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

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tortoise on wood stump in a garden

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.

Here are the 7 most normal reasons that a tortoise might not be pooping — and what to do about it. Let’s dive in.

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 reason 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 Enough Fiber? 

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, 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 Several Foods 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. 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 lifetime venture. Many live up to 50 years old, and some live for even longer than that.

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 them. The only issue with dandelions is that they are diuretics, which means your tortoise could end up urinating a little too often and cause dehydration. With that in mind, moderation 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 tortoise’s diet.

They can eat a large number of vegetables 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, and 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. That knowledge will also help you determine what you can do to replicate that type of environment, including heat, food, humidity, general likes and dislikes, and plants that might be poisonous to your beloved pet!

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

6. Give Your Tortoise a Good Bath 

It is common practice to give your tortoise a good bath. And do it regularly, three or four times a week.

In the first week of acquiring your tortoise, you can bathe them every day. Bathing means placing them inside 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, your tortoise might lower their head and drink, but more importantly, they will self-hydrate through the nose, mouth, and tail. This keeps a tortoise fully hydrated and might even cause them to poop a few times. The important thing to note is that they do enjoy damp 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.

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. Doing so 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 Specialized Foods and Supplements if Required 

The best starting point for a tortoise’s diet is to give them fresh, wholesome foods.

If you feel the need, you can add benefits to their diet with supplemented foods. 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 pets to the vet to get them dewormed. This can be done easily enough at home via certain inexpensive foods and supplements

The foods can be purchased in blocks, pieces, pellets and leaves, for example, and help to give additional health benefits on top of a healthy diet. These foods also give 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, 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 are very helpful if more needs to be done, like X-rays and or operations. 

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

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 reach optimal 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. All of these steps will help your tortoise live a long and fulfilling life!

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