Eating slugs or snails will not always be harmful to a tortoise. However, eating too many can cause a protein overdose. Moreover, at times, snails and slugs contain parasites, which can be harmful and even deadly for the tortoise.
Tortoises eat a lot of things. That’s probably no surprise to you if you had one as a pet for any length of time! In order to stay healthy, they need to get lots of nutrients from different sources. This is how they can grow into happy tortoises and maintain the health of their shell, skin, and internal organs.
With so many ingredients you can feed your pet tortoise, you may see it eating something it’s never had before, and you start to panic as you wonder if it is safe for it to be doing so. One of these things may be a slug, or a snail, which is especially possible if you let your tortoise roam free in your backyard (which incidentally you should be if possible).
But is it safe for the tortoise to eat a slug or a snail? Will something bad happen to it, or will it be all right? You will find the answers to your questions in this article.
Why Do Tortoises Eat Slugs or Snails?
In the wild, tortoises eat all sorts of things. Since they do not know when they will next come across high quality food, they take advantage of any edible thing they find, whether it’s a juicy leaf or a fruit.
Now, here’s one thing to know about snails: they can be found pretty much everywhere. Different types of snails and slugs will thrive in certain environments. In nature, it absolutely stands to reason that tortoises are bound to come across them at some point, and they will not turn down the chance to eat a snail, at least as long as it isn’t too large to fit inside their mouth.
So, tortoises eat snails, as well as slugs. But why is that? Well, tortoises do it because they want to take advantage of every chance they have to eat a consistent meal. They also love to eat live food from time to time, and snails are a good treat for them. But that’s not all. Snails are a protein source, and tortoises need some protein now and then, even if they don’t require large quantities like other animals.
Protein is not the only nutrient that a tortoise can get from snails and slugs, though. They can get other vitamins and nutrients as well, like potassium, calcium, and vitamin A.
As slimey and yucky as they might appear, snails and slugs do have some nutritional benefits!
Are There Any Risks?
While tortoises eat slugs sometimes in the wild and thry may not be harmful when eaten in moderation, there are some risks associated with them. At times, snails and slugs may have parasites. If the tortoise eats a host for harmful parasites, this can can go badly for the tortoise, and you will have to do everything it takes to get rid of the issue.
Parasites can do a lot of damage to a tortoise’s health, and it can be a costly problem to treat.
This issue is especially likely when it comes to snails caught in the wild. One of the most troublesome parasites present in snails and slugs is the lung fluke. This parasite causes very unpleasant symptoms and can be deadly for your tortoise.
There are other potential risks that come with snails from your garden. If you use any pesticides, fertilizers, or any other harmful chemicals, the snail will be affected by it. If the tortoise then happens to eat the affected snail, it can lead to health issues for the tortoise too. Even worse, the toxic compounds may remain inside the reptile’s system for many years.
Are Canned Snails a Better Option?
If you wish to give your tortoise snails but want to avoid any potential risks that come with live snails, you can resort to canned ones. You can get them from pet shops or online stores. Of course, that still doesn’t mean you should go crazy with the number of canned snails you give to your pet reptile but offering such a treat once in a while will not hurt.
Furthermore you should only deliberately feed snails to your tortoise if it’s of a breed that does safely consume a little more protein than most, chiefly red and yellow footed tortoises.
What Type of Snails Can Tortoises Eat?
There are different types of snails that a tortoise can consume. They include pond snails, mystery snails, apple snails, ramshorns, and others. It all depends on the dietary needs of your pet and their preferences.
How Many Snails Are Safe for the Tortoise to Eat?
Whereas snails and slugs may be a tasty treat for your tortoise, it is always best to be wary of the amount you offer, even in the case of omnivorous tortoises. If you wish to feed your pet some snails, you can give it about two snails once every ten days. Don’t try to feed them snails every day or give them a large quantity at once. One or two snails once in a while will be more than enough.
Even if your tortoise happens to eat more than two snails while roaming in your garden without your supervision, that doesn’t mean that it is safe and that it should become a habit. In the future, it is best to prevent this from happening.
Besides, actually captive tortoises have different nutritional needs and a slower metabolism. Wild tortoises move around more, which gives them much better digestion capabilities. So, if you give too many snails or slugs to a captive tortoise, you risk causing pyramiding due to the protein overdose.
How to Prevent Your Tortoise from Eating Slugs or Snails?
One way to prevent your pet reptile from eating snails or slugs is, of course, by removing them. If you notice any snails or slugs in your garden or backyard, you can simply remove them before allowing the tortoise to roam freely. You may also need to keep a close eye on your pet to make sure it doesn’t stumble upon a snail – especially if they’ve transgressed before!
Also, you may want to place the tortoise in an outdoor enclosure where you know it has no access to any snail or slug, and where it will be much easier for you to monitor it.
Snails or slugs may not always be harmful, especially in small quantities. But live food of this type can contain parasites at times, which can end up being deadly for your pet. If you want to avoid this, canned snails may be a better option, as long as you feed them in moderation.