What to do if a tortoise vomits or pukes

What to do if a Tortoise Vomits (or Pukes)

When any animal vomits, it may suggest that something is wrong. Whether it is an upset stomach or a virus, attention must be paid to correcting and caring for the ailments the animal experiences. This applies just the same to tortoises.

What should you do if a tortoise pukes/vomits? If a tortoise vomits, you must try to find a cause of the vomit and remove it. Vomiting is not common in tortoises and can be serious. If this behavior persists after changes to diet and living conditions, take your tortoise to a veterinarian. It might help to collect some vomit in a small container in case the vet decides to test it.

Vomiting can be scary for pet owners as they want to make sure their animals are happy and healthy. The best thing you can do is remain calm and take an inventory of their diet, hydration, and living conditions. If there are adjustments that can be made, try these. Small fixes may prevent the problem from happening in the future.

What To Do If a Tortoise Pukes/Vomits

The first thing to do is stay calm. In any pressure situation or one related to health, the best decisions are made calmly. There are a variety of things you can do after you have calmly observed the situation.

  • Do an inventory of their diet
  • Check fluid intake
  • Temperature of habitat
  • Go to a veterinarian

Some foods may not agree with their stomachs and digestive system. Foods to avoid include those that are high in sugars, phosphorus, and proteins. If these are staples to their diet, it may explain their vomiting.

This would include high levels of fruits; their digestive systems are not equipped to properly break down the sugars. Beans, nuts, and seeds are high in phosphorus and should be avoided as well.

Dehydration may also be a major cause of vomiting. Think about the last time you saw them drinking water or you were able to soak them. Soaking tortoises consistently is important to make sure that they are hydrated.

Some vets have suggested soaking a tortoise in 50% water and 50% Pedialyte (a liquid filled with electrolytes, specifically designed for rehydration) in order to speed up the rehydration process. This mix will allow your tortoise to increase their intake of necessary vitamins and nutrients that are depleted without the proper amounts of water.

Please always consult your own vet before attempting to medicate a pet. Professionals will diagnose the situation accurately.

Vomiting may just be an inability to digest food properly. This is often tied to sunlight and the temperature of their enclosure. Tortoises need sunlight and warmth to digest their food.

If their enclosure is too cold or they are not getting enough hours of UV rays, this may cause them to vomit. Make sure their basking areas are in the 85 to 90-degree Fahrenheit range. This is key for their health! If it is too cold, it could explain their inability to digest the food.

If the factors listed above do not seem to have an impact, consider going to the veterinarian. This is especially important if the tortoise vomits frequently. A one-time vomit may not be serious, but more than one can be.

Experts and pet owners often suggest taking your tortoise to the veterinarian just to be safe. There could be viral and bacterial issues. A tortoise could have a worm or blockage in its stomach that is preventing food from passing through. If this is the case, it could be serious.

Because vomiting is not common in tortoises, it should be acted upon quickly. Also, be aware if vomiting is accompanied with weight loss. Keeping track of their diet and their weight is important for overall health. This information will also help the vet as he or she diagnose your pet.

What Does It Mean When a Tortoise Pukes/Vomits?

Firstly, vomiting is a way for the body to rid itself of toxins, bacteria, or parasites in your digestive system. The body is having a reaction to potential harm and ridding itself of the contaminants. This can also be triggered by stress and spoiled food.

If a tortoise pukes it definitely means there is something wrong. Tortoise digestive systems are complex and reliant on sun and temperature for success. This could be a very large factor for a tortoise’s vomit. Make sure their exposure to sun and warm temperatures are present.

Tortoise puke means:

  • There is an irritation in the gastrointestinal tract
  • Living conditions could be unsuitable
  • There could be disease or parasites present

All of these are serious factors that should be taken seriously. Disease and irritation require more attention and a veterinarian should be consulted.

Causes Of Tortoise Puking

As we’ve just mentioned, tortoise puke can be caused by a variety of things. These problems range from simple changes in daily living to more serious conditions, such as disease and infection.

Beyond what was previously mentioned, tortoises may vomit if:

  • They experience high stress or anxiety
  • Infection
  • GI obstruction
  • Food that is too big
  • Poisonous plants
  • Disturbance in handling

Stress and anxiety will cause any organism to behave differently, and this can include bodily functions. Sometimes humans will throw up when they are nervous, and tortoises can have a similar experience with stress.

A stressful environment for a tortoise could include scarcity of food, aggressive interactions with other tortoises, lack of access to sunlight, too small of an enclosure, and over-handling. There are many tortoise forums where owners will discuss issues.

On the particular issue of stress, one owner perfectly said that stress in a tortoise is “the gap between what they need in the wild and what it is able to get in captivity.” We’ve often mentioned that as tortoise owners we strive to emulate their natural environment as closely as possible.

Infection and GI (gastrointestinal) obstruction are very possible reasons your tortoise could be vomiting. It is hard to tell that this is the cause without a veterinarian’s input. If vomiting is frequent or occurs more than once, it may suggest problems that are deeper than diet, stress, or temperature.

Parasites and blockages can be seriously detrimental to your tortoise’s health and handled promptly. Your veterinarian will best be able diagnose the problem if you have an awareness of exact diet, temperatures, sleep, and all the other factors that are easier to control.

Sometimes food cannot be digested simply because it is too big. Make sure you are cutting up their food in very small pieces. Often times a tortoise will throw up food whole again, just meaning that they could not even pass it for digestion.

A mush consistency or very fine pieces are best for a tortoise to properly consume and digest food.

Sometimes poisonous plants can grow in an enclosure due to seeds spreading in the wind. There is a possibility that they ate a plate they were not supposed to! Some of these common plants could include: daffodil, foxglove, hyacinth, ivy, lilies, and even potato!

If any of these end up (or others) in your enclosure they can cause harm, vomit, or even death. Look up tortoise plants to avoid and see which ones are native to your area! This is a potential harm especially if you keep your tortoises in an outdoor enclosure where invader species can present themselves.

Handling can also be a cause of vomiting. This is true especially if you handle your tortoise shortly after it has eaten.

Right after eating, the food has not had the opportunity to go anywhere, especially in the slow digestive process of the tortoise. If you pick up your tortoise quickly or move it around too much, it may vomit!

Is It Normal For a Tortoise To Vomit?

It is not normal for a tortoise to vomit. Vomiting is not always seen as a significant issue in other animals, but owners and veterinarians are very cautious when it comes to tortoises. As a good rule of thumb, if a tortoise vomits, a veterinarian should be consulted in a timely manner.

If they cannot determine what is wrong from reports of vomiting and find nothing, a fecal sample may be required. Parasites could be found in stool and the issues can be more easily identified compared to reports of vomit.

When consulting a vet, you should:

  1. Give them as much information as possible about past illnesses
  2. Inform them of current living situation, diet, and sleep patterns
  3. Tell of potential factors you think could impact (dehydration, poisonous plants)
  4. Ask about how to prevent future problems based on your current care strategies

Make sure you go to a veterinarian who is experienced in reptile and tortoise care. Many general veterinarians understand the working of their bodies but many don’t have much experience working with them so closely.


While vomiting can be scary in a tortoise, there are easy steps you can take to prevent future problems. As long as the issue is not more serious related to disease, small changes in diet, consistent temperatures, hydration, and stress are good wake up calls for continually good care.

If we can provide the healthiest environment for our tortoise, issues like this should not arise in the future. You will then know that vomiting is most likely due to something serious and should be addressed immediately.

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