Finding out which foods are safe to feed your pet is vital, but it can be a little more tricky for owners of exotic pets like turtles! Many turtle species eat different food, usually due to their environments; some are herbivorous, some carnivorous, and some are omnivorous, so it’s important to find out what your turtle prefers to eat before serving a feast. Eggs are often considered nutritious treats for most pets, but what about turtles? Turtles can eat eggs in certain circumstances if your veterinarian gives you the go-ahead, and they can function as an animal protein. However, too many eggs in an unbalanced diet could cause problems, so they should always be given cautiously.
Are Eggs Good for Turtles?
Eggs on their own aren’t inherently bad or toxic for turtles, but they may cause problems due to their nutritional content. Turtles need a particular balance of vitamins and minerals to stay healthy, and eating eggs regularly could upset this balance. Eggs are high in protein, cholesterol, and phosphorous, which could be bad for turtles if eaten in large amounts. Protein and phosphorus are particularly important since all chelonians (turtles and tortoises) should have a 4:1 ratio of calcium to phosphorus. This balance maximizes the amount of calcium available for the turtle to use, and turtles need a lot!
Turtles can also be given too much protein in their diets, eventually leading to nutrient imbalance, deficiencies, and metabolic bone disease. A young turtle, given too much protein, can grow too quickly. Protein overload can deform bones, weaken them, and cause irregular shells. A turtle’s shell should be smooth, with all the plates joining exactly; a diet high in protein can cause “pyramiding” of the shell and other deformities.
What Eggs Can Turtles Eat?
If you give your turtle eggs, hardboiled hen’s eggs are the only safe type to serve them. Scrambled or uncooked eggs are dangerous; scrambled eggs or eggs with anything added can cause severe digestive problems. Uncooked eggs present the same dangers to turtles that they do to us. They can carry bacteria that cause foodborne diseases, which can cause gastrointestinal problems and severe illness in turtles. Hardboiled eggs without shells are the best way to feed eggs to your turtle. They’re soft but fully cooked, and your turtle can eat them in small pieces.
What About Egg Shells?
Egg shells are sometimes recommended when turtles need more calcium. However, eggshells don’t contain much calcium and can potentially give your turtle the same foodborne illnesses that raw eggs can! A much better calcium supplement is a powder dusting or cuttlefish bone. If you think your turtle needs more calcium or you’re going to add any foods to their tank, you should always consult your veterinarian first. Turtles can overdose on vitamins and minerals just as easily as they can be deficient, so always check with your exotics veterinarian first!
Can Omnivorous Turtles Eat Eggs?
Turtles are usually omnivorous or carnivorous, and they will eat animal proteins if they can. Red-Eared Sliders are common omnivorous turtles kept as pets that live in semi-aquatic environments. Because omnivorous turtles eat animal proteins such as fish, invertebrates, and commercial pet foods, they can eat eggs, and they’ll be able to digest them.
What’s The Best Thing to Feed a Turtle?
The best diet for a pet turtle mimics their diet in the wild as closely as possible. Turtles eat various foods in their natural habitat, depending on where they live. As turtles are either semi-aquatic (like many pet species) or fully aquatic (like marine sea turtles), they eat mostly meat or a mix of vegetation and meat. If your turtle is semi-aquatic, the following foods are a good starting point when giving them a natural and balanced diet:
- Dandelions (including the leaves and flowers)
- Collard greens
- Mustard greens
- Whole fish
- Feeder (live) fish
- Soaked trout pellets
Remember that various species will eat different foods, so speak to your vet about your turtle’s needs. Feeding a natural diet provides your turtle with as many vitamins and minerals as possible and keeps them balanced. Supplements are often needed to ensure captive turtles get enough calcium and vitamins, but that isn’t always the case. Adding a cuttlefish bone to your turtle’s enclosure (if they’re semi-aquatic) can be a good way to add calcium while keeping their beaks short.
Many aquatic turtles will only eat their food if it’s offered in the water, and semi-aquatic turtles may share this preference. Foods that can get “messy,” like eggs or trout pellets, should be removed if not eaten after around 15 to 20 minutes to prevent soiling the water. For this reason, many owners feed their turtles in a “feeding” tank!
Eggs may seem like a relatively healthy treat for turtles to snack on, but they can be quite unhealthy if not balanced with other appropriate sources of animal-based proteins. Eggs contain high levels of phosphorus and protein, which could cause metabolic problems if frequently fed over time. If you feed your turtle an egg, ensure you serve it correctly cooked and hardboiled. Don’t add anything to the egg that might be hard for your turtle to digest, and remove the shell so they can get into it. If you want to give your turtle an egg, we advise speaking to your veterinarian about it (as with any new food).
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