Why Do Snakes Regurgitate?

Has your snake been unable to keep food down? 

Have you noticed your snake is bringing up undigested meals?

When something like this happens, it’s nerve-racking for owners. 

You may wonder if you need to rush your pet to the vet. 

Don’t panic yet. 

You need a broader answer to the question: 

Why do snakes regurgitate?

Snakes may regurgitate their meals due to handling, stress, or overeating. Regurgitation is not usually a cause for concern, as there are identifiable causes and easy solutions.

Continue reading if you’d like to learn more about snake regurgitation and what steps you need to take to ensure your snake eats well.

why do snakes regurgitate

Common Causes of Regurgitation

There are several different reasons why your snake may be regurgitating its food. 

This section covers some of the main ones. 

Handling After Eating

If you handle your snake too soon after it’s eaten, it may regurgitate its food in response. 

In general, it’s best to avoid handling your snake for at least three hours after a meal. 

Bigger snakes, which require larger feedings, may need a few days to digest their meals before handling fully. 

Transporting

If you’ve recently transported your snake, you should not feed it for at least a week to allow it to rest and reorient itself to its environment. 

Be careful when you handle your snake for prolonged periods, as extensive handling can damage the internal digestive organs.

Sign Of Stress

Regurgitation is also a typical stress response. 

If a snake feels the need to flee for any reason, it regurgitates food to decrease the amount of weight carried within the snake. 

This action will also allow it to direct energy away from any digestive functions to better focus on utilizing its energy to escape stressful scenarios.

Stress rises if there is an increase in activity around its enclosure or changes to the environment itself. 

Snakes prefer to digest their food in privacy, so it’s essential for a hide to be available. 

If your snake does not have a proper place in which to rest while digesting, it may regurgitate. 

Check The Temperature

Stress comes if the tank’s temperature or humidity levels are outside the desired range too. 

Especially in the case of too-low temperatures, your snake may not be warm enough to activate its digestive system as needed. 

This can sometimes occur when you turn off the snake’s heat lamp or heat mat during the night. 

If your snake is still processing and digesting its food at this time, it may struggle to continue digesting.

Prey Is Too Large

Snakes may also regurgitate if they ingest prey too large for them. 

In general, the prey you feed your snake should not be larger than one to one and a half times the width of the largest part of the snake’s body. 

Anything larger than this may subject your snake to unnecessary stress, which is why it will be unable to ingest these meals entirely and will instead regurgitate. 

While most snakes will reject food if they have already reached their limits, some species will continue to eat any food offered to them. 

In cases where they cannot digest any more food, they may expel the food. 

This type of behavior is more common in garter snakes and ball pythons. 

Rosy boas also have a tendency to drink too much water, which also leads to regurgitation.

Difference Between Regurgitation and Vomiting

Regurgitation and vomiting are two different actions which indicate separate concerns. 

With regurgitation, the meal expelled is intact and in a similar condition to when first ingested. 

Vomiting is when your snake expels partially decomposed food after exposure to stomach acid. 

If your snake is vomiting, we suggest taking it to a veterinary professional, as this issue is more likely to be tied to an underlying health issue. 

This may be related to infections with bacteria, fungi, viruses, or parasites. 

There could also be problems like cancer, kidney disease, liver disease, pancreatic disease, or brain damage. 

Vets recommend bringing the vomit with you to the appointment, as they can utilize clues from the vomit to aid in diagnosis.

One of the parasites which can infect your snake is cryptosporidiosis, which unfortunately has no treatment.

In this scenario, you must wait until the snake clears the infection on its own. 

Meanwhile, you need to make sure you follow quarantine policies and keep your snake away from other reptiles in your collection, as cryptosporidiosis is highly contagious.

You should be especially concerned if your snake exhibits other symptoms of the disease, such as lethargy, decreased appetite, dulled skin, irregular breathing, or difficulty with skin shedding.

What To Do If Your Snake Regurgitated Its Food

If you’ve come back to your snake’s tank and found regurgitated food, there are a few steps to take to clear the problem. 

First, remove the regurgitated food from the enclosure and ensure the water bowl has fresh water. 

Leave your snake alone for at least a few hours to allow it to recover from the process. 

Check the heat and humidity levels of your tank to make sure everything is within the desired range. 

Make adjustments if you notice changes. 

If you know your snake was due for a meal and its regurgitation was not a result of overeating or prey being too large, attempt to re-feed. 

Reduce the portion size if you’re worried about the meal being too large. 

If your snake regurgitates its food once again or refuses to eat after many attempts, it’s probably time for a vet visit. 

Your vet may recommend fluid therapy, fasting, drug therapy, or surgery, depending on the identified cause.

Conclusion

Knowing why snakes regurgitate is essential for understanding how to keep your pet healthy. 

While vomiting is generally a sign of some kind of underlying health condition, regurgitation is usually a more benign indicator of something which is bothering your snake. 

These issues are easy to identify and correct, and your snake will feel a lot better after you make any necessary adjustments.