Causes of Vomiting and Regurgitation in Snakes

When a snake vomits or regurgitates its meal, there is something wrong … or several things wrong in some cases.

snake_2But before we go into the common causes, you first need to be able to distinguish between reptile vomiting and regurgitating because yes, there is a difference!

Regurgitated food is typically undigested food items and is passively expelled from the esophagus of the snakes.

Vomited food is typically digested food items and is forcibly expelled from the stomach of the snake.

Even with those descriptions it can still be hard to distinguish between the two when you come across a pile of “something.”  You need to take a close look at the situation and see if this is something you can easily remedy or if it will require further veterinary intervention.

So what could cause a snake to vomit or regurgitate?

Here is a list of the most common causes:

  • You handled your snake too soon or too much after it was recently fed.
  • You are not providing the proper ambient temperature inside the enclosure (either too hot or too cold). Alternatively, there could have been a recent and dramatic fluctuation in the temperature. Typically a sudden drop in temperatures is the most common cause.
  • The snake is experiencing an increased stress level after feeding. Can also result from things such as adding a cage-mate, mating or for some, even re-arranging the “furniture” inside the enclosure.
  • You offered your snake a prey item that was too large, too old (and possibly loaded with bacteria and other toxins), toxic (such as cane toads) … or you’re offering food too frequently and over-feeding it.  Sometimes if a prey-item is consumed backwards this is enough to irritate the gastrointestinal tract.
  • The snake drank too much water after eating.
  • The snake has not been offered enough drinking water.
  • A foreign-body obstruction such as an improperly used substrate (or even a towel or a t-shirt that they prey item may have been placed upon).

There are also several medical reasons that could be to blame including:

  • Internal parasites such as coccidia, cryptosporidiosis, amoebiasis or flagellates (maybe your enclosure has not been cleaned/disinfected properly and regularly and thereby provides the ideal environment for these pathogens to thrive).
  • Bacterial infections such as Salmonella.
  • Tumors are also a possibility as a snake’s life expectancy in captivity increases with the increased knowledge of proper captive husbandry techniques.
  • Stomatitis
  • Septicemia
  • and more.

If you have eliminated the list of possible non-medical causes, it is time to consult your veterinarian.  They will be able to perform the necessary diagnostic tests to figure out the exact causes(s). Once this information is known, you and your vet can work out a proper therapeutic/treatment plan.

By Candace,

Recommended Reading:What’s Wrong With My Snake,” by Rossi, J.


About Candace M Hansen

Wildlife advocate, conservationist and environmentalist.
This entry was posted in Captive Care - Snakes, Reptile Health & Medicine and tagged , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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