Refusal to eat is often the first sign of stress or illness
in reptiles, turtles and tortoises included. Here are some
questions to ask yourself about things that might cause a
turtle to stop eating, along with suggestions that may help.
1. Is your turtle new to your home? Turtles that have been
transported, especially wild-caught turtles, are usually
extremely stressed, and it may take a few days to a week for
the turtle to settle in before it will be ready to eat. Keep
newly acquired turtles in a warm quarantine vivarium well
away from other pets as well as household noise. Handle them
as little as possible and make sure they have spots in the
habitat where they can hide and feel safe. If your new
turtle has still eaten nothing after two weeks, take it to a
reptile veterinarian to see what is wrong, it may have a
parasite problem or a digestive system blockage.
2. Is the turtle's habitat warm or cool enough? Be sure to
research the needs of your turtle's species and give it the
proper air and water temperatures, as well as the humidity
level it needs. Turtles and other reptiles have to regulate
their body temperatures by way of their environment, and a
turtle that is too cool will be sluggish and won't eat.
3. Does the turtle like the food you are serving it? Try
different foods. Many turtles are finicky eaters and will
try to choose only one or a few foods and the turtle refuse all else.
The more varied the diet of your turtle, whether it is
herbivorous, omnivorous, or carnivorous, the more healthy it
is likely to be and stay, but if your turtle
tempt it with something you know it likes, or try putting
small wiggling earthworms in front of its nose, few turtles
can resist such a feast. Once it begins to eat again, you
can begin to give it a more varied diet. Read :
How to Feed Pet Turtles
4. Is your turtle healthy? If your turtle was eating well
but has suddenly stopped, there is probably a health
problem. The most common cause of digestive and feeding
problems in turtles is intestinal parasites. You will need a
reptile veterinarian to deal with parasites, as there are
many types and treatments and only a fecal exam can identify
the parasite. If you are going to take the turtle to the vet
for treatment, collect a sample of the turtle's feces within
four hours of the doctor appointment, put it into a jar of
water, and store it in the refrigerator until time to leave.
Your vet will thank you.
Another possibility that is not usually considered for a
turtle's failure to feed is an eye or
Turtles hunt their food by sight, and if its
swollen from a respiratory or eye infection, it can't see
the food. In that case frequent soaks in clean lukewarm
water may help.
A turtle can go without food for weeks and possibly even
months, so don't panic. When your turtle feels well and
safe, it will eat again. Make sure that it has an
environment as similar as possible to its native habitat,
try keeping the temperatures near the top of its recommended
range, tempt it with moving food, and make sure it is free
of parasites, and the problem should resolve itself fairly quickly.