You probably know that most animals will eat poop. It’s gross, but it’s true! Tortoises are no different, but it can still be strange to see your pet chowing down on it. Considering this odd behavior, you’re probably wondering whether a tortoise eating a dog’s poop is missing something important in its diet.
So why is my tortoise eating dog poop? Your tortoise may be eating dog poop due to a lack of nutrients or variety in its diet. It’s a common behavior in tortoises, but it’s not recommended to allow your pet to continue this behavior on a regular basis.
In this article, we’ll go over exactly why tortoises eat dog (and others’) poop. We’ll talk about whether or not you should allow this behavior, and the possible health issues that could arise if your tortoise constantly eats poop. Be sure to check out our section about the ideal diet for tortoises so you can ensure your pet is getting all the nutrients it needs!
Why Do Tortoises Eat Dog Poop?
While seeing your pet eating feces may take you by surprise, it’s actually a pretty common behavior. To help pinpoint the cause though, we’re going to go over a few different reasons as to why they’re doing it.
Lack of Nutrients
The first reason your tortoise could be eating dog poop is that it’s not getting sufficient nutrients from its diet, or that it’s not being fed often enough. If your tortoise is starving, it’s going to eat whatever it can, even if that means consuming waste from a dog.
Under certain circumstances, eating another animal’s poop can actually be beneficial for tortoises because it allows them a chance to digest any nutrients in the waste that they weren’t able to in their own diet.
However, if eating poop (the scientific term is coprophagy) becomes a normal habit for your tortoise, it can be detrimental. While eating poop once may help your tortoise digest nutrients, eating that same waste again and again can eventually become an issue.
This is because your tortoise may end up taking in too many harmful toxins that were discarded as waste by that animal’s body.
Not Enough Variation in Diet
Tortoises enjoy variation in their diet, and if they’re not getting enough, they may look for ways to mix up their meals on their own. Stuck in their enclosure, the only “food” your tortoise really has access to is its own feces, so it’s only natural to see them partaking in eating another animal’s waste when given the opportunity to do so.
In the wild, tortoises graze large areas of land, consuming many different types of plants. So having said that, It’s best to try to imitate that variety when feeding your pet to help stop their poop-eating behavior!
Will Tortoises Eat Other Types of Animal Poop?
If you house more than one tortoise together, there is definitely a chance that they will eat each other’s poop! While this isn’t as much of an issue if the tortoises have been living together for a long time and are from the same species, it can be problematic if you have two different types of tortoises together. The same goes if you’re housing your tortoise with an entirely different animal.
This is because different animals and tortoise species naturally have different types of bacteria present in their waste. Consuming another species’ poop will introduce those new strains of bacteria into your tortoise’s body, possibly causing health issues.
Should I Let My Tortoise Eat Its Own Poop?
While it shouldn’t be a huge cause for alarm if you notice your tortoise eating its poop, it also should not become a regular activity. There are more downsides than upsides to your tortoise eating its waste. The best thing to do is to simply be diligent about cleaning up your tortoise’s waste. As soon as you notice poop in its enclosure, it’s a good idea to dispose of it.
Are There Any Health Risks That Come With Tortoises Eating Poop?
Unfortunately, there are some health problems that can arise due to your tortoise eating its poop. The biggest worry is parasites, which can really wreak havoc on your pet’s wellbeing. There are a few different types of parasites that are common for tortoises, but they generally have the same symptoms. These include:
- Loss of appetite
- Weight loss
- Passing undigested food
- Lack of energy
- Visible parasites in stool
The best thing to do to ensure your tortoise’s health is to submit a stool sample to your vet once or twice a year. The vet will look at the sample under a microscope to determine if any parasites are present.
If you think your tortoise has parasites, take it to the reptile vet to get tested as soon as you can! The vet will prescribe medication to eradicate the parasites. You’ll also need to thoroughly clean your tortoise’s enclosure to ensure that the infestation won’t happen again.
What Should My Tortoise’s Diet Include?
The best way to keep your tortoise from wanting to eat its own poop and others is to simply feed it a varied and nutrient-rich diet. If your pet is getting everything it needs from its food, it isn’t as likely to consume waste.
Your tortoise’s diet should mainly consist of plant material, as it does in its natural habitat. In addition, it’s essential to dust your tortoise’s meals with a calcium supplement (non-phosphorus with added Vitamin D) once or twice each week. Calcium is necessary for strong bones and a strong shell, as well as growth and development.
Babies and juveniles should be fed daily, while older tortoises can eat every other day or a few times a week. There’s no set rule, so take the time to observe your pet and figure out what’s best for it. The ideal tortoise diet is typically dependent on the species.
Sulcatas eat mostly weeds and grasses. They also enjoy hay. Hibiscus leaves and prickly pear cactus make great occasional treats. Vegetables are important to add to your sulcata’s diet every once in awhile as well.
Galapagos, Leopard, and Aldabra
These tortoises also eat various grasses. About two-thirds to three-fourths of their diet should consist of hay and grass. The rest should be composed of greens, weeds, and flowers. Always make sure to do a little research before introducing your tortoise to a new food! Some plants can be toxic to tortoises.
Unlike the other types of tortoises, Russians don’t eat as much grass. Instead, their diet should only consist of up to 10 percent grass, with the majority of their meals made up of vegetables and greens.
How to Add Variety to Your Tortoise’s Diet
In their natural habitat, tortoises eat up to 200 different types of plants! So it’s no surprise that tortoises enjoy variety in their diets. There are many different types of leaves that all tortoises enjoy. Here’s a brief list to help mix up your pet’s diet.
- Blackberry leaves
- Mulberry leaves
- Raspberry leaves
You can also feed your tortoise these types of vegetables, although you’ll need to do so in moderation:
- Brussels sprouts
Tortoises should only have fruit in small quantities every once in awhile as a treat. Don’t feed your tortoise fruit regularly, and avoid citrus fruits altogether!
Commercial Tortoise Food
In general, commercial tortoise food is the equivalent of fast food. It might fill your tortoise up, but it just doesn’t contain the important nutrients that your pet needs. It’s always a better choice to feed your tortoise real grasses and vegetables rather than commercial tortoise food.
However, if you wish to include commercial tortoise food as part of your pet’s varied diet, Zoo-med and Mazuri are the best choices.
Foods to Avoid at All Costs
Don’t ever feed your tortoise the following foods, as they can be toxic and threaten your pet’s health. The following list is not a complete one; always do your research and double-check before feeding your tortoise a new plant!
- Calla lily
If your tortoise has been eating your dog or another dog’s poop, don’t freak out–it’s a very common behavior among tortoises in captivity. Just remember though that if your pet eats their poop frequently, you might want to take a look at its diet. A tortoise that isn’t getting enough variety or the nutrients it needs is more likely to eat feces than one that is.
Keep in mind that if your tortoise cohabitates with another animal, there’s an increased risk that your pet could get sick from taking in a host of foreign bacteria. Even if your tortoise only eats its own poop, you should keep your eye out for a parasitic infestation.
In general, the best thing to do is to remove waste from your tortoise’s enclosure as promptly as possible, no matter what species of animal it came from.
Your tortoise should be fed mainly plant matter such as weeds, grasses, and hay. This does vary depending on the species of tortoise you have, so be sure to do some research! Tortoises need a calcium supplement as well, and they should have occasional veggies as a part of their diet too. Fruit is okay as a small, infrequent treat.