Most tortoises are strict herbivores, and many are primarily grass-eaters. In a sense, they are reptilian version of horses or guinea pigs, because they use hindgut fermentation to digest fiber. In order to most closely replicate the diet that the grassland tortoises forage for in the wild, a low protein, high fiber, low fruit diet is in order. A good grassland tortoise diet consists of a majority (about 80%) of high nutrient hays, grasses and commercial pellets complemented by 20% dark leafy greens. Feeding a salad-type diet only can lead to calcium deficiency, difficulty laying eggs, kidney disease, liver disease, bladder stones, and chronically loose stools.
We recommend introducing hay by cutting it up in small pieces and blending it with water. This will be more enticing if your tortoise has never been introduced to hay before. You can even blend in some favorite greens as well. With pellets, start by soaking the pellets in water and letting it sit for 5 minutes. Some tortoises are more interested in the moistened pellet than the dry one. Eventually, slowly decrease the amount of water used for both hay and pellets until they are happily eating both dry.
If you need nutritional advice for your tortoise, please schedule an appointment with one of our knowledgeable veterinarians.