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RE: At what temp does food become toxic?

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Posted by: Rextiles at Sun Dec 8 18:11:09 2013  [ Report Abuse ] [ Email Message ] [ Show All Posts by Rextiles ]  

There are several factors to consider:

1. Temperature, current and average temps consistent with the species of snake.
2. The size of the snake.
3. The health of the snake.
4. The size of the food item.
5. The freshness of the food item (some snakes will eat dead/already decaying food items).

Toxicity only becomes a problem to the snake when the food item starts to decay inside the stomach before it can be properly digested. When this starts to happen, the snake will regurge it's food before the decaying food item can kill it. However, regurgitation doesn't always happen and the snake can ultimately die from such decay problems. This has been witnessed many times in the wild usually from huge constrictors that swallowed such large items that were practically impossible to regurge that once decay set in, death was inevitable.

The trick is in trying to understand the components that make up the equation to this problem (health heat typical sized food item = proper digestion):

1. If the snake is healthy and is fed a typically sized prey item for it's size and ideal temperatures are offered, then decay is not an issue as the food item will be digested before decay starts.

2. If the snake is healthy and is fed an overly large prey item but ideal temperatures are offered, depending on how exceedingly large the food item is, it might still be digested within a reasonable amount of time.

3. If the snake is healthy and temperatures are much cooler but a typically sized prey item is offered, then the digestive process can be compromised and regurgitation can be an issue. This of course entirely depends on just how much of a drop in temperature we're talking and the overall health of the snake. At cooler temps, food items should be reduced in size to help offset the problems of decay.

Example, if you have an adult kingsnake that usually eats adult mice but during the winter the temps drop from 90 degrees to 70 degrees, that snake will still be able to eat but might have a problem digesting adult mice. Therefore, offering something smaller like hoppers will keep the snake fed but without increasing the risk of regurgitation.

4. If the snake is unhealthy, then all bets are off. An unhealthy snake can have digestive problems regardless of temperatures but lower temperatures can prove to be more lethal. If the snake is unhealthy simply because of lower temps, then obviously that's an easy problem to solve. Another problem that can cause snakes to become unhealthy and have digestive problems is that of dehydration although I have seen dehydrated snakes eat and digest their food items without any problems, but it's better to get them hydrated and then offer a food item.

Another thing that can be misunderstood is that if a snake is given too large of a prey item, that's it's better to jack up it's temperature to help aid in digestion. While snakes are ectothermic and require external heat to aid in digestion as they have no means of creating their own internal body heat, too much heat applied to an overfed snake can also cause rapid decay of the food item still digesting in the stomach which can also cause regurgitation. Again, this has been witnessed with large constrictors that ate too large of prey items only to have excessive heat decay the food item to the point of causing gases to build up in the snake and cause it to explode.

The key here is to give the snake just the right amount of heat to properly digest. You know, the Goldilocks zone, not too cold, not too hot.

Where I live, it gets significantly colder during the winter and I don't brumate my snakes. Yet, the ambient temps in my snake room during the winter ranges from 70-75, and half of my collection doesn't have nor require anything hotter. I still feed all of my snakes regularly, but probably food items that are a bit smaller than my peers do, and rarely encounter digestive problems. And even those times when a particular animal does regurge, I follow the standard regurgitation protocols, try to correct the problem of what that particular animal regured (usually by offering it a smaller food item) and everything goes back to normal.

The bottom line is, there is no easy answer for your question. All you can do as a keeper is to pay close attention to the behavior/function of your snakes and apply common sense (whatever that means in today's world).
Troy Rexroth


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<< Previous Message:  At what temp does food become toxic? - Austin12, Sat Nov 30 22:16:36 2013