Question: I think my tortoise is constipated. What would cause this and how do I prevent it in the future?
Answer: The first thing we need to discuss is your tortoise’s appetite. Your tortoise will have a greatly diminished appetite if it is constipated. If the appetite decreased after the feces stopped your tortoise may truly be constipated. Many people think their tortoise is constipated, but fail to realize that the animal stopped eating so stool will not be produced.
How often your tortoise will pass stool is dependent on factors such as diet, how often you feed, the temperature of your habitat, the amount of exercise your pet gets and the general health of your tortoise.
One thing that can cause constipation includes intestinal parasites. The parasites can interfere with motility of the gut. A heavy load of parasites can block the lumen of an intestinal segment. Ingestion of foreign objects can cause either constipation or diarrhea. If the foreign object irritates the bowel without blocking diarrhea is the result. One cause of blockage that many people overlook is dog hair. If the dog hair is ingested with grass in the yard a blockage may result. Absorbent litter can also cause a blockage by pulling fluid from the bowel.
Conditions that cause pressure on the color or cloacal vent can also be the cause of constipation. Egg-bound tortoises are not able to pass stool. Tortoises with urinary stones in the bladder may be constipated. An abscess or tumor can also block feces. Once the stool becomes retained, fluid continues to be absorbed from the gut, the stool becomes even harder making passage difficult.
A home treatment for constipation would be warm water soaks. If this is not effective it is time to seek a veterinarian. They will probably recommend X-rays and a test for fecal parasites. Medical treatment may include enemas or a laxative. This should only be used under the direction of a vet. Please remember that many over the counter products made for humans can be lethal to reptiles.
I hope this information is helpful and that your tortoise recovers quickly.