrhea.
Before looking at the causes, it's also important to note that diarrhea can result in dehydration, which is dangerous to your tortoise.
Dehydrated tortoises may be lethargic with dry skin, they may have lost weight and have sunken eyes.
Ensure you provide plenty of fresh clean water and vegetation, encouraging your pet to rehydrate.
You can also provide a shallow bath for your pet to sit in. A shallow bath should be kept enough for your pet to submerge itself with its head sticking out.
A dehydrated tortoise should be taken to the vet for treatment.
The most common cause of diarrhea in tortoises is an incorrect diet, something that is causing digestive problems.
The first thing you want to do is ensure you provide a diet that is as close to what your pet would eat in the wild. This usually includes green leafy weeds and a variety of vegetables.
They do not have a lot of sugar in their natural diet, which is why you need to keep fruits to a minimum, only offer as a very occasional treat.
It's not uncommon for tortoise owners to notice a runny poop after their pet has eaten fruit. The other dietary issue which can cause diarrhea is dietary fiber, not having enough of it.
Many tortoise owners offer their pets iceberg lettuce, for example, which is purely water and doesn't offer any nutrition, which causes a watery stool.
Internal parasites can cause diarrhea in tortoises. So, if you've identified that the diet is not the problem, then you may want to take your pet to the vet to rule out the risk of parasites. This often includes a feces sample.
Depending on the type of parasite, you may notice worms in the feces, making it much easier to identify. Parasites can cause diarrhea, lack of appetite, and lethargy.
If your tortoise is giving off a very bad smalling diarrhea, then seek veterinary treatment right away. Analysis of a fecal sample will identify if you are dealing with a parasite.
Take a close look at your pet’s diet. You can include pellet food on a regular basis, to reduce the amount of moisture you are giving your pet.
Some tortoises are not that keen on pellets, but you can soak them in water to soften them before feeding.
Get into the habit of giving your tortoise a lukewarm bath regularly. Warm water baths help your pet improve digestion and also helps them stay hydrated.
Varied and Balanced Diet
It is very important to provide your pet with fiber or roughage in their diet, along with reducing the amount of fruit you provide.
Remember fruit is not something they find in their natural habitat. Fruits are high in sugars and can cause problems if eaten too often. Provide a variety of suitable foods.
In the wild, your pet will be eating weeds and flowers, which is why you want to keep their diet as close to what they would eat in the wild.
Foods that your pet can eat include Sow Thistle, Pansies, Hibiscus, Hawk Bits, Plantain, Musk Mallow, and many more.
When feeding, take the size of your tortoise’s shell into consideration. You should feed their shell size in food five days a week, with two days of no food. These two days can be together or apart. This helps their slow working digestion to catch up.
Unfortunately, there isn't much you can do about internal parasites, but you can try and keep your pet healthy by providing a clean habitat, clearing away uneaten foods and any food debris in the enclosure.
Do daily spot clean to remove any feces with a thorough monthly clean. A clean and hygienic enclosure helps your pet stay healthy, helping them fight off disease easier.
The most common causes of diarrhea in tortoises are diet or parasites. In the majority of cases, it’s diet-related and your pet has had too much fruit or too much liquid in its diet.
When you have adjusted the diet and your pet continues with runny poop, then take a feces sample with your pet to the vet to identify if it has parasites and put an effective treatment plan together.