Can Turtles Drink Milk?

Many creatures including humans drink milk and it helps their body greatly, but can turtles drink milk? This is a very important question as it will determine the health of your turtle going forward.

Mammals drink milk. Their mothers produce milk to give to their young children to help them grow strong and healthy. Reptiles however are not mammals and are very different. Reptiles like turtles usually hatch from eggs and are not born through live birth. So therefore they never drink milk when they’re young. Turtles do not have the biological equipment for the digestion of milk. Its not simply not good for them, it’s actually poisonous for them. Please never give a turtle milk or any other dairy product as it can actually kill them.

There are important enzymes that your body needs in order to break down the lactose that milk contains. Many mammals have these necessary enzymes including humans (however some humans can not digest milk either and have lactose intolerance) this allows their body to break down the lactose contained in milk into forms that their body can make use of.

Turtles don’t have the necessary digestive equipment to break lactose down. Turtles do however need calcium and a whole lot of it. Their shells and complex skeletal structure depend upon it for health. But no dairy product can ever provide this calcium for them due to them lacking these necessary enzymes to be able to digest it.

So this means two things for someone keeping a pet turtle. One is never feed them milk any other dairy product such as cheese or butter, or yogurt. But yet you need to find another way to get them the necessary calcium that they need.

Here are some good alternatives to milk that contain the calcium that your turtle needs.

Calcium From Vegetables

Another great source of calcium comes from dark leafy greens. These vegetables can provide your turtle with a mighty wollop of calcium as well as many other vital nutrients.

They accomplish two things at once. Giving the necessary calcium and giving your turtle many other vitamins and minerals that they need to be the healthiest turtle they possibly can be.

When providing vegetables to your turtles its a very good idea to cook them some so thath they soften. Otherwise they might be too hard for your turtle to swallow and could cause a choking hazard.

Also you should cut them up into small bite sized pieces. Similar to how one might cut up pieces of vegetables before giving them to a child. We could say that when we keep turtles they become sorta like our shell children. You need to cut the bites small enough that their no bigger than half the size of your turtles head. This ensures that the little guys can swallow it safely.

Because you have to remember that turtles don’t actually have any teeth at all. Chewing is not really a part of what they do. They simply have a mouth with a beak so they have a strong tendency to swallow their food whole without really chewing down into smaller bits.

Now sometime they will make some munching movements with their mouth when eating but this is usually just to get a better grip on their food so they can swallow it more cleanly.

Some great veggies packed with calcium that you can give your turtle are the following.

  • Kale
  • Dark red romaine lettuce
  • Dandelion greens
  • water lettuce
  • cabbage
  • Mustard greens

Their are also many other great vegetables you feed your turtle or turtles.

Cuttlebone and Calcium Tablets

While dark leafy greens can provide a lot of calcium to your turtle their are some other things you should give your turtle just to make sure their getting enough calcium.

Calcium is so important and vital to turtles that it never hurts to be on the safe side and make absolutely certain that their getting enough calcium.

Cuttlebone is a white chalky substance that contains an earth shattering amount of calcium. You can simply throw some cuttlebone into your turtles tank (actually probably shouldn’t throw much better to simply place it in the tank) that they can then take a snap out of it whenever they feel they need more calcium. Make sure though to cut off the hard backing before you put in the tank as it can present a choking hazard.

This is a fairly easy way to supplement your turtles calcium supply as opposed to milk and other dairy products. It gives your turtle some level of control over their calcium consumption with the idea that if their body starts running low on calcium then they will simply eat some of the cuttlebone.

Another easy way to supplement your turtles calcium besides milk is to give them some dissolvable calcium tablets. These are little tablets of calcium that you can put into your turtles water tank.They will then do their job by dissolving into the water before later being absorbed through your turtles skin.

Turtles Need Protein With Their Calcium As Well

You also need to make sure that your giving your turtle plenty of protein. Protein does what calcium does to a turtles bones but instead to all of a turtles tissues. Milk provides a lot of protein, But milk is poisonous to turtles.

So to ensure they get plenty of protein alongside their calcium we should give them some good turtle pellets. Any of the major commercial brands should serve quite nicely for this purpose.

If you’re feeling more creative and are willing to put in some extra work. You can also get your turtle some insects or some tasty feeder fish.

What Can Happen if Your Turtle Doesn’t Get Enough Calcium?

Part of the reason its so important to give lots of calcium to your turtle is the horrible side affects if they happen to not get enough.

Turtles who don’t get enough calcium can develop a terrible disease called metabolic bone disorder. This is a disorder that causes their shells and the bones of their body to be deformed.

A turtle with metabolic bone disease could have a very lopsided shell. One part of their shell could be too tight for their body, Giving them a painful squeeze in the over grown area.

But yet other areas of the shell may be far too large. This is very bad for turtles as it means they might not be able to fully bring their body inside their shell, being able to bring their body inside their shell is essential to a turtles ability to protect themselves from danger and stressful situations.

Worst of all whatever damage the disease has already wrought upon the turtle is permanent. While to can stop the progression of the disease by giving your turtle enough calcium and UV light so they can properly digest it. The damage that has already been done will never go away.


Turtles are not mammals, and while mammals feed milk to their young turtles do not. So therefore turtles do not have the enzymes need to be able to digest milk and other dairy products.

Never give milk, cheese, butter or any other product derived from milk as it will be poisonous for your turtle and may even kill them.

Instead of dairy, provide your turtle with lots of calcium from dark leafy green sources, cuttle bone and calcium tablets.

As well as protein from turtle pellets or insects/feeder fish.

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