No matter if you take care of a puppy, an aquarium full of fish, or a snake, one thing will always be a part of life with whatever species you own: poop.
Reptile poop and snake poop in particular can be especially intriguing due to the significant differences in terms of frequency, appearance, and consistency when compared to the excretions of mammals.
Whether you’re just trying to be a responsible snake owner and make sure your pet’s poo is up to par, or you are legitimately worried that there is something medically wrong with your beloved serpent, keep reading to learn all the ins and outs of snake poop!
Understanding the Basics: How Snakes Poop
The process starts the same for pretty much any animal on the planet…
Animal gets hungry; the animal eats its preferred source of food, the food passes through the animal’s digestive tract, nutrients are absorbed, then the processed remnants of the food are excreted by the animal.
In terms of actually excreting the leftovers, snake anatomy and reptile anatomy, in general, differ a little bit from the familiar mammalian body…
Usually, poop comes from an anus, more commonly known as a butt. On the flip side, pee comes from the urethra, which is generally located within or near the reproductive organs.
Snakes, however, have an orifice known as a cloaca or vent. This opening serves many purposes: it’s used for reproduction and elimination of poop and the reptilian equivalent of urine (pee).
How Often Do Snakes Poop?
Unlike with some mammals and most birds, a snake will ONLY poop when its entire meal has been digested and is ready to be excreted.
Instead of multiple small deposits, they typically have one large deposit as a result of each meal that they eat.
Depending on the size of the meal and the temperature of the environment, this may take anywhere from a few days to a few weeks.
Reptiles digest their food faster in higher temperatures.
So, how often a snake should poop comes down to how often you are feeding it. If you’re feeding your snake every five days, you can typically expect it to poop every five days. If you are feeding it every month, it should be pooping every month.
If your snake is pooping multiple times between meals, this could mean that your animal is sick and has diarrhea.
When your snake goes #2, this is typically a good indicator that they are ready for their next meal. They may even start actively hunting again.
Of course, if your pet is prone to packing on the pounds, you may want to let it wait a little longer. Active hunting can be a GREAT source of mental stimulation and exercise for your snake.
If it’s time for your slithery friend’s next meal, but they have not yet pooped, you may want to hold off for a few days.
Observe your snake. Do they seem comfortable? Are they in hunting mode, or are they moving around to attempt to facilitate the depository process? Are they resting on the warm side of their enclosure, or the cold side?
Look out for other signs of constipation or what is referred to as “impaction”.
Impaction is essentially when a snake’s or (other reptile’s like a bearded dragon) digestive system is unable to pass a bowel movement due to being backed up.
And unlike normal constipation, this issue doesn’t just go away with a little time
In these cases, the snake may regurgitate its new meal, which can be a slippery slope of continuing regurgitation, even after the animal can poop.
If your snake IS basking in their warm spot, they are likely still digesting their last meal.
If they are resting in their water bowl, they may be trying to help themselves pass the stool.
If they are hanging out on the cool side but not moving around more, they may not be feeling well, or their winter instincts may be kicking in.
What Does Normal & Healthy Snake Poop Look Like?
Normal, healthy snake poop usually consists of between two and five distinct parts.
When determining whether your snake’s poop is healthy and normal, look for the following components:
- Brown or black semi-formed logs of feces (always)
- A chalky white part, known as the urates (always)
- A small amount of mucous (sometimes)
- Liquid urine (sometimes)
- Leftover fur, feathers, bones, teeth, and nails from your pet’s prey (sometimes)
Generally speaking, if you are familiar with how your snake’s poop typically looks and you suddenly notice a drastic change in any of the above features… you should collect the droppings and take them to your exotic animal veterinarian within twenty-four hours for parasite and disease testing.
Sometimes the urates may be more yellow, orange, or even green or blue. If this is normal for the species you own, or normal for your pet, this is no cause for concern.
However, if this is a sudden change, you should ask your veterinarian to perform a fecal evaluation.
Abnormal Snake Poop Colors
The term “abnormal” can be taken with a grain of salt in this instance since reptile feces can be so variable.
If you’ve had your animal for years, they behave normally, a veterinarian has already declared them to be healthy, and they’ve always had droppings of any color of the rainbow, you can safely assume that they’re alright.
However, if you notice a sudden or even gradual change to any of these colors, something might be amiss.
Please consider the following colors below (and their possible causes)abnormal if they are out of the norm for your pet.
Green Snake Poop
Green urates (the chalky portion of the droppings) can be healthy. However, green feces can also indicate an internal infection.
It’s also believed to occur if your snake is fasting, and living off of their fat reserves.
Yellow Snake Poop
It is common to see yellow in your snake’s droppings…
Their urates tend to range from white to yellow, and sometimes they can mix with the feces and make the feces appear yellow.
Now, if you are confident that your snake’s feces, and not just the urates, are yellow, make an appointment with your veterinarian.
Red Snake Poop
Red is probably the most alarming color you can see in your snake’s droppings. Usually, this indicates blood.
However, it is unlikely to be blood from your pet’s food – rodent blood is typically digested completely and turns more of a maroon or even black color.
Bright red hints towards fresh blood in your snake’s lower digestive tract, and means you should seek veterinary care for your pet as soon as possible.
White Snake Poop
White urates are very, very typical. As such, you will need to confirm whether the white you are seeing is from your snake’s urates or feces…
If the feces is not fresh, it can turn white. On the other hand, fresh white feces can also be completely healthy, mainly if your snake has recently digested an animal with a high bone-to-meat ratio.
If your snake is displaying any other troubling symptoms, like lack of appetite, lethargy, or weight loss, in addition to white feces, it is time to see the veterinarian.
