Although tortoises generally like warm conditions, there is a risk that they can overheat. This is particularly so in strong sunlight and when they have nowhere to go for shade. The same can be true for tortoises that are kept in indoor enclosures where they do not have the correct temperature gradient.
A pet tortoise needs to have both a warm and a cool area so that it can move from side to side as it gets too hot or too cold.
If you have a pet tortoise that has been outside in the strong sunshine for a long time without access to a shaded area, or if your indoor tortoise does not have an adequate temperature gradient in its enclosure, it may become too hot. It is important therefore that you learn to recognize the signs of overheating so that you can take immediate action if it happens. Overheating can be fatal in tortoises, so it is best to avoid this situation ever arising.
Is Your Tortoise Too Hot?
A tortoise that has been overheated will likely become lethargic and stop eating. Heat stroke can cause foaming at the mouth as well as vomiting and should be seen as an emergency situation if this occurs as it can result in death.
If you live in an area where temperatures are extremely high at certain times of the year, it is advisable to bring your pet inside during the day, especially if you are at work and cannot go home to check on it. Even in the shade, temperatures can be exceedingly high in some parts of the country during the summer months.
If you notice the above signs of overheating in your tortoise, you should try to reduce its temperature by soaking it in room-temperature water. You should then call a vet immediately for further advice. They may want to examine the tortoise.
Preventing Your Tortoise from Overheating
If your tortoise is kept indoors, you need to provide artificial heat. Moreover, and as already mentioned above, you have to ensure that there is a temperature gradient within its enclosure. The overall ambient temperature of the enclosure should be between 70F and 80F but the area directly under the heat lamp should be between 90F and 100F (this is where the tortoise will bask). The temperature should not be allowed to drop lower than 68F at night. If your nighttime temperatures regularly drop below this, you will need to invest in a ceramic heater that will give off heat but no light. Here is a selection of these heaters on Amazon, if you are interested (the link opens in a new tab).
Tortoises are cold-blooded creatures and are unable to regulate their own temperatures. Without a temperature gradient, they can easily become too hot or too cold. It is vital then that you have a good quality thermometer installed in both sides of the enclosure to monitor the temperatures and hence the gradient.
If your tortoise is an outdoor pet, you will need to make sure there are places it can go should the temperatures get very high. You could dig a hide for the tortoise which will allow it to get down to cooler temperatures on very hot days.
Preventing overheating in a tortoise is extremely important as a potentially serious situation could arise that can result in the death of the creature. If you are worried about your tortoise because it is showing the signs of overheating, I suggest you contact your vet as soon as possible.
- Featured Image (Leopard Tortoise): Bernard DUPONT – CC BY-SA 2.0
- Texas Tortoise: Clinton & Charles Robertson – CC BY-SA 2.0
- Speckled Cape Tortoise: Abu Shawka – CC BY-SA 3.0
- Spur-Thighed Tortoise: Donkey shot – CC BY-SA 3.0
- Boulenger’s Cape Tortoise: Abu Shawka – public domain
- Chaco Tortoise: Arteivanna – CC BY-SA 4.0
- African Spurred Tortoise: Melissa Mitchell – CC BY-SA 3.0