If a tortoise isn’t eating, I’d check the temperature. The majority of people who have asked me to check their tortoise have said their enclosure is too cold.
Other reasons Tortoises stop eating include:
- Stomatis (mouth rot)
- Respiratory Infection
- Physical injury
- Cold enclosure
- Worms (parasites)
- Picky eating
- End of life
- Egg binding (dystocia)
- Stress (scared or afraid)
There are many species of tortoise and the age/size of adults and juveniles will affect how much heat they retain, but generally speaking, check the areas in your enclosure furthest away from the heat source and if they feel too cold (and I recommend these areas be around 75–80°F for ‘normal’ commonly kept species such as Hermanns, spur-thighed & horsfields).
A tortoise doesn’t bask like some reptiles, so make sure the areas farthest from the heat aren’t too cold so the tortoise loses heat and stops! If you have to wake up your tortoise and put it by the heat, it’s a sign it’s too cold.
ALSO SEE: Do Tortoises need a Heat Lamp and UV Light?
Normal tortoises consume large amounts of salad/weeds (weeds are better and cheaper!) and move around the enclosure throughout the day. If it’s banging against the enclosure’s sides or trying to climb out, turn the heat down!
Young tortoises need a heat source at night, not a light or a heat mat from below, but a ceramic bulb works well because they lack fat reserves to conserve heat.
You could give him a warm bath for a half hour to warm him up and get him moving. If all else fails, I’d take him to a reptile vet. Also, make sure he has access to a cattle fishbone because tortoises can ingest stones or substrate to try to give their bodies nutrients that they lack, e.g. calcium.
Why Is My Tortoise Not Eating?
Let’s learn why tortoises lose their appetite:
Stomatitis (Mouth Rot)
Stomatitis occurs when bacteria infect an open wound in the mouth.
The immune system of tortoises is often compromised after brumation (hibernation). Untreated, it can spread to the esophagus or even the lungs.
Mouth rot symptoms in tortoises include:
- Hunger loss
- swollen gums
- Mouth discharge (cheese-like)
NSAIDs, such as meloxicam, are required to treat stomatitis. A vet will also need to remove any infected or necrotic (dead) tissue to allow the healthy tissue to grow.
Tortoises need time to adjust after brumation.
Tortoises will be tired, disoriented, and dehydrated. It will ignore its food in favor of rehydration.
Low appetite can last 10-14 days. A warm enclosure and hydrating fruits like cucumber will encourage your tortoise to eat sooner.
Tortoise Lost Appetite
If your tortoise suddenly loses its appetite, it could be due to:
Impaction occurs when an intestinal blockage prevents the passage of waste and fluid. Impaction is often confused with constipation, but it is a more serious medical condition.
Ingestion of small stones and bedding material causes impaction. J Herp Med Surg reported that captive tortoises may accidentally eat enclosure substrate that contains food.
These items get stuck in the tortoise’s gut, causing pain and disinterest in eating. A tortoise’s health can be harmed by poor nutrition or dehydration.
Other impaction symptoms in tortoises:
- No longer pooping
- Lack of energy
- lungs problems
- Appetite s
Bathing your tortoise in a shallow bowl of warm water can help. In severe cases, a veterinarian will need to take an x-ray before performing surgery.
Dystocia occurs when a female tortoise becomes egg-bound.
The eggs can get stuck internally or while laying. Dystocia causes agitation and restlessness, so you may see your tortoise straining and digging.
Among the causes of dystocia are:
- Low humidity
- Temperature gradients err
- Large or oddly shaped eggs
- Egg-laying passageway is narrow.
Post-ovulatory stasis occurs when an egg-bound female stops eating.
To encourage egg-laying, provide your tortoise with a nesting area with optimal temperature and humidity. Massage can help move eggs down the reproductive tract.
A veterinarian can inject hormones or use a needle to collapse eggs.
Insecure tortoises hide and eat less. It will want to hide and avoid any perceived dangers, even if it means missing several meals.
It’s normal for a new tortoise to ignore food for the first few days, especially if it’s young. Allow it to adjust to its new surroundings and provide a hiding place.
If your tortoise is outside, keep pets, rodents, and predators out.
Tortoises accept handling better than turtles. Still, handling a tortoise too much can stress it out. Do not play with new tortoises for the first few weeks.
Tortoise Not Eating But Active
Most of the time, a tortoise that won’t eat but still acts normal isn’t that bad. Because tortoises brumate, it might be safe to say that this is the reason.
Tortoises are very sensitive to the temperature of the air around them.
As cold-blooded (ectothermic) reptiles, they have to get their heat from outside sources. Enclosures that don’t have a place for the tortoise to bask will make the tortoise not want to eat.
This happens when the temperature is too low for the tortoise to keep its body temperature. Most tortoises do this about once a year, and it should not bother you at all. All kinds of animals, including leopard tortoises, don’t get drunk.
In other words, tortoises need one side of their enclosure to be between 75 and 85 degrees Fahrenheit when they aren’t putting their bodies to sleep. Having a basking area that is between 95 and 105 degrees Fahrenheit is a good idea to go with this.
According to Herpetologica, tortoises will move between these areas as needed to keep their bodies warm.
If your tortoise won’t eat, it may be trying to get rid of all the waste in its body. The animal may be constipated if it won’t eat food and you can’t find any poop in its cage.