Snake Poop or Regurgitation? Here’s How to Tell the Difference…
Regurgitation in snakes is relatively common. Sometimes it happens due to husbandry mistakes, such as handling the animal too soon after it eats, too large of a food item, or low temperatures.
Other times, if everything is right in the husbandry department, it is because of illness or parasites.
Either way, regurgitation indicates that changes of some sort need to be made.
Of course, if you witness your snake’s excretions come up the front end, it’s pretty straightforward to say that it’s not poop.
But what if you find a slimy mess in your pet’s cage that doesn’t quite resemble a poop, but it doesn’t resemble a fully-formed rodent, either?
Try to look for these signs:
- Time since their last meal. If it has been 48 hours, or less, since your snake ate, it is probably a regurgitated meal. They likely haven’t had enough time to digest their meal and turn it into feces.
- They regurgitated their last meal. A snake that regurgitated its last meal is much, much more likely to regurgitate its next meal.
- There’s an abnormal amount of mucous. If the log is completely coated in mucous, it is either regurgitation or the feces of an ill animal. Both scenarios require further investigation and a possible veterinary visit.
- The urates are powdery and/or chalky. Urates can only come out of the back end. That’s poop, my friend.
Snake Not Pooping? Reasons Why & What To Do…
Sometimes, this can be normal. Not every snake poops after every meal.
While this is the general rule, there is an extensive range of normal depending on the individual animal, the species, the enclosure parameters, and the prey size and type.
If your pet doesn’t look abnormal and is continuing to behave normally, you can safely assume s/he will poop soon.
However, if you are still worried or notice any other symptoms, please keep reading to find out what could be wrong and what you should do.
Just like humans and most other animals, snakes can get constipated.
This most often happens due to dehydration or low humidity. Sometimes, it also happens due to low temperatures and large meals.
Constipation is not an emergency, but it does need resolution. See below to discover some tips to help your constipated snake pass their droppings.
If constipation goes unresolved, it can often result in an impaction. An impaction in snakes is a medical emergency.
You can try some of the tips below to get things moving, but an impacted snake can become septic and die from the infection.
In severe cases, they may even need surgery to remove the impaction. An impacted snake will stop eating, and you can usually see swelling or bulge above their cloaca.
Many snakes will withhold their poop for a few weeks before shedding. Then, they will have a substantial bowel movement right after they shed.
This is relatively normal and can become a predictable habit of your snake.
No special care or action is needed in this instance, just continue to offer water, humidity, or soaking like you usually would when your snake is in shed.
How to Help Your Snake Poop
Hopefully, you now have a better idea of why your snake isn’t passing a stool and if you should be worried. As such, it’s time to discuss several home remedies to help your snake make a bowel movement.
Please note that these should ONLY be attempted if your snake appears to be in otherwise good health.
If your pet is already acting sluggish or weak, it is time to go to the veterinarian – ASAP.
Feed Smaller Prey
If you find that your snake is experiencing constipation regularly, feeding it smaller prey items may be a way to prevent the issue in the first place.
Some snakes get constipated simply because their meal is too large to digest, or it’s so large that digestion takes too long, and the snake’s body absorbs all of the feces’ moisture.
Handle the Snake
This little trick can offer a little more help when the above steps AREN’T working by themselves.
Handle your snake, keep it comfortable and calm, and encourage it to move from hand to hand or climb up your arms.
The motion and muscle activity can help to stimulate the bowels. Just make sure to have a towel nearby, and don’t do this while seated on your brand new leather couch!
Soak the Food
Another way to prevent dehydration and constipation is to soak your pet’s prey items in warm water before feeding them.
Pre-killed frozen mice and rats lose some of their original water content during the thawing process, so thawing them in warm water can help to replenish a bit of that natural hydration.
Keep in mind that some snakes might be picky about eating wet food, so this may or may not work for your situation.
Soak the Snake
If your snake is already constipated or impacted, a ten to fifteen-minute soak in warm water can do wonders.
Many snakes will pass their bowel movement after a soak; it is the most popular, effective, and safest remedy.
Many snakes and other animals even have the instinct to soak in their water dish on their own if they experience difficulty passing their feces.
Offer More Water
This is another preventative measure, especially if your slithery buddy turns its nose up when you try to offer soaked prey items. It’s a pretty straightforward tactic and one most keepers practice anyways.
Make sure your snake always has fresh water available. Just because they only eat once a week, does NOT mean they only need to drink once a week.
Increase the Humidity
Make sure to research the proper humidity levels for the snake species that you own, and stick to the higher end of the appropriate range if you are experiencing elimination difficulties with your snake.
Also, if you’re on the hunt for an enclosure, you should note that plastic and wooden enclosures will hold humidity better than glass enclosures.
Lastly, you can increase the overall moisture content within the tank by keeping the water dish on the warm side.
Change the Substrate
This step goes hand-in-hand with raising the humidity in the snake’s cage.
Some substrates, like coconut fiber and cypress mulch, help to maintain higher humidity levels much better than others, like sand and aspen shavings.
If you find that your pet is consistently constipated and you are having a hard time achieving a high enough humidity level, it might be worth the trouble of switching to a more suitable substrate.
Increase the Temperature
Again, this will require a little more research about the species of snake that you own.
It’s imperative to ensure that the hot spot in your snake’s home reaches the appropriate temperature for optimum digestion.
Low temperatures cause slow digestion; slow digestion causes constipation and impaction.
This tactic can be beneficial, but also requires a gentle touch AND caution. If you press too firmly, you can undoubtedly injure your snake and cause more harm than good.
Also, I only recommend doing this AFTER your snake has had a nice warm soak. Don’t just grab them out of their tank and start rubbing!
It can be beneficial to watch