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Can Tortoises Eat Pumpkin?

Last Updated on October 6, 2023 by Samantha Harris

Pumpkin is a healthy fruit that many tortoises like eating. They’re vitamin and mineral-dense, high in soluble fiber for good digestive health, and an immune system booster.

Tortoises can eat pumpkin meat, leaves, flowers, and seeds. Adding some pumpkin to a tortoise’s diet is recommended if you have a fruit-eating tortoise species.

Not all tortoise species’ digestive systems can break down large amounts of sugars. Pumpkins have a high glycemic index of 75 and contain 2.8 grams of sugar per 100 grams.

Can You Feed Tortoises Pumpkin?

Tortoise species that regularly eat fruits in the wild include:

  • Red-footed tortoises (Chelonoidis carbonaria).
  • Yellow-footed tortoises (Chelonoidis denticulata).

The diet of red-footed and yellow-footed tortoises comprises up to 50% fruit.

Also, these tortoise species can have fruit in moderation:

  • Indian Star Tortoise (Geochelone elegans).
  • African Spurred Tortoise (Centrochelys sulcata).
  • Leopard Tortoise (Stigmochelys pardalis).
  • Russian Tortoise (Agrionemys horsfieldii).
  • Greek Tortoise (Testudo graeca).
  • Hermann’s Tortoise (Testudo hermanni).

When other tortoise species eat fruits, their gut flora can change, making it hard to digest other foods.

Changes to tortoises’ gut microbiome put them at risk of dysbiosis (unbalanced gut bacteria). This can lead to digestive problems like diarrhea, gas, and bloating.

How Much Pumpkin Can Tortoises Have?

Pumpkin isn’t a staple of a tortoise’s diet, nor should it be a primary ingredient in its meals, even for tortoise species that can digest fruits.

Pumpkin has a laxative effect. Also, too much can speed up the metabolism, wherein the tortoise’s body processes its meals too quickly.

Tortoises only need to eat 5 days a week and take up to 3 weeks to digest a meal. Slow digestion is to the tortoise’s advantage because it’ll glean more nutrients from its food.

It can be detrimental if the pumpkin causes the tortoise to rush food through its digestive system. The tortoise will absorb only a fraction of the nutrients, leaving it malnourished and dehydrated.

Feeding pumpkin to tortoises should be limited to once every 1-2 weeks.

is pumpkin good for tortoises?

Can Tortoises Eat Raw Pumpkin?

You can turn the pumpkin into a puree, which is ideal for tortoises with digestive issues. To accomplish this, boil the pumpkin and use a blender or a food processor to liquify it.

Don’t add flavorings to the puree, like salt (sodium), spices, or oil.

Is Pumpkin Good for Tortoise?

When served in moderation, pumpkin has health benefits for tortoises:

Nutrient-Dense

Pumpkins are nutrient-dense, meaning they contain many nutrients per calorie.

Eating nutrient-dense foods enables tortoises to get the vitamins, minerals, and other macronutrients the body needs to function efficiently while avoiding excess calories.

This means weight gain is less likely because pumpkins contain fewer than 50 calories per cup.

Immune System

Pumpkin enhances the efficacy of a tortoise’s immune system. Whether maintaining its health or helping it recover from illness, you can give a tortoise pumpkin for the following:

Vitamin C

Vitamin C (ascorbic acid) is a water-soluble vitamin that optimizes the immune system by increasing the production of white blood cells, which fight illness and disease.

Vitamin C helps wounds heal faster, improves skin quality, and bolsters energy levels.

However, tortoises (and all reptiles) don’t require dietary vitamin C because they can synthesize it endogenously (within their bodies) from glucose.

Beta-Carotene

Beta-carotene is a type of carotenoid that gives pumpkins their distinctive bright orange color.

When ingested, beta-carotene is absorbed from the small intestine into the bloodstream. Then, it’s transported to the liver, where it is converted into vitamin A (retinol).

Vitamin A keeps the eyes healthy, promotes healthy skin, and strengthens the immune system. The British Journal of Nutrition stated that carotenoids are linked to better metabolic health.

Vitamin E

Vitamin E is a fat-soluble vitamin and antioxidant that protects cells from damage caused by free radicals. It’s also essential for the integrity of cell membranes and immune system support.

There are various forms of vitamin E, including beta-tocopherol, delta-tocopherol, gamma-tocopherol, and alpha-tocopherol. The latter is the most active vitamin E in a tortoise’s body.