Feeding a tortoise too much can cause it to become constipated. Because tortoises don’t break down food so quickly, they may not want to eat if they’re backed up.
It’s best to eat a variety of foods and drink plenty of clean water to avoid constipation.
Also, as we said earlier, be careful with certain types of bedding and small stones, because they can look like food. People who eat a lot of food that is very absorbent can make their digestive tracts swell.
Most of the time, a good soak in a shallow bowl of warm water can help you get rid of constipation. Make sure the tortoise can soak for at least 20 minutes, and don’t let the water get too hot or cold.
Tortoise Suddenly Stopped Eating
It could be that the tortoise doesn’t lose its appetite over time, but suddenly stops eating.
Tortoises aren’t known for being picky eaters, but they can turn down meals that don’t change very often because they get tired of the food. Your tortoise will be more interested in its food if you give it a variety of foods.
Most tortoises like to eat dandelions, strawberries, and cucumbers, but some don’t.
Disease of the Respiratory Tract
When tortoises live in a cold enclosure, they are more likely to get respiratory infections. Perhaps its living space is cold, the weather has changed, or a heat bulb needs to be changed.
It can be caused by:
The symptoms of a respiratory infection:
- Not interested in food.
- It comes out of your nose.
- Swollen or red eyes
- Breathing hard
- Bubbles that come out of its nose
People who have respiratory infections that go untreated can get pneumonia. Vets can prescribe antibiotics to treat respiratory infections, and these drugs can help get rid of them. When the infection is caused by something, there will be a different way to treat it.
Tortoise Not Eating Or Moving
Your tortoise might not eat and start to sleep a lot if this is the case:
If your tortoise eats food or a substrate that has worm eggs in it, the eggs will grow into worms that live in the digestive tract. These are the two most common types of worms that get into tortoises: oxyurids and ascarids.
Worms will weaken and make a tortoise tired and sleep a lot when it has them. That’s because parasites take all the nutrients out of the tortoise’s food, which makes it sick. In this case, the tortoise’s appetite gets even less. This makes the situation even worse!
People can’t see worms in tortoises’ poop, so it’s not easy to figure out what’s wrong at home. After the tortoise has been checked for worms, a vet will give the tortoise low doses of fenbendazole (Ivomec) to kill them.
The best way to keep your tortoise from getting sick again is to thoroughly clean its enclosure. If there are any traces of contaminated feces on the ground, it will need to be replaced.
Pain itself is a way to stop eating. However, injuries to the mouth or throat can also make it hard or painful to eat. For example, a splinter in the soft flesh of a tortoise’s mouth can make it not want to eat.
There are many ways that tortoises can be hurt, and they can be hurt in many different ways. Shells may be good at protecting you, but they aren’t perfect. When an animal attacks you, it can do a lot of damage. A fall or bump can also do a lot of damage.
In most tortoise homes, the owners let their pets go outside to find food and get a little sun. It’s bad, but a lone tortoise can be a good target for wild animals.
The end of life
Tortoises can live anywhere from 50 to 100 years if they are well cared for. This is based on the species. There may be nothing left for a tortoise to eat when it has stopped.
Death doesn’t always happen when you’re old. It can happen at any age. Even though your tortoise is young, it can still get sick.
Tortoise Not Opening Eyes Properly
A tortoise that won’t open its eyes isn’t doing so because it doesn’t want to, but because it can’t. This can be a sign of an eye infection or a vitamin A deficiency, both of which can be very bad and require veterinary care to treat.
It could also be because of the same things we talked about earlier, like the wrong amount of UV light, the wrong temperature, or a more common thing like a respiratory infection.
It might be easier for your tortoise to open its eyes if your vivarium is more humid. You can also soak your tortoise in water, which will help them get hydrated, which they might not be getting in their current state.
I would definitely talk to a vet before giving your pet extra vitamin A supplementation because giving too much can be dangerous, so it’s best to leave it to the professionals at first.
How Long Can A Tortoise Survive Without Food?
Adult tortoises are tough. A healthy adult tortoise can go up to 6 months without eating.
Young tortoises are still growing and cannot go without food for long. All juveniles under 6 months can only go a few weeks without eating, and hatchlings can only go a few days.
Without food, young tortoises may suffer developmental issues.
How To Increase A Tortoise’s Appetite
To stimulate a tortoise’s appetite, first address the source of the loss.
You can increase your tortoise’s appetite by:
- Allow 1-2 weeks for the tortoise to adjust from brumation.
- Assure the enclosure’s temperatures are within range.
- Rehydrate the tortoise by giving it warm baths.
- a new and varied serving of meals
- Feed your tortoise’s favorite foods.
- Provide fruits and vegetables high in water if constipated.
The solution must identify why a tortoise has stopped eating.
Adult tortoises can go months without eating and recover quickly once they do. Depending on the cause, the tortoise may require veterinary care.
Do Tortoises Need To Eat Every Day?
Toros don’t have to eat every day. In fact, if you feed a tortoise every day, they will end up starving because their bodies can’t handle eating so much.
It’s best to feed them five times a week, so their bodies can catch up on the two days they don’t get food.
When a tortoise self-starves, it would take longer and cause more problems, like mouth sores and other illnesses. This way, the tortoise is better off.