Why Does My Tortoise Pee White Stuff? Here’s Everything You Need to Know!

Why Does My Tortoise Pee White Stuff Here’s Everything You Need to Know!
Why Does My Tortoise Pee White Stuff Here’s Everything You Need to Know!

It’s always alarming when our pet tortoises display strange body language! For instance, they may sometimes expel pee in unusual coloration and consistency. Why does my tortoise pee white stuff, you might ask? Is it a sign of deterioration in tortoise kidney function? Or is it simply a by-product of protein digestion in tortoises?

Well, on this occasion, we shall discuss this matter in detail. You will no longer have to wonder whether this unusual pee is a sign of health problems! We will also learn more about tortoise urine’s characteristics to know whether they are healthy. In any case, stick with us, and let’s learn more about tortoise pee!

How tortoises process waste 

why does my tortoise pee white stuff
How tortoises process waste

When I was a beginner like you, one day, I noticed something strange with my tortoise urine. Why does my tortoise pee white stuff? Is he okay? I was panicking quite a bit. Further understanding of tortoise excretion answers my questions!

You have to understand that tortoises excrete three types of waste.

Tortoise Poop

The first is poop. Because tortoise usually eats grasses and other greeneries, their poops are brown to greenish brown. It’s supposed to be solid and firm. Unlike us humans, tortoises have low metabolism! That’s why it only poops once every few days. So, don’t panic if your pet tortoise does not poop yet. Perhaps it’s still digesting its food.

However, baby tortoises may poop a little more frequently. On the other hand, fully mature adult tortoises only excrete about every other day. Tortoise’s metabolism will slow down as they get older. In fact, your mature tortoise may only poop once every 3–4 days.

Tortoise Urine

Then, tortoises also produce urine. Just like most reptiles, tortoise expels their poop and urine from the same hole, cloaca, or vent. If you observe closely, you will find a slit opening under the tail. That’s where the cloaca is. This hole also accommodates the reproduction system, but that’s a story for another time. 

All you need to know right now is that your pet tortoise does not pee as much as other animals. 

Moreover, due to evolution, tortoises will urinate only after they find more fresh water. In their dry land natural habitat, a pond can be hard to come by after all. If they can not find a water source, they will pee once they get moisture from juicy vegetation with high water content.  So they can keep going, holding their pee for weeks or longer!

In fact, Tortoises can store water in the bladder, and they can reabsorb it. Some tortoises can save up to 40% of their body weight in water inside the bladder. Please note that they will empty their bladder or pee if you pick them up as a defensive mechanism. You should not pick wild tortoises because if they pee, they can die after losing the water.

Healthy tortoise pee is clear and has little to no scent. Among expert hobbyists, we’ve also heard that sulcata tortoise and other grass-eating species have pee that smells like horses.

Urate Excretion

And the last one is urates! When you ask: why does my tortoise pee white stuff? This is the answer! Sometimes, when tortoises pee, they also excrete urate.

Tortoises process protein inside the food separately. They store it inside their urinary bladder. Eventually, this processed protein will flow out. This matter is called urates! So, it is the result of protein digestion in tortoises. It’s creamy white and will sometimes come out when your tortoise pees. So, the difference between tortoise urine and urate lies in its consistency.

We shall talk about tortoise urates more!

Understanding Uric Acid

Understanding Uric Acid
Understanding Uric Acid

The way mammals and reptiles process nutrients is vastly different. As a result, the excretion process is not the same. 

Not just pee and poop, your tortoise produces one more type of excretion product called uric acid or urates. It is a type of by-product of tortoises’ protein digestion!

Tortoises store urates in their pee bladders. Usually, this excretion looks creamy with an off-white color. It’s pretty pasty and semi-solid. This is what you see when your tortoise pees white stuff.

 So don’t worry; it’s part of a tortoise’s normal excretion. It’s not a puss or sign of infection, so you can be at ease. However, abnormal urate production is possible, and you need to notice the symptoms. We shall cover this issue in the next section.

Uric Acid in Reptiles

The role of kidneys in tortoise urate production is crucial. In the human body, this organ has a vital role in clearing your blood from uric acid. It also applies to tortoises as it can remove uric acid from the tortoise’s bloodstream.

