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Do Turtles Fart? The Gas-tastic Truth! 🐢💨

You may have noticed air bubbles occasionally rise from your turtle to the water’s surface. This is both true of aquatic turtles and land turtles such as tortoises. With tortoises, this occurs when they soak in water. With aquatic turtles, this occurs when they are in their water tank/aquarium. With this in mind, do turtles fart? If you are a novice, you may be surprised to know that turtles do indeed fart. Experienced caretakers may already know this as they may have witnessed it several times.

Farts are a result of gas buildup. The food eaten also contributes to the sound and size of the fart. While you may not always hear the fart, you can always smell it.

The Truth About Turtle Farts

Farting is a normal bodily function. Farts are simply the passing of built-up gas in the turtle’s digestive tract. The passing of gas is nothing to worry about as it is a by-product of the digestive process. The food group most responsible for the passing of gas is carbohydrates. A large proportion of any turtle’s diet contains plant food and carbohydrates.

In addition to this, the turtle swallows air when eating. This air passes through the digestive tract. The turtle needs to pass this air once it reaches the turtle’s cloaca. This comes out as flatulence. Since the air passes through the digestive tract, it absorbs the smell of the digesting food and finally the excrement in the cloaca.

Both turtles and tortoises pass gas. Usually, the fart is silent. For turtles, you may notice the fart bubbles rising from the backside of the turtle. The smell is usually bad. The bad smell is no reason for alarm. This is normal. Just as human flatulence smells bad, so does turtle flatulence.

Turtles and tortoises alike usually fart when defecating or urinating. The turtles defecate and urinate in the water in their tanks. When your turtle is defecating, expect it to pass gas alongside.

Tortoises and land turtles such as box turtles also pass gas, usually when in water. Tortoises (and land turtles) enjoy soaking in water during the day. While relaxing in the water basin/bowl provided to them, they defecate, urinate, and pass gas.

The sound of a chelonian’s fart is quite audible. The pitch can be low or high. The fart can also be loud or silent.

The turtle’s diet seems to affect the smelliness of the fart. Some foods are also known to make the turtle very gassy. These are asparagus, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, and cauliflower. As you may have noticed, they are plants from the cruciferous vegetable family.

Cruciferous vegetables contain glucosinolates. These break down in the digestive tract to form compounds such as hydrogen sulfide, which produces a sulfur-smelling gas when the turtle farts. In addition to producing smelly farts, cruciferous vegetables also produce excess gas within the chelonian’s digestive system.

The larger the turtle, the gassier it tends to be. Large turtles also produce louder farts as well as more gas when they fart. You are more likely to notice the farts of a large tortoise than you would that of a small aquatic turtle.

Evidence shows that flatulence is beneficial to the turtle. A sea turtle found floating on the surface of the sea couldn’t dive down to forage for feed as she was unable to fart leading to a buildup of gas that negatively affected her density (making her too light to dive). The lack of farting negatively affected the mobility of this turtle.

The Turtle’s Urogenital System

So where do farts come from? Turtles have a urogenital system, a combination of both their excretory and reproductive systems. The digestive tract and the excretory system empty into a urogenital sinus known as the cloaca. When it comes to excretion, the cloaca serves the same purpose as the rectum (in humans).

Once the turtle eats, the food travels through the digestive tract. Here the nutrients are absorbed while the food digests. The turtle also has a bladder that stores urine until it is ready to pass it. Once all this is done, the remainder ends up in the cloaca as waste. Urine also exits the bladder and ends up in the cloaca. The cloaca then excrete the waste.

The cloaca extretes urine and fecal matter. Additionally, some turtles excrete uric acid. Uric acid is essentially dehydrated urine and is a thick paste or powder. Turtles that do this include species endemic to dry environments where water is scarce. Such turtles have evolved to conserve as much water as they can.

With turtles, digestion is usually a lengthy process. Turtles are efficient at drawing as much nutrition from the food that travels through their digestive tract. Every bit of nutrient counts.

(source: https://campus.murraystate.edu/academic/faculty/tderting/anatomyatlas/urogenit.htm)

The Regularity At Which Turtles Excrete Waste

How often a pet turtle excretes waste is directly proportional to the frequency of their feeding and the amount of food given to them. If the turtle eats often, they defecate more. If they eat less often, they defecate less.

While some turtles may defecate daily, some may defecate weekly. Younger turtles generally eat more frequently and as such defecate more frequently.

Turtles usually defecate every two days to a week. This applies to tortoises as well. Aquatic turtles urine in the water they live in and it can be difficult to notice them do this. Tortoises may urine in their water basin/dish as well or within their enclosure. They urine less frequently than they defecate as their systems try to retain as much water as possible.

Turtles excrete waste far less frequently than humans do. Your turtle defecating just once a week is perfectly normal. However, if your turtle hasn’t defecated for several weeks, it is a cause for concern. In general, aquatic turtles excrete waste more often than tortoises do.

Another thing to keep in mind is the regularity at which the tortoise or turtle excrete waste. As long as bowel movement is regular and consistent, there is nothing to worry about.

Dangers Of Not Passing Gas

When a turtle doesn’t pass gas, it usually leads to a gas buildup which is bad for the turtle.

An example of this is the case of a green turtle who they proceeded to name Squirt. Squirt is a wild sea turtle discovered floating in the seas near the Turtle Hospital in Florida. This turtle was floating on the surface making it impossible for her to dive and forage for food.

Upon an examination and x-ray, the team at The Turtle Hospital discovered gas buildup within its digestive tract. This buildup was caused by impaction. Because of the gas buildup, the turtle is unable to move and forage for food. Squirt was treated with laxative and Beano®. Once Squirt was healed, the team returned her to the ocean.

