It might seem a bit odd to keep an eye on how often your turtle poops, but for turtle owners, this is an essential step to making sure your turtle is healthy. Like with most animals, bowel movements can be a huge indicator of health problems – from parasites to stress.
Turtles usually have a reliable and regular pooping schedule, so the best indicator of a health or wellbeing issue is when the pooping schedule is disrupted.
Here is the ultimate guide to turtle poop: from how often they should do it to what’s healthy, constipation, and parasites.
How often do turtles poop?
For baby turtles (or tortoises, for that matter), it’s normal for them to poop more than an adult. They should defecate once a day, but if this is constant (or if there’s no poop at all), then this is a sign of a health problem.
Any turtle with a shell of 4” long should defecate every 3-4 days. This means that if they poop once a day or once a week, then this is a sign that something is wrong.
There’s something that turtle owners call the “protest poop”, which is when the turtle will defecate when they are annoyed. This happens with rodents such as guinea pigs or gerbils, too. It happens when the turtle doesn’t want to be handled!
However, these are merely the general rules of turtle pooping schedules. There are a bunch of factors that can change this frequency, such as when and what they are being fed and the type of turtle.
What should turtle poop look like?
The color and consistency of a turtle’s poop can tell you a lot about the state of the animal’s health and wellbeing. A healthy turtle poop should look brown or slightly green, and the consistency is much like a small log or pellets. Keep in mind that the consistency and color of the poop will vary depending on their diet!
If the turtle’s poop is runny, then this is a sign of diarrhea. Diarrhea can be a result of poor diet, infection, or -if the turtle is really unlucky – parasites.
However, runny poop could happen during the “protest poop”, and this is totally normal. This is because the turtle is trying to pass its feces through earlier than usual, which is why it is often mixed with urine.
You should keep an eye out for black turtle poop. Black feces can be a sign of internal bleeding, which can happen from blockages in the digestive system or internal cuts. This is especially the case if you see blood.
As turtles will eat whatever they fancy, there is always the risk of them eating bits of plastic or wood, causing bowel perforations.
On the other end of the spectrum, white poop is fairly normal in terrestrial turtles (turtles that live on land). This is because their cloaca is responsible for the urinary and digestive tracts, so a healthy level of urate (the salt in uric acid) will be present in the turtle’s poop, turning it white. However, if the poop is always white, then this could indicate an irregular rise in uric acid.
As soon as you notice something irregular in your turtle’s pooping habits, you must take it to the vets immediately.
How can I tell if my turtle is constipated?
The best way to tell if your turtle is constipated is to check how often they defecate. If they haven’t pooped for over a week (as an adult), this is a clear sign of constipation. A constipated baby turtle won’t poop for several days.
Constipation is more common in terrestrial turtles than aquatic ones. This can happen when the turtle has a change in diet that is highly fibrous.
To cure constipation at home, bathe your turtle in shallow lukewarm water (80-90 °F) once a day for around 10 minutes. For larger turtles, adding Epsom salts will act as a laxative if they drink it. In most cases, a lukewarm bath will cure constipation. If the turtle is still constipated, then take it to the vet immediately.
Diarrhea in turtles
Diarrhea is the opposite of constipation, where the poop is runny and frequent and a result of a low fiber diet. Like most animals, a turtle’s digestive system needs fiber to solidify their stool.
Not only is it messy, but diarrhea can lead to dehydration. To combat this, make sure your turtle has a balanced diet of fiber and protein. Too much protein can cause excessive passing of urates, which can lead to an infection.
Does my turtle have parasites?
The biggest sign that your turtle has parasites is if the poop is white and stringy. In the event of this, make sure to take your turtle to the vets immediately.
Sometimes, the stringy white poop will move from visible parasites such as roundworms. In some cases, the parasites can come out dead or in several pieces, which means there is likely to be more inside the turtle.
If the poop doesn’t move, tests will be conducted to find the invisible culprits. This can be harder to spot in a turtle’s poop, but constant diarrhea is usually a sign of invisible parasites.
The reason why parasites are so bad is that the parasites will take the food from the turtle, which can lead to infections and starvation. Parasites are caught through contaminated food, which is why it is essential to only feed your turtle captive-reared prey from a professional service.
Turtles are wonderfully reliable when it comes to their pooping habits, which is why it can be so easy to spot when something is wrong. If you notice something unusual or inconsistent about your turtle’s feces, then it is essential to take it to the vets immediately.
While vet bills can be high, it is important to rule out all the possible reasons why your turtle is defecating strangely. However, sometimes a change in the poop can just be down to an unbalanced diet, which you can change at home.