Is My Turtle Underweight or overweight?

Diet and exercise are two things that we always stress in our own daily lives, and we often extend those concerns to our pets. It’s common to see someone jogging along with their dog, making sure they both are getting a required run to stay fit. What about animals that aren’t known for their athleticism?

Turtles, for instance, throughout history have even literature written about how slow they are. So keeping them healthy is less about exercise and more about a proper healthy diet. You have to worry about underfeeding and overfeeding. You can tell if your turtle is underweight if their skin is sickly or if their legs appear to thin to support their frame. 

In this blog, we’ll go over the reasons why your turtle may not be properly gaining or maintaining their weight, as well as what to do if they’re either over or under the pounds they should be. 

How Do You Know If a Turtle is Underweight?

The best way to tell if your turtle is underweight is simply by inspecting your pet. Look at the openings where their legs come out. If it appears sunken or even that there is nothing there, they are underweight. 

Their legs, when they are out, may also appear too thin, making it difficult for the creature to get around their tank. 

How Do I Know If My Turtle is Overweight?

It’s easy to overfeed a turtle, especially if you’re a new owner. When you first bring them home, all you want to do is shower them with affection and that’s completely understandable, but you may want to hold off on loading them up with treats to make them like you. 


They’ll like you, but they won’t like the pain it’ll bring later. And while they’ll never make that connection, you’ll certainly blame yourself. So always stick to a healthy, well-maintained diet that suits their appropriate age. 

If your turtle has overeaten and gotten fat, then the best thing to do is check the sockets where their legs come out once again. Only this time, they will look blocked with folds of skin. Your turtle may even have a hard time getting their legs out and moving properly, which can be very uncomfortable. 


That kind of friction against the shell can also cause some irritation on the skin, which could get infected. If the infection is not immediately treated properly, your turtle could get very ill and die. 

How Do You Know If Your Turtle is Too Skinny?

Another way to tell if your turtle is underfed is by looking at their hips and neck area. These areas will also look somewhat empty when the turtle is retracted. 

How Many Times a Day Should You Feed Turtles?

There’s a generally accurate rule to how much and how often you should be feeding your turtles. It will change depending on how old your turtle is. 


Measure the size of your turtles’ head. Then, find a measuring cup, bottle cap, dish or plastic tupperware about the same size. Fill that container to the brim with the intended food, make sure whatever you’re offering your turtle is well-mixed and balanced in tune to what they require every day. 


Baby turtles must be fed once a day. Young adults, or juveniles, should be provided food every other day, and it’s the time in their life they’ll be most appreciative of the special treats you hand them once in a while. 

Fully grown turtles should only be fed every three days. 

But if you find your turtle is not gaining enough weight, it’s an easily fixable problem. If they aren’t eating, it could be a health problem and you should take them to the vet as soon as you can to resolve it. If you have not been offering enough food or the right kind, simply make the changes necessary to their diet and they should once again resort to gaining appropriate weight. 

The bigger problem, as you may have seen, is if they gain too much weight. Fortunately, there are things you can do about that. 

Why is it Dangerous for Turtles to be Overweight?

Turtles like to retract in their shells, whether it be for a night’s sleep or to quickly protect itself from a predator. When they’re overweight, it’s harder to quickly retract, so if they’re attacked they won’t be able to save themselves. 

You already are aware of the potential bruises and scratches that can come from just coming out or in of the shell, imagine trying to do it very quickly. Those scratches, if left untreated, could get seriously infected. 

What To Feed Your Turtle So It Doesn’t Get Overweight

Most turtles are omnivores, meaning they’ll eat both plants and animals. The typical turtle diet includes:

  • Berries
  • Vegetables
  • Fruits
  • Worms
  • Insects
  • Meat
  • Fish
  • Turtle pellets

The berries and fruits contain the nutrients your turtle needs to stay healthy, the protein is there for younger turtles to grow. You may notice, as the turtle ages, it will become less interested in meat. 


The key, however, is providing a decent balance of everything, taking note of what your turtle likes as well as what it needs. Too much protein can be a very dangerous thing, as it can cause your turtle to pyramid. 


Pyramiding is when certain scutes on the shell start to rise above the normal dome. It’s typically not a dangerous thing, but it can become so when the bumps get more pronounced. 

Ultimately, your turtle’s diet is one of the most important aspects of your interaction with it. You are the provider of their meals, and you should always aim to provide a good balance of what they enjoy as well as what keeps them healthy. 

If you notice your turtle is under or overweight, take the appropriate steps to nurse it back to full health. This is the key to having a long-lasting friendship with your turtle.

Also read

Can Turtles Get Fat?

Do Turtles Need Sunlight

Do Turtles Eat Cockroaches?

References

Turtle Facts– Livescience

https://www.virginiaherpetologicalsociety.com/reptiles/turtles/va-turtle-measurements.pdf

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