As we have said, uric acid is a waste during tortoise protein digestion. Tortoise’s metabolism that utilizes protein produces ammonia in the bloodstream. Ammonia is toxic to your pet tortoise and needs to be expelled from its body! In fact, ammonia buildup in tortoises can paralyze their body and eventually kill them.

To expel ammonia, tortoises must filter it from the blood using their kidneys and then convert it to uric acid. This uric acid is significantly less toxic, and it will pass through to the bladder wall along with the urine. 

Earlier, we mentioned that tortoises only pee if they have enough water to drink. They can reuse the water reservoir inside the bladder to rehydrate themselves. Thanks to the conversion of ammonia to uric acid, tortoises can recycle the water inside the bladder safely.

As a result,  the uric acid may build up. Eventually, calcium and tortoise urine, as well as other electrolytes like potassium, form the white urates that we’re talking about.

When your tortoise pees, this urate will also come out. Usually, urate comes out with urine in semi-solid pasty white cream. It may also get mixed with poop, too, because tortoises may poop and pee simultaneously.

How tortoises conserve water through uric acid excretion

Uric acid excretion allows tortoises to save water usage! To stay healthy, tortoises need to expel waste generated during the metabolism process. The waste includes ammonia, a highly toxic and dangerous by-product!

Animals convert ammonia into urea, which is less toxic. It’s excreted along with liquid urine. However, tortoises, especially those that live in the desert, can not afford to pee every day. So, how do they remove ammonia from their body without losing too much water? Well, uric acid, or urate, is your answer!

Uric acid does not easily get dissolved inside the bladder. In fact, it can form a solid, crystal-like appearance eventually. Therefore, tortoises do not require too much water to expel them. They can just pee thick white urates or even poop it out if it becomes solid. And that’s how tortoises conserve water through uric acid excretion.

When water is scarce, the tortoise keeps recycling the urine inside the bladder continuously. Eventually, if they are dehydrated, urate consistency will become gooier, like a thicker paste. This is the white pee that you will see if you do not give your tortoise enough drink! And if your tortoise does not drink for too long, the urates will turn into bladder stones!

Normal vs. Abnormal Excretion

As we have learned before, a healthy tortoise will excrete poop, pee, and non-thick urates. 

Normal tortoise excretion should be solid and firm. Typically, it is brown to greenish-brown because most tortoises eat grass and leaves. If it’s soft and too dark or too light, it’s possible that your tortoises may have eaten something it should not.

Healthy tortoise pee should be clear. However, sometimes, it may get pinkish depending on what you feed your shelled pet. The scent should be manageable, too. You will also notice white stuff mixed in the pee, which is urate. 

Normal urates that got mixed in the pee should be watery. It is a sign that your tortoise receives enough water. A soft cream-like urate consistency is also still normal. However, if you notice gritty, thick, and hard urates, then it is a sign of severe dehydration or an unbalanced diet. It can cause complications like bladder stones in tortoises. 

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Potential Health Concerns

Potential Health Concerns
Potential Health Concerns

Here are some causes of thick white urate in tortoises! If you notice that your tortoise produces abnormal urate consistency, check if these are the reasons why!

1. Dehydration

This is the leading cause of the formation of concentrated urates! Because the water inside the tortoise bladder gets recycled too many times, the urates will become thicker. Make sure your tortoise has access to clean water at all times. We shall talk about tortoise soaking in the next section!

2. Dietary issues

An improper diet can affect the composition of urates! Please note that your tortoise should eat naturally. They typically love grass and greenery. Tortoises should eat a balanced diet that is specific to their species. High-protein or high-purine foods can lead to abnormal urate formation. Incompatible artificial pellets can cause this issue.

3. Kidney problems

Kidney dysfunction or disease can lead to changes in tortoise urate excretion. If their kidneys are not functioning correctly, urates may become thicker and more concentrated. They may be unable to properly turn toxic waste in the blood into uric acid.

