Do snakes use the bathroom as we do?
What does snake pee look like?
Whether you’re not sure how often your snake should produce waste or if you’re wondering what those chalky lumps you keep seeing in your snake’s bedding are, a good owner learns their pet’s bodily functions.
As part of this research, you may ask yourself:
How do snakes pee?
Snakes do not usually produce a lot of liquid urine, like mammals. Instead, they excrete solid uric acid lumps, known as urates. These are a similar shape to their feces but are usually chalky white and crumbly. Both feces and urates exit a snake through one hole, the cloaca.
Snakes produce solid urine masses instead of liquid because of their low water intake.
They have evolved to need and use less water than warm-blooded animals.
This still means your pet needs a source of water in their habitat.
However, your snake will not use much water in excreting waste matter.
If a snake produces liquid urine, it will usually be clear and in small amounts.
A well-hydrated snake will produce slightly moist urates, which dry to a chalky white.
It will smell strong because of how concentrated the uric acid is.
How Do Snakes Produce Urates?
Snakes usually produce urates more often than they produce feces.
Some parts of the urinary process in snakes are similar to those of mammals and other warm-blooded animals.
However, there are notable differences in the snake’s system.
Snakes have urinary and digestive systems which work much slower than in other animals.
It usually takes them a few days after feeding to produce urates and feces.
How often they excrete waste will depend on how often you feed them.
Some species of snake will even go weeks without excreting waste.
Generally, fast-moving snakes and those from more tropical, humid habitats will pee more often than slow-moving snakes and more arid desert habitats.
Warning! If your snake goes more than eight weeks without producing urates or a bowel movement, it could be a sign it is constipated.
Consult your veterinarian on how to relieve this problem.
The Snake’s Urinary System
Like in mammals, a snake’s kidneys filter waste products from its blood.
The two kidneys are elongated in snakes, with one fixed closer to the head than the other.
Once the kidneys have done their job, the urine matter is concentrated and transported through ureters to two cavities in the snake’s body.
First, it goes to the urodeum, which collects urine and is also used for reproductive purposes.
Next comes the proctodeum, where urinary and fecal matter merges before the next step, exiting the body via the cloaca.
Unlike humans, snakes do not have a bladder used specifically for collecting urine.
A cloaca is a multipurpose hole near the snake’s tail end. Both male and female snakes have a cloaca for the excretion of waste.
In females, the cloaca also receives reproductive cells from the male snake.
It is also where her eggs or young will exit her body when she gives birth.
Other reptiles and birds also have cloaca for these purposes.
A male snake has two penises or hemipenes.
However, unlike in mammals, these do not play any part in waste excretion and are instead used in reproduction.
They are located behind the cloaca.
How Do I Deal With Urates?
As long as you are cleaning your snake’s habitat and changing its substrate every month or so, urate and fecal buildup should not be a problem.
Make sure whatever cleaner you are using is safe for reptiles.
We recommend this No-Scent cleaner, which was made specifically for pets, including snakes.
If a urate sits for a long time, it may start to smell fishy as bacteria break it down into ammonia.
Taking care of individual urates by spot cleaning as soon as possible help keep this from happening.
Scoop the urate and any surrounding wet bedding out of the enclosure and throw it away.
Disinfect the spot and put down the fresh substrate.
If your snake smells like their own urates and urine, it is a sign they have been sitting in it. If this happens, clean out your snake’s habitat as soon as possible.
Give your snake a bath if they smell like urine.
Make sure to use unchlorinated spring or filtered water warmed to between 80-85° degrees Fahrenheit (29° C).
Soap is not necessary.
If your snake is dangerous or does not like being handled, put the bathing container in their habitat, as they will often bathe themselves.
Baths also help snakes with constipation and skin shedding.
Unhealthy Snake Urates
Normal snake urates may have variations in color, depending on the species you own.
If you usually see yellow, orange, or green urates from your snake, there is no need for concern.
If your snake is producing feces or urates, which are an abnormal color for them, consult your veterinarian.
You may need to bring a fecal or urate sample to your vet for analysis.
If your snake’s urates are too dry, it may be a sign they are dehydrated.
Make sure your snake has a water source.
A bowl big enough for them to soak in without tipping over is ideal.
Use a hygrometer to make sure your snake’s habitat is at the proper humidity for them.
This alarm hygrometer we like (found on Amazon) even lets you know when things are outside the range you set.
We hope this article has helped you understand more about how snakes pee.
Snakes do not usually produce liquid urine.
Instead, they produce solid urates to conserve water.
A snake’s kidneys, like a mammal’s, filter waste products from its blood, producing these urates.
Urates and feces are then expelled from the body through the snake’s cloaca.
Urates in your snake’s habitat may become stinky if left for too long.
Make sure to keep your snake’s habitat and substrate clean and fresh.
If your snake’s urates or feces are abnormal for them, bring samples to your veterinarian for analysis.
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