Sea turtles aren’t the only turtles that suffer from gas buildup, freshwater turtles and tortoises do too. Similar to sea turtles, gas buildup affects freshwater turtle’s ability to swim as the gas causes it to float.

Causes Of Gas Buildup Include Impaction And Indigestion

Impaction usually occurs when the turtle consumes large amounts of substrates such as sand which blocks the digestive tract. This can be prevented by having large substrates that the turtle cannot ingest such as pebbles. Similarly, you can decide to have no substrate in the enclosure.

Impaction can be difficult to treat. Soaking the turtle in warm water can help it to pass the substrate. I do not recommend feeding the turtle laxatives unless prescribed to you by a qualified veterinarian. You can end up causing more harm than good. It is best to get in touch with a vet if impaction is the cause of gas buildup.

Other symptoms of impaction include stool inconsistency, lack of appetite, and lethargy.

Indigestion can also cause gas buildup. Overfeeding can lead to indigestion which can lead to gas buildup. Make sure to not overfeed your turtle. If you do, keeping the water temperature at around 80 degrees Fahrenheit can help the turtle to defecate and pass gas.

The treatment of gastrointestinal problems with an antibiotic regimen can also cause indigestion. This happens because the antibiotics can negatively impact the gut flora which aids in digestion. If this is the case, it is best to contact the veterinarian treating the turtle or an experienced exotic/herp veterinarian.

Frequently Asked Questions

Can turtles have gas?

Turtles like humans pass gas. Their flatulence sounds and smells similar to that of humans. Just like humans, turtles fart because of the build-up of gas in their digestive tract. When the turtle eats, it also shallows air. This air travels through the digestive tract and reaches the cloaca, which is the turtle’s equivalent to the human rectum. Once here, the turtle pushes out the gas in the form of a fart.

Certain foods cause the chelonian to be more flatulence. Examples include cruciferous vegetables such as Brussels sprouts.

Do tortoises pass gas?

Tortoises just like turtles also pass gas. Similar to turtles, a buildup of gas in the digestive tract causes flatulence. This gas gets there when the turtle swallows air when eating. This air passes through the digestive tract and absorbs the smell of the food that digests. The tortoise generally passes gas when defecating or urinating.

The tortoise may refuse to pass gas when stressed. In addition to this, it will also refuse to defecate or urinate. This is bad for its health. To help the tortoise pass gas and excrete waste, soak it in water. To ensure that the tortoise isn’t at risk of drowning, the water shouldn’t be deep enough to cover its head. The water should be lukewarm. Once the turtle is relaxed and hydrated, it will pass gas and excrete waste.

How do you get rid of gas in a turtle?

When a turtle is unable to pass gas (fart) as much as it needs to. This build-up of gas can cause the turtle to float. There are several causes for the inability to pass gas. These causes usually boil down to indigestion. When a turtle is unable to properly digest food, it can cause a buildup of gas. Impaction and intestinal tract issues (GI) can also cause this issue.

Indigestion can be caused by overfeeding. When a turtle overeats, it can lead to a rapid buildup of gas. Feeding in moderation can help alleviate the issue.

Impaction occurs when the digestive tract of the turtle becomes blocked. You can say that impaction is a blockage of the digestive tract. The turtle ingesting material it cannot digest such as sand and other substrates causes impaction. In small quantities, the turtle can pass the substrate, but in large quantities, this substrate in the turtle’s system causes impaction. This is a fatal condition and should be treated by a veterinarian. To prevent this, ensure that the substrate is large enough that the turtle cannot swallow it.

Gastrointestinal problems are generally treated with an antibiotic regimen. These antibiotics also negatively impact the gut flora which aids in digestion. A significant reduction in gut flora can result in poor digestion. This can lead to a buildup of gas in the turtle’s intestinal tract.

If your tortoise/turtle is on antibiotics, the antibiotics may be the cause of the gas buildup. If this is the case, you should get in touch with your veterinarian. Preferably, the one that treated the turtle in the first place.

Are turtles deaf?

No turtles aren’t deaf although their hearing range is much narrower than most animals. This is due in part to a lack of external ears like mammals have. Turles have plates of cartilage on each side of the head. These act as tympanic membranes which is crucial to their hearing.

In general, turtles are sensitive to sounds within the range of 100 to 1000 hertz. In comparison, humans have a hearing range of 12 hertz to about 15,000 hertz in adults and 28,000 hertz in babies.

Red-eared sliders and other pond sliders (Pseudemys scripta) are sensitive to sounds within the range of 200 to 640 hertz. Painted turtles (Chrysemys picta) are sensitive to sounds within the range of 100 to 1200 hertz.  Sea turtles are sensitive to sounds within the range of 200 to 750 hertz. The green turtle, in particular, is sensitive to sounds between 200 to 500 hertz.

Conclusion

Do turtles fart? Yes, they do. Their flatulence is surprisingly very similar to that of humans. The sound and the smell of the fart are both similar to that of humans.

Similar to humans, turtles fart when they need to excrete waste. Turtles mostly fart when defecating. The regularity at which turtles fart is directly linked to the regularity at which they poop. Turtles may poop daily, a few times a week, or once a week. This is dependent on how often they eat.

It is usually bad news, if your turtle cannot fart. If you have an aquatic turtle, it is easy to notice when it isn’t passing gas. When the turtle doesn’t fart, there is a buildup of gas in its system which causes it to float. Gas buildup can be caused by overfeeding, impaction, and antibiotic treatment that kills gut flora. It is best to correct the conditions that are impacting the turtle’s ability to fart. You may even need to visit the veterinarian.

References

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