Vitamin B9 (Folate)

Folate is a water-soluble B vitamin used when synthesizing DNA and forming red blood cells. A folate deficiency has been shown to hinder the creation of DNA and RNA.

Low levels of folate have also been linked to weaker immune systems. Pumpkin contains a large quantity of folate, which is responsible for increasing T cells.

Iron

Iron is a mineral that creates hemoglobin and is a significant component of red blood cells. These are essential for transporting oxygenated blood from the lungs around the body.

Iron is also crucial in bodily functions like energy production, cell growth, and division regulation.

A tortoise lacking sufficient iron can get iron deficiency anemia, leaving it tired and lethargic. Pumpkin is a good source of non-heme iron (found in plant-based foods), which is efficiently absorbed by the body.

Soluble Fiber

Pumpkin is an excellent source of soluble and insoluble fiber, a type of carbohydrate.

Soluble fiber dissolves in water, creating a gel-like material in the gut that slows down glucose and cholesterol absorption.

Insoluble fiber helps regulate digestion by promoting bowel movements and preventing constipation.

Pumpkin is high in dietary fiber, which helps a tortoise glean nutrients from its meals and pass feces. Dietary fiber can’t be digested or absorbed by the body, so it becomes bulk in the stool.

Vets recommend that tortoises eat a high-fiber diet, with at least 30% fiber in their meals.

Diabetes Prevention

Pumpkins may assist with preventing and controlling diabetes mellitus. According to Molecules, pumpkins can have hypoglycemic effects that can lower blood sugar levels.

What Part of Pumpkin Can Tortoise Eat?

Tortoises can eat all parts of a pumpkin, including the meat, seeds, leaves, and flowers.

Slice the pumpkin meat into small portions. Also, wash all parts of the fruit before offering it so that no dirt, debris, pesticides, or other contaminants affect the tortoise.

The benefits of pumpkin meat have been discussed, but why are the leaves, seeds, and flowers beneficial?

Pumpkin Leaves

Pumpkin greens are safe for tortoises, even species that can’t eat fruit. They contain the following:

  • Vitamins A, B6, C, and E.
  • Calcium
  • Potassium.
  • Phosphorus.
  • Iron
  • Copper
  • Manganese

Pick young and tender leaves because older ones become tough and bitter.

Pumpkin Flowers

Pumpkin flowers have a funnel shape with orange or yellow colors. The bright color should entice tortoises, enabling them to benefit from the following:

  • Vitamin A and C.
  • Folate.
  • Copper.
  • Magnesium.
  • Iron.

Pumpkin flowers contain these antioxidants:

  • Anthocyanins.
  • Carotene.
  • Flavonoids.
  • Phenols.
do tortoises like pumpkin?

Pumpkin Seeds

Pumpkin seeds are entangled after being removed from the pumpkin.

They’re a good source of healthy unsaturated fats. Although the incidence of heart disease is low in tortoises, these healthy unsaturated fats can help reduce cholesterol.

Pumpkin seeds are high in protein, so offer them in small amounts. That’s especially true for arid tortoise species, like sulcatas, as they’re more prone to metabolic disorders connected to excess protein.

Offering a tortoise too many seeds can affect kidney function and shell development. Protein is essential for growth, but too much causes a tortoise to grow too fast.

Is Pumpkin A Natural Dewormer for Tortoises?

You might have heard of pumpkins as a natural dewormer, which can be traced to the pumpkin’s seeds, which are a good source of cucurbitacin.

The pumpkin seeds must be chopped or ground up for the cucurbitacin to work. Cucurbitacin has anti-parasitic properties, but no official studies endorse this claim.

Cucurbitacin is only somewhat effective for roundworms and tapeworms. If a tortoise has other intestinal parasites, pumpkin seeds won’t kill or remove them.

Conclusion

Fruit-eating tortoises can have pumpkin because it’s a safe and nutritious food with fiber, vitamins, and minerals. When feeding pumpkin to tortoises, do so in moderation because it’s high in natural sugars.

To feed a tortoise pumpkin, wash and cut the pumpkin into small chunks. Offer it as an occasional treat, or mix it with leafy greens and vegetables if a tortoise is constipated or producing hard stools.

The easiest way to determine if a tortoise likes pumpkin is to offer it to them and observe their reaction. If the tortoise seems to enjoy pumpkin, you can give it a small portion every 1-2 weeks.