Information for snake owners

Regurgitating Snakes


So your snake has regurgitated, immediate thoughts at this point could be “What’s the matter with it? Is it ill?” etc
The simple answer is probably No!
A regurge is an incredibly foul smelling upchuck of whatever the snake last ate - and usually appear minutes, hours or even a day or so after it was eaten. They can look anything from just as the prey was consumed up to a mass of jelly looking mush. You will KNOW a regurge when you eventually get one - the smell is that bad!


There are many reasons for a snake to regurgitate: -

1. Too cold/hot, environment (snake)
2. Food not properly thawed through to the middle
3. Too large a food item for the snake
4. Too many food items
5. Snake handled before the food is digested
6. Snake startled / stressed before food is digested
7. Snake fed too soon after a regurge.

So what do we do to prevent a regurge?

As with all things snake related we go right back to basics!

a. Is the habitat at the correct temp?
b. Correct humidity
c. Any external stimuli affecting the snake? Loud noise vibration, kids prodding and poking etc?
d. Is the pet unwell with mites or other parasites? Is it shedding or in breeding season?
e. Is the pet new to its environment?
f. Are you handling it too much?
g. Are YOU intimidating the snake?
h. Have you introduced 2 snakes together?
i. Habitat is too large?

If all the above are in order then consider the food...

2. The food item needs to be thoroughly thawed before warming. There are various ways of warming prey... The tried and tested way for me is to place in an air tight bag and leave in a cup of warm water until the prey has warmed through, prey should be served warm. NEVER re-freeze defrosted food. You wouldn't eat refrozen food, nor should your pets.

3. Are you feeding the snake something too big? Ensure you are feeding the correct size prey. Search the relevant websites / threads for your particular snake. A snake may try to get down something that is too big, sometimes with no probs, sometimes it may regurgitate. Worst case scenario: it could damage its mouth/neck or even die.

4. Sometimes you may be unsure when to move a snake up a food prey size, and could feed 3 or more mice etc to a snake... this can cause a regurge. You should feed no more than two similar sized food items and as soon as your snake is used to this you should be thinking about moving up a size. Similarly you could feed a snake a, for the sake of argument, pinkie and a fluff, again this could cause a regurge.

5. Right, for this let’s take the following analogy! Take an average 4 yr old boy, stuff him full of chips, beans, sponge and chocolate sauce, and add a good measure of fizzy pop. Now play rough and tumble with him after a while, you are going to be covered in a mix of chips, beans, sponge with chocolate sauce all mixed with fizzy pop! Not pleasant!!
Your snake, once it has eaten, will want to go away, find the best spot it can and digest its food. It may hide for a day or even 3. LEAVE it! Like us it wants to digest its food quietly, like your dad after Sunday lunch... the belts off, the buttons undone and snoozing gently under a copy of the mail on Sunday....
On average it takes about 2 days for the food to be fully digested though sometimes longer for larger snakes on x-large rats +

6. Snakes are a lot slower when they have a gut full of food, so nature has designed snakes with a survival trait. Should a snake be startled and feel the need to flee, It will regurgitate its food so that it can escape quicker. This is one of the reasons why our vivs should be in a quieter area of the house rather than next to the TV or where infants and smaller kids will bang on the windows etc.

7. After a regurge, you may be forgiven for thinking that you need to feed the snake a day or two later... this can cause another regurge! When a snake regurgitates it brings up a fair amount of stomach acids (this is why a regurgitated food items REALLY stinks... it’s a smelly lump of digesting meat) these stomach acids take 10 - 14 days to recoup. So for a smaller snake you should leave at least 10 days before trying another feed. Don’t worry about the length of time... If your snake is generally healthy then it will happily miss feedings for a month or two without suffering weight loss or lack of vitamins and minerals.

Hopefully, the above will put your mind at rest and solve any regurge probs you have. If not then there could be a problem.

The main problem could be compaction or internal parasites.
If you feed your snake in its vivarium then there is a danger that the snake could ingest substrate. This can sometimes remain in the snakes gut and the more that gets ingested then the greater the chance that the substrate will causes a blockage, meaning that the snake is not capable of digesting food. My advice would be feed snakes in a feeding tub where possible but I am aware that some snakes will not feed out of their vivs... I have a fussy Royal which will only eat in the viv at night with no one around.
Therefore ensure you feed either on a sheet of newspaper or kitchen roll etc. And if possible, supervise the feeding so that the snake cannot ingest any substrate. If you continue to experience problems, it is suggest that you seek the advice of a vet who has experience with reptiles. A vet will be able to give your snake a boost of vits and mins, fluids and test for things such as internal parasites and other things which may be causing prolonged feeding troubles.

Any regurge that you cannot explain should be treated as serious and expert advice should be sought as soon as practicably possible also research on the particular species of snake can be sought on one of the many forums and websites on the net.