New or inexperienced tortoise owners frequently worry about the health of their pet based on the color of their poop. Some wonder why their tortoise’s poop is white and start to panic that there might be something wrong with the animal. There could be an assumption that this is to do with something they have eaten or that it is an illness of some kind.
The reality is that tortoise poop is not white, but urates (semi-solid waste substance) are. Urates are often passed at the same time as feces (which are typically brown/green). This can cause some new owners to panic, assuming that their pet has passed white poop.
Tortoise Waste Products
Tortoise waste typically contains three different types of fecal matter. Feces are mostly greenish/brown or brown but can be different shades depending on the type of food the animal has been eating. In addition to feces, tortoises also pass urine and urates. Urine is the liquid waste that is passed by the bladder. It contains toxins that have been filtered by the kidneys from the bloodstream.
Reptiles such as tortoises also pass another type of waste product, which is known as urates. Urates are semi-solid and a creamy white color and are typically passed at the same time as the liquid urine and the feces. This is the reason many people get confused about the color of their pet’s poop. It can become even more confusing when urine and urates are passed without feces as many owners assume that the urates are actually white poop.
Knowing what your tortoise’s poop should look like can help you to quickly identify when your tortoise is having problems or is unwell. For example, if you notice that your tortoise’s poop is dry and the urates are lumpy, this will often indicate your pet is dehydrated. Other signs of dehydration are:
- sunken eyes
- loss of appetite
- weight loss
- dry and flaky skin
If you suspect dehydration, it is crucial to get fluids into your tortoise as quickly as possible. Do this by providing fresh, washed vegetation, a bowl of water, and also by soaking your tortoise. Tortoises can absorb water through their skin and cloaca. If you do soak your tortoise in water though, do make sure the water is no higher than your tortoise’s lower shell (the head should never, never be submerged).
Feces that are soft or runny is also an indication that something is amiss. It could be an issue with the food, but it could also be parasites causing a gut infection. If you notice watery or runny poop, you should ask a vet to examine the animal and to take a sample of poop, which can then be analyzed for parasites. If parasites are not the issue, it could be that something you are feeding your tortoise is causing an issue. Your vet will be able to advise you of any action to take in order to identify which foods are causing the problem.
How Often Should Tortoises Poop?
How often you should expect to see poop from your tortoise is another question that is often asked. Unfortunately, there is no rhyme nor reason as to how often a tortoise will poop. So without any ‘normal’ pooping behaviors and habits to go by, it can be difficult to tell if there is an issue, especially when a lack of pooping can often be a sign of impaction.
As tortoises have a slow metabolism and digestive system, they do not usually poop every day. In fact, it is more common for them to poop every two to three days, but this can be even longer depending on what and how much they are eating. The longer you have your tortoise, the more you will get to know its pooping habits. This will then put you in a better position to understand if something is not right with your pet.
Something else to think about is the fact that tortoises have actually been known to eat their own poop! This means that your pet could be pooping and eating it before you see evidence of a bowel movement.
Why is My Tortoise Not Pooping?
If you are concerned about your tortoise not pooping, think about how much it is eating. The biggest indicator of a problem is not how much your tortoise poops but whether or not there are any changes in bowel habits.
For example, if your tortoise usually poops every couple of days but you have not seen any evidence of feces for a week or more, it might be time to consider that there is a problem. It could be that your pet is struggling with impaction and may need some assistance. You could try to give foods such as pure canned pumpkin, which acts as a natural laxative.
A warm soak is also recommended. Place your tortoise in warm water for twenty minutes every day to try to encourage a bowel movement. If this does not work, I recommend contacting your vet for advice. An x-ray may be needed to identify the problem.
Tortoise poop should not be white, but many confuse urates with feces because both are of a similar consistency. If you are worried about your pet’s bowel habits, please contact your vet as soon as possible for expert advice.
- Featured Image (Chaco Tortoise): Arteivanna – CC BY-SA 4.0
- 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
- Gopher Tortoise: Andrea Westmoreland – CC BY-SA 2.0
- Radiated Tortoise: Charles James Sharp – CC BY-SA 4.0
- Red-Footed Tortoise: Bjoertvedt – CC BY-SA 3.0
- Boulenger’s Cape Tortoise: Abu Shawka – public domain
- African Spurred Tortoise: Melissa Mitchell – CC BY-SA 3.0