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Home > Turtles > Can Turtles Throw Up or Vomit? Facts & FAQ

Can Turtles Throw Up or Vomit? Facts & FAQ

portrait of a turtle with an open mouth

Turtles are fairly hardy and long-lived, but that doesn’t mean they can’t ever fall ill. Every once in a while, your turtle will become sick, which is always an awful thing to have to see. But does your pet getting ill mean it will throw up at any point? Can turtles throw up?

They can, and in most cases, vomiting occurs when there’s something off with your pet’s diet. When you see this vomit, you’ll see undigested food mixed in with a white string-like substance. But other reasons besides diet can cause your pet to throw up. Some of these reasons are due to easily fixed problems, so you shouldn’t automatically panic if you notice your pet has vomited, but others could indicate a more serious issue. Here’s a closer look at what you should know about turtles throwing up.


The 6 Common Reasons Why Turtles Vomit

There are many reasons why a turtle would vomit, so throwing up occasionally isn’t abnormal. However, if your turtle is throwing up constantly, you should take it to the veterinarian right away because that is highly abnormal. Take a closer look at why turtles throw up below!

1. Diet

Diet is, by far, the most significant cause of turtles throwing up. Several factors involved in a turtle’s diet could cause stomach upset and vomiting.


You’d think because turtles eat and digest slowly, it would be more difficult to overfeed them, but that isn’t always the case. Turtles can beg as much as dogs when it comes to food, so sometimes it’s quite easy to feed your turtle a little too much. Doing this can put a strain on the digestive system, leading to vomiting. But this cause is an easy fix; just feed your turtle less!

Diet Switch

If you’ve ever had a more common pet, like a cat, then you know you should never just abruptly switch its food to something new. The same goes for turtles! When switching your pet to a new food, you should always make a gradual change, as the new food could be a shock to your turtle’s system.

Too Much Protein

While juvenile turtles require a lot of protein to ensure their shells grow strong and healthy, too much protein for adult turtles can cause issues. In particular, this can result in not only vomiting but pyramiding. So, be aware of how much protein is in your turtle’s diet, and if you feel there’s too much and it might be causing an issue for your pet, cut back on how much it’s getting.

Lactose Intolerant

Perhaps the most unrealistic thing about the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles was their love of pizza. After all, turtles are lactose intolerant! So, if you feed your turtle dairy for any reason, chances are good it could throw up afterward. Best to avoid dairy altogether.

Food Is Too Big

Another reason your turtle could vomit is because the pieces of food you’re giving it are too large. This is especially true for juveniles, as they can have a more challenging time trying to eat bigger pellets. You can cut your turtle’s food into smaller chunks, though, if you feel this is the reason your pet has thrown up.

Vitamin A Deficiency

And the final diet-related cause of turtles throwing up is a vitamin A deficiency. This is a common occurrence in aquatic turtles that are fed an inappropriate diet and can cause a host of problems. Signs your turtle is suffering from a Vitamin A deficiency include possible vomiting, epidermis changes, lack of appetite, and swelling of the eyelids. This is definitely an instance where you want to have your turtle checked out by a vet immediately.

Turtle head close up with open mouth on green grass
Image By: Super8, Shutterstock

2. Eating Things It Shouldn’t

Sometimes your turtle will eat things it shouldn’t. These may be things you’re giving your pet, or they could be things it eats on its own. For example, uncooked food, such as raw meat, is bad for your turtle as the meat could contain bacteria and make it ill, so avoid feeding it to your pet.

Then there are poisonous plants your turtle could consume. Turtles can eat many types of plants, but there are a few that are toxic to them that you don’t want to include in their enclosures. A few of these poisonous plants are rhododendron, hyacinth, avocado, and amaryllis.

Finally, your turtle might mistake small rocks and pebbles in its enclosure for food and try to eat them. If that happens and the pebble or rock is on the larger side, your pet should (hopefully) vomit it back up immediately.

3. Parasites

turtle with its mouth open on a meadow of grass
Image By: Alessio Rinaldi, Shutterstock

A less common cause of turtles throwing up is parasites. Turtles can occasionally develop parasites, such as tapeworms or nematodes, which will leave them vomiting, losing weight, and having diarrhea. If you think your turtle has a parasite, consult a vet about treatment.

4. Dehydration

Dehydration can also cause a turtle to vomit, as it can lead to difficulty swallowing, which results in choking and throwing up food. This can happen when your pet tries to eat when it’s not in the water, too. Familiarize yourself with the signs of dehydration so you’re able to tell if your turtle is lacking in hydration.

5. Poor Water in the Tank

turtle inside tank
Image By: Manuel Manteiga, Pixabay

The water in your pet’s enclosure could also lead to throwing up if the condition is poor. If water is too dirty, it could leave your turtle feeling stressed, which might lead to vomiting. Likewise, water that is too warm or too cold can cause stress to a turtle, making it ill. Your turtle should avoid feeling stressed, though, as long as the water is kept clean and at the correct temperature.

6. Anxiety

Think about the last time you were anxious over something; you might’ve felt a bit like you were going to throw up, right? Well, turtles can also experience anxiety, which can lead them to vomit. What would a turtle get anxious about? A new environment, for one. A turtle placed in a new environment can be anxious about the change in their surroundings. A turtle may also feel threatened by other turtles in this new environment, leading to stress and anxiety. So, though it isn’t always possible, keeping your turtle as anxiety-free as possible is ideal!


Final Thoughts

Turtles don’t throw up often, but they can throw up, so if yours does occasionally, it’s probably not a big deal. If your pet is throwing up consistently, though, you should absolutely have it seen by its veterinarian. But in cases of occasional vomit, check your turtle’s diet first, as that’s most likely the culprit. If your pet’s diet seems fine, you should look at the water in its enclosure to ensure it’s clean and at the right temperature, see if there are any plants in there that shouldn’t be, check to see if your turtle is hydrated, and consider the possibility of parasites. Overall, though, a turtle vomiting every once in a while is normal!

Featured Image Credit: shymar27, Shutterstock

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