Last Updated on October 1, 2023 by Samantha Harris
If you let a tortoise walk around in the yard, you may discover it has eaten a slug or a snail.
While the dangers of eating gastropods are known to humans, tortoises are reptiles. You may be curious if eating slugs affects tortoises the same way.
Slugs and snails aren’t poisonous to tortoises unless they eat too many. They contain protein, which a tortoise can over-consume. Also, slugs and snails carry parasites that can make tortoises sick.
Eating a slug occasionally won’t kill a tortoise. Tortoises often eat slugs in the wild, but there are safer ways to provide tortoises with the nutrition they need to thrive.
Do Tortoises Eat Slugs and Snails?
As stated, wild tortoises commonly eat slugs and snails. They aren’t a primary source of nutrition, but if a tortoise can find them, it’ll eat them.
According to Biology Letters, tortoises eat snails so often in certain parts of the world that slug species have evolved to defend themselves against tortoises.
Herpetology Notes stated that tortoises eat land snails, although only 3 of the 10 researchers observed this behavior. This means that not all tortoises like eating slugs and snails.
Slugs provide tortoises with protein, while snails provide protein and calcium due to their shells.
Although things can go wrong if a tortoise eats a snail or slug, wild tortoises will feast on them because they’re opportunistic foragers who eat whenever the opportunity arises.
Are Slugs Bad for Tortoises?
A tortoise may not be in immediate peril if it eats a slug. Still, you must monitor its health for a few days to ensure everything’s alright.
Eating slugs can be dangerous for tortoises for the following reasons:
Tortoises need protein, but not as much as other animals. Too much protein can lead to:
- Kidney failure.
- Weight gain.
Slugs are high in protein, but it’s unlikely that tortoises will eat enough of them.
Throat And Nasal Blockage
When tortoises eat slugs, they froth up around their mouths and stick to their faces.
Because they’re so thick and sticky, the slug can block the tortoise’s nasal cavity and throat. Eating slugs can inhibit breathing if the tortoise is recovering from a throat or sinus infection.
If your tortoise can’t breathe, one of the first things you’ll notice is noisy breathing. If you look up the tortoise’s nostrils, you may also see some slug residue.
Slugs can carry an array of different worms and parasites. While these parasites may not harm the slug, they may harm the tortoise if ingested.
Depending on the parasite the slug hosted, the tortoise can experience mild discomfort or become ill.
One of the first signs that something is amiss with a tortoise’s stomach is the color and consistency of the stool, as well as the tortoise’s behavior toward food.
After the tortoise eats one or more slugs, note any loss of appetite or changes in its feces.
Common garden slugs may contain chemicals from any pesticides they’ve ingested. If a tortoise eats a slug exposed to garden chemicals, it could cause secondary poisoning.
If the tortoise has lost its appetite, become lethargic and unresponsive, or has trouble walking properly, take it to a veterinarian. If you’ve sprayed pesticides around your garden and saw the tortoise eat a slug, you shouldn’t wait for any symptoms to arise.
How Many Snails And Slugs Can a Tortoise Eat?
How many snails and slugs a tortoise can eat depends on size and diet. The smaller the tortoise is, the fewer snails and slugs it can eat before it ingests too much protein.
Tortoises don’t need as much protein as other animals, so a small tortoise will only need some in its diet to function. If a tortoise is big and healthy, it can get away with eating several slugs.
If you want to feed your tortoise snails, canned snails for reptiles are recommended. They’re safe for the tortoise to eat, but you should be mindful of the amount of protein it already has in its regular diet.
Can You Give Tortoises Canned Snails?
Giving a tortoise canned snails is safer than letting it eat wild snails from the garden. That said, you shouldn’t regularly feed tortoise snails, even if they’re of the safe variety.
If you want to give a tortoise more nutrients, there are other nutritious sources. To substitute the protein and calcium, you can offer a tortoise the following:
- Boiled eggs.
- Green beans.
If you get canned snails for your tortoise, get a brand specifically for captive reptiles.
Are Slug Pellets Harmful to Tortoises?
Slug pellets are pesticides used to kill mollusks like snails and slugs. They’re highly toxic, so you must take your tortoises to the vet if eaten.
If you have a slug problem in your yard but want to let your tortoise outside, you can replace the slug pellets with something less toxic. Fortunately, there are several alternatives available.
Salt and beer work well for killing snails and slugs. Cheap beer is a liquid that the soil will absorb, so there’s no way for your tortoise to ingest it. As for salt, it’s a mineral that doesn’t harm tortoises.
If you can’t use beer or salt to kill the garden slugs, you must section off a safe space for a tortoise to stay in while it’s outside. If it can roam freely in the yard, the risk of ingesting slug pellets is too high.