Infection of the bladder wall and urinary tract may also play a role in abnormal urate production. Now, if you notice abnormality and wonder, why does my tortoise pee white stuff? You’ll have to pay more attention to your pet’s excretion. 

Bladder Stones in Tortoises

Developing a bladder stone is a usual problem that you’ll encounter in captive tortoises. It can happen in wild tortoises, but they are usually smaller. Bladder stones can grow big, and they may cause urine blockage and tremendous pain in tortoises. 

As we’ve mentioned, the urates that build up too much for too long will form bladder stones. If the stones get too big, they will be impossible to pass through, and your tortoise may need surgery! They can be as big as 11 centimeters in diameter and will look like a big ball of concrete! Imagine the pain if it’s inside you.

Detection and Treatment of Bladder Stones in Tortoises

Bladder stones develop over time in tortoises. So, it’s hard to tell if your tortoise has bladder stones, especially if the stones are still small. Eventually, though, it will become more apparent as the bladder wall gets irritated. Here are some of the common symptoms:

  • Nasal discharge that looks like snot.
  • Appetite lost, especially when the bladder stones get so big, pushing other organs.
  • In female tortoises, they can not lay eggs.
  • Weaker back legs, dragging, and they may even get paralyzed.
  • Lethargy, not actively moving around their enclosure for a long time.
  • Unable to pee and poop properly.

If you do not take out the bladder stone, paralysis and eventually death may come. To diagnose bladder stones in tortoises accurately, you may need to take it to a veterinarian and get an x-ray. Large

Preventing Bladder Stones in Tortoises

why does my tortoise pee white stuff
Source: Pinterest (@Tortiose world)

Here are water intake recommendations for tortoises that you can follow! Please soak your tortoise periodically, about once a week. For younger tortoises, you may wash them more often, especially in hot seasons. Smaller ones usually have higher metabolism, so they do lose water faster.

Use room temperature or slightly lukewarm water. We do not recommend cold water because tortoises are reptiles that cannot regulate their body temperature. Use a shallow container for the water; never ever submerge your tortoise! Start from the top of the carapace and go down. Unlike turtles, tortoises are terrestrial, and they typically can not swim! Do this treatment for about 10 to 20 minutes. 

While soaking is one of the best natural remedies for tortoise dehydration, ensure you also provide drinking water. Moreover, you can also feed them vegetables or fruits that contain a lot of water.

Ensuring a balanced diet to prevent excessive urate

why does my tortoise pee white stuff
Ensuring a balanced diet to prevent excessive urate

Dietary and drinking habit is the main factor influencing reptile waste excretion. So, you should find out what your tortoise usually eats and drinks. And many new hobbyists are surprised that most tortoises are strictly herbivores!

Healthy herbivore uric acid production should typically be lower than carnivores or omnivores. After all, they consume less protein, which means less uric acid. Since your pet tortoise is an herbivore, it should produce less uric acid. 

Because tortoises mainly eat grass, they only need a small amount of protein. Therefore, tortoises produce smaller amounts of uric acid. If your tortoise makes abnormal urates even though it’s not dehydrated, it’s possible that you fed it too much protein!

This is why you should not give your tortoise cat or dog food! Your tortoise’s diet should consist of a high percentage of grass. Mix also a lesser amount of green, leafy vegetables. And on hot days, feed them fruits like tomatoes, apples, or cucumbers sparingly.

Grasses and weeds that you can be your pet tortoise’s main menu:

  • Alfalfa hay
  • Fresh clover
  • Bermuda grass
  • Mallow
  • Opuntia cactus pads
  • Ryegrass 
  • Rice grass
  • Sowthistle

When to Consult a Veterinarian

why does my tortoise pee white stuff
Source: Pinterest (@tortaddiction.blogspot.com)

As a responsible tortoise owner, especially if it comes from an exotic species, you need to check your tortoise’s health frequently. The frequency of health check-ups for tortoises should be at least once a year. Annual check-ups will allow veterinarians to spot abnormalities more quickly.

You may also want to consult a veterinarian if you notice abnormal signs such as:

1. Changes in Behavior

If your tortoise’s behavior changes significantly, such as reduced activity, lethargy, or loss of appetite. An unhealthy tortoise may also show unusual aggression.

2. Respiratory Issues

Wheezing, labored breathing, nasal discharge, or any signs of respiratory distress may indicate a respiratory infection.

3. Shell Problems

 If you notice any abnormalities or damage to your tortoise’s shell, such as cracks, soft spots, or discoloration, immediately consult a veterinarian.

4. Eye or Mouth Issues

Swelling, discharge, abnormality in your tortoise’s eyes, or signs of mouth or beak problems. Check for overgrowth or difficulty eating.

5. Weight Loss or Gain

We suggest that you weigh your tortoise once a month at least. Significant and unexplained changes in your tortoise’s weight can indicate various health issues. It could be parasites or organ problems.

6. Skin Problems

Take your tortoise to a vet if you notice blisters, abnormal shedding, or any unusual changes in your tortoise’s skin.

7. Parasites

Tortoises are prone to internal and external parasites, such as worms or mites. Watch out for signs of parasites, like diarrhea, weight loss, or visible external parasites.

8. Injuries

Any injuries, such as cuts, abrasions, or fractures, should be treated by a veterinarian to prevent infection and promote proper healing.

9. Dietary Concerns

If your tortoise eats something that it should not, like toys or rocks, a vet visit is a must. Check also if they are consistently refusing to eat.

10. Reproductive Health

This is especially important if you want to breed your tortoise at home. If you suspect egg-laying problems in females, consult a veterinarian experienced in reptile reproduction.


One of the most frequently asked questions among new tortoise hobbyists is: why does my tortoise pee white stuff? The answer is not as concerning as you thought. The white stuff that you see in tortoise pee or poop is urate. It’s part of the regular tortoise’s excretions, a consequence of protein digestion. Urate secretion is also part of tortoise evolution, which allows it to conserve water.

Urate is also a secretion that can tell you about your tortoise’s health. If it is too thick or complicated, it is possible that your tortoise ate too much protein and suffered from dehydration or other diseases. You must give your tortoise enough water and a balanced herbivore diet to avoid urate-related problems!


Here are some e-books that you may find interesting related to tortoise urate! Download them for free!

Here are online Veterinarian recommendations and contacts that you may find handy:

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Questions and Answers

Why is uric acid excretion advantageous for reptiles living in arid environments?

Uric acid excretion does not require too much water. This way, reptiles living in arid environments can expel waste without dehydrating themselves.

How often should a healthy tortoise excrete urate?

There is no hard rule that says a healthy tortoise excites urate. However, a healthy tortoise with enough water and a proper diet may not excrete visible urate. It’s possible that the urate got mixed in with the liquid urine. About once a week is typical. However, if it’s too frequent, more than once a week, your tortoise may overeat protein.

What changes in the consistency of urate might indicate potential health concerns?

If your tortoise urate looks hard, it’s a potential health concern. Brittle and stone-like urates can be signs of gallbladder disease.

Are certain tortoise species more prone to health issues related to urate excretion?

There is no definitive statistic that we’re aware of. However, tortoises in captivity often encounter this problem, especially the species that originally lived in the deserts.

How can bladder stones related to uric acid accumulation be detected and treated?

Regular veterinarian visits can detect uric acid accumulation. The sure way to find bladder stones is through an x-ray. Veterinarians may recommend surgery if the stone is too big.

If my tortoise never excretes white urates, is that a concern?

The urate may be too diluted along with urine, so you do not see it. If that’s the case, there is no concern because it means your tortoise gets plenty of water. However, if no urate is detected in urine, it can be a sign of a health problem like a stone bladder or kidney problem. We recommend that you visit a reptile veterinarian to get a diagnosis.

How often should I provide water for my tortoise to prevent dehydration and urate issues?

You should soak your tortoise about once a week. We also recommend that you provide a drinking container that is available at all times.

Are there any visible signs of kidney problems related to urate excretion in tortoises?

If your tortoise starts to lose appetite and produce gritty, chunky urates and weaker back legs, it may suffer from kidney problems. However, we recommend that you visit a veterinarian for a definite diagnosis.

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