Disgusting but most likely Harmless
Our large back yard is shared by our Russian tortoise and our 5 pound (11 month old puppy) poodle. As soon as “Tortie” came out of hibernation our puppy started spending a lot of time outside. I then discovered why: the puppy was finding and eating Tortie’s poop!! Gross. Can she get sick?
Your poodle puppy, that delicate little flower, has become a tortoise stalker, motivated by her taste for – well the visual just isn’t pretty is it? The good news is that her scatological proclivity is most likely benign.
For expert advice I contacted reptile specialist Dr. Robin Lane. I learned that Tortie most likely carries a species of pinworms that can only set up housekeeping in tortoise intestines. Unlike pinworms that bedevil unlucky school children Tortie’s would be harmless to dogs and humans.
Tortie may also be involved in a synergistic relationship with a single celled parasite called nyctotherius. Covered in cilia (short wiggly legs) these intestinal bugs help themselves to a miniscule amount of passing nutrients while actually improving colonic action. Everyone benefits with no risk to man or beast.
Tortoises can carry giardia, another single-celled parasite. Most of their giardia species won’t infect humans or other animals. To be sure that all creatures great and small that may be getting expelled from Tortie’s rear end are safe for canine consumption and possible accidental human exposure later I advise dropping off a sample of each pet’s stool at your veterinarian’s office. Parasites that may risk anybody’s health can be safely eliminated from both Tortie and her shadow by administering a liquid medication called fenbendazole.
None of this would be an issue if that little poop eater of yours had healthy summertime activities. Rather than feeding her from a bowl you can measure her total daily ration into feeder toys and puzzles. Dog food is a better diet for her than tortoise poop.
Tortie’s safety is also a priority. While a 5 pound poodle may not be a threat, I advise keeping a close watch. Turtles and tortoises can get badly maimed, or worse, by dogs who lose control of their predatory instincts. Bigger dogs can inflict serious harm to a defenseless reptile.