7 Reasons Why A Tortoise Might Not Be Pooping (+Tips)


You’ve brought your new favorite pet home, and they’ve been eating some cool vegetables. Munching away quite contentedly, it’s been two days and you’ve noticed there is no poop.

Whilst this can be stressful for a loving pet owner, there are reasons why your pet tortoise has not pooped and ways you can help them. 

The vast majority of the time, the fact that a tortoise has not pooped for a while is not a sign of any underlying problem. There are normally just a few top tips that you need to learn and apply, and then you’ll tortoise will be back pooping happily once again.

I’ve come up with the 7 most normal reasons that a tortoise might not be pooping, and, even more importantly, what to do about it. So let’s dive in…

tortoise on wood stump in a garden

1. To Poop or Not to Poop?

To start with, it is important to know that tortoises only poop every two to three days.

So if they have not pooped in two days, no alarm bells should be going off yet.

If your tortoise does not poop within the week, the main focus could be dehydration and diet. There are a few ways to spot if your tortoise is dehydrated, but more about that later on. This point is about ‘poop expectancy’, and knowing how little tortoises excrete is important. 

2. Is Your Tortoise Getting all of Their Fibre? 

Diet plays a massive role in ensuring good bowel movements in your pet.

Just like other pets and humans, tortoises enjoy a variety of foods and also require water to poop properly. If you have focused on only one or two vegetables, then this could cause constipation. Tortoises are famous for ignoring their water bowls.

We will also look at ways to encourage water and hydration methods to bring your tortoise back to ultimate health or prevent problems in the long term.

A tortoise will enjoy a very varied diet, but do not overfeed them. Each meal should be the same size as its shell size. This is a good barometer to use when feeding, and they should eat once a day. 

3. Include All of These in Their Diet 

Tortoises eat a huge variety of fresh vegetables, some fruit and also specially prepared food that you can purchase for them.  They even eat some flowers!

To get a good grip on their food needs, you can join forums, but forums are not always 100% accurate.

So a bit of reading and preparation is key. Anyone who is offering a forever home to a pet should do some research on how to care for them, and these days that can be quite easy!

You can also contact local pet specialists and join tortoise clubs. After all, owning a tortoise could be a lifeline venture depending on your age, as many live up to 50 years old, as well as a few breeds living for much, much longer.

Tortoises also enjoy weeds! So many gardeners complain they have too many of these, but tortoises have a keen liking for them. 

They love dandelions and will munch away quite happily on these, the only issue with dandelions is that they are diuretic, which means your tortoise could end up urinating a little too often and cause dehydration. With that in mind, a few this and that is the way to go. 

4. Some Veggies Contain More Water 

Some vegetables contain a fair amount of water, like iceberg lettuce for example. This is a great way to add water to your little fella’s diet.

They can eat a large amount of it and not suffer ill effects. Carrot tops, green beans, kale, and smaller amounts of cucumber will all be loved and gobbled up by your tortoise.

They also enjoy fruit, like mango, banana, melon, cantaloupe, but these should be served in smaller portions. Then there are the specially prepared foods that you can buy in-store. 

tortoise in shell in the grass

5. Know Your Tortoise 

Make sure you know which tortoise you have purchased as a pet.

Although they all have a lot in common, when it comes to poop, they can be quite sensitive to their environments.

Knowing which type of tortoise you have might shed more light on how he likes to live naturally in the wild, and what things you can do to replicate that type of environment, including heat, food, humidity, general likes and dislikes, as well as plants that might be poisonous to your beloved pet!

When they are not pooping and are dehydrated, you can also soak their food little or spray a fine water mist over their food to assist them with this. 

6. Give Your Tortoise a Good Bath 

It is common practice to give your tortoise a good bath. That means 3 or 4 times a week.

In the first week of acquiring your tortoise, you can bathe them every day. Bathing means placing them inside of a large plastic dish filled with clear water. The water should not be too high or too low, just enough to cover their legs and allow them to stick their head out of the water to breathe.

Now and then he might lower it and drink, but more importantly they will hydrate themselves through their tails, noses and mouths. This enables them to keep fully moist and hydrated, and might even cause them to poop a few times in this situation too. The important thing to note is that they do enjoy moist environments.

You can spot a dehydrated tortoise by checking their bodies. The outer layer might be flakey and dry. Their eyes look dry and they seem sluggish. Some might stop eating completely, as they can feel they are bunged up so to speak.

Another way to see if your tortoise is hydrated is to gently hold the skin of their back leg between two fingers, it should snap back into place. If it stays where you touched it that means they are dehydrated.

Make sure when you place water bowls that the tortoise can climb into them, this helps add moisture to their bodies, some people buy specially made clay ones that also file their beaks whilst they have a drink.  [Source]

7. Add Specialised Foods and Supplements if Required 

The best set-off point for a tortoises diet is to give them fresh wholesome foods.

If you feel the need, you can add benefits to their diet with supplemented foods. Like for example, mixed leaf blends can contain goodies that are not available from the grocery store or in your garden.

You can also use supplements to deworm your tortoise at home. Some pet owners take their pet to the vet to get them dewormed, whilst this can be done easily enough at home via certain foods and supplements, and they are not too pricey. 

The foods can be purchased in blocks, pieces, pellets and leaves, for example, and help to add not only additional health benefits on top of a healthy diet, but also add some interesting things for your tortoise to nibble on. [Source]

Next Steps After These Tips

If your pet tortoise does not respond to these common remedies for true constipation, then a visit to the vet is recommended in case bowel blockages or other things are bothering him.

Vets that specialize in the care of tortoises and reptiles would be very helpful if more needs to be done. Like X-rays and or operations. 

As said right in the beginning, most tortoises poop infrequently compared to other pets. So don’t panic. If they are really blocked up then try the methods above. Generally, a good healthy diet, moisture, good drinking water, and an understanding of the breed of your tortoise will enable you to help your tortoise. 

Tortoises make a great pet, and are pretty easy to care for once you get the hang of it. They are a little like humans and require a healthy diet. Fruits should be used in moderation, and lots of clean water bowls go a long way in helping your tortoise to reach optimum health. Don’t forget to check out special foods that are made for them to use, on top of their already fresh and healthy diet, it could save your tortoise in the long run. 

Barry Gray

Barry is a freelance writer from Scotland. He has written about pets for over a decade, and his work has been turned into a range of ebooks, courses, and material for diplomas. Barry is passionate about all animals, but particularly dogs, fish, rabbits, birds and spiders. You can find out more about Barry at https://mercurypets.com/our-writers/

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