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Old 02-14-11, 12:12 AM   #1 (permalink)
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Dehydration, Symptoms and what to do

I decided to do some medical research into why snakes will sometimes flip on their backs and bite themselves then die.

All reptiles (and any animal including us humans) need fluids to survive, however since the physiology of reptiles is unique, they need fluids even more so than other classes of animals.

A snake that is "low on water" (under hydrated) can seem normal and doing just fine, then when fed the snake goes into shock and dies very quickly.

This happens because they really need fluids to digest the food, and if there is insufficient fluids present in the snake when it eats, their body will draw electrolytes (water) from critical organs to aid digestion.

The symptoms are involuntary muscle spasms & disorientation followed by shock and coma leading to death.

Just yesterday my little snow eastern garter (he's a 3 year old runt of the litter and really small, he can just about swallow extra small mouse pinks.) flipped over on his back and started convulsing.

Desperate to try anything to save him, I grabbed a spray bottle and started squirting him while holding him in place. The convulsions continued for almost a half hour before he calmed back down.

Now he just ate 2 extra small pinkies the day before, so I was at a loss as to why he was seemingly dying in my hands.

The spray bottle seemed to do the trick, he has since recovered, immediately went to his water bowl and drank for what seemed like forever.

Upon further investigation, he didn't want the water in the bowl until after I scrubbed it out and filled it up with cold fresh water.

Being semi aquatic, all I can think of is he had gone to the bathroom in his drinking water and then refused to drink from the same bowl until it had been washed, can't say I blame him either.

several very important things I learned from this experience is....

Empty out and wash water bowls regularly, ensure your snake is well hydrated before feeding, if their skin feels rough or dry at all DO NOT feed the snake until it has re-hydrated prior to eating, or you will most likely have an upside down snake with a mouth full of substrate lying dead in it's cage.

Water is more important than food hands down, A snake can go for months without eating, but only a few days without a drink.

Even if the water bowl looks fine, colubrids poop a liquid that will dissolve in the water bowl and foul the water up, even if the water dish looks just fine, it may be "polluted" with snake excretions that will cause the animal to refuse drinking from it.

Lastly, if you find yourself with a snake that is going into convulsions, biting itself or just acting very strange, get lots of water to it quickly and you may just save the snake from dying.

Avoid getting near any salt while preparing your snakes meals, as salt will draw the fluids right out of the snake and kill it quickly. Factory prepared fish can contain salt from the machinery, especially if the fish was processed at a plant that also packs salted fish fillets.

That's why I only buy fresh trout from the market, each fish is prepared by hand, it costs more than factory prepared fish, but the salt risk is eliminated.

I lost a whole bunch of snakes a few months ago because I purchased fish from Wal Mart that had most likely been accidentally contaminated with salt while processing.
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Old 02-14-11, 12:22 AM   #2 (permalink)
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Re: Dehydration, Symptoms and what to do

Wow scary but informative stuff! Thanks Infernalis, I know I appreciate it. Though question...

How do you tell on a snake that has rougher scales if it is dry or rough?
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Old 02-14-11, 01:54 AM   #3 (permalink)
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Re: Dehydration, Symptoms and what to do

this is very informative thanks! especially the part on changing the water dish regularly...
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Old 02-14-11, 06:16 AM   #4 (permalink)
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Re: Dehydration, Symptoms and what to do

Lots of great information! you should use as a sticky!
Water is indeed very important, I often wonder why some care sheets for certain snakes say no water, and also the uro lizard? I can see a lower humidity level buy still don't understand why no water bowl in their tanks. As long as the bowl is sturdy and won't tip over! Water seem to be very important, and of course fresh is best, and dechlorinated also.
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Old 02-14-11, 07:42 AM   #5 (permalink)
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Re: Dehydration, Symptoms and what to do

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How do you tell on a snake that has rougher scales if it is dry or rough?

If in doubt, pinch the snakes side, if the skin bounces right back, you are fine.

If the skin stays "folded" the snake is dehydrated.

I read multiple times while looking this stuff up that pedialyte (baby electrolytes, sold in the baby food section of stores) can be given to get the snake healthy again.
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Old 02-14-11, 10:26 AM   #6 (permalink)
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Re: Dehydration, Symptoms and what to do

Wow great info, just for good measure im going to wash their Water dishes and give them fresh water right now!
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Old 02-14-11, 11:56 AM   #7 (permalink)
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Re: Dehydration, Symptoms and what to do

Thanks Wayne...that is really awesome information!
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Old 02-14-11, 12:14 PM   #8 (permalink)
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Re: Dehydration, Symptoms and what to do

Thanks for the info Wayne, hopefully nobody who reads it will have to learn the hard way.

I have read that about pedia lite as well. It seems to be somewhat of a miracle juice. We once had a ferret that became sick and would not eat I had to hand feed her a mixture of ferret food soaked in pedia lite mixed with chicken baby food and crushed up oyster shell calcium. She bounced back in about a week.
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Old 02-14-11, 12:16 PM   #9 (permalink)
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Re: Dehydration, Symptoms and what to do

Thanks for the info. This is why i wash my water bowls every other day when i change them. I keep two water bowls in my Yellow Anaconda and Borneo as they both like to soak every couple days. And i notice they will soak in one and drink out of the other. I never seen either one drink out of the bowls they soak in.
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Old 02-14-11, 12:44 PM   #10 (permalink)
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Re: Dehydration, Symptoms and what to do

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Originally Posted by infernalis View Post
If in doubt, pinch the snakes side, if the skin bounces right back, you are fine.

If the skin stays "folded" the snake is dehydrated.

I read multiple times while looking this stuff up that pedialyte (baby electrolytes, sold in the baby food section of stores) can be given to get the snake healthy again.
AH! I should have known that. We do the same for our dogs during the Summer when after they have been outside (gets in the 100's here) to make sure they are getting enough. Just didn't realize you could pinch a snake's skin in the first place.

And the Pedilyte is true...at least for our idiot dogs who don't drink the water outside we give them...bounces them right back into normalcy.
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Old 02-14-11, 02:48 PM   #11 (permalink)
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Thumbs up Re: Dehydration, Symptoms and what to do

Thank you, thank you, thank you Wayne!!! That's the scariest thing I've heard yet, but now we all know what to do about it! When you wash your snakes' water dishes, do you use soap and water, a 3-5% bleach solution or what?? I've just been rinsing the dish really well and using a plastic scrubby, but I'm wondering if I need to do more? You don't know how much I really appreciate what you've posted here--it's so important for us all. So...thanks, again!
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Old 02-14-11, 03:04 PM   #12 (permalink)
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Re: Dehydration, Symptoms and what to do

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I keep two water bowls in my Yellow Anaconda and Borneo as they both like to soak every couple days. And i notice they will soak in one and drink out of the other. I never seen either one drink out of the bowls they soak in.
Thanks for that Chuck! Since my scrubs like to soak, I have given each of them another water bowl. I never thought of that.
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Old 02-14-11, 04:22 PM   #13 (permalink)
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Re: Dehydration, Symptoms and what to do

I just wash the water bowls the same as I would my own dishes.

It sucks that I had to learn this at the expense of losing snakes...

When there is a lot of water bowls, it's too easy to fall into a routine of just topping them off with water.

It just makes sense that in the wild most bodies of water are substantially larger than a water bowl. So if there is a little poop in the water, it's not going to foul a thousand gallons the same as it would a pint of water.

We can copy their enviroment in many ways, except size.

I have since made up my mind that I am buying a complete second set of water bowls, then I can just replace the bowls every couple days and wash the first set...in rotation.

Anyways, I owe it to those lost snakes to share what I found and hopefully prevent this from happening to someone else.

I think it was just a week or two ago that a member posted the same exact symptoms with a baby corn snake, The snake was dead by morning and I felt powerless to help out.
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Old 02-14-11, 04:37 PM   #14 (permalink)
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Re: Dehydration, Symptoms and what to do

thanks for bringing up this point, it's a good one.
hopefully it will prevent future mishaps =/
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Old 02-14-11, 05:12 PM   #15 (permalink)
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Re: Dehydration, Symptoms and what to do

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Thanks for that Chuck! Since my scrubs like to soak, I have given each of them another water bowl. I never thought of that.
It also helps keep the humidity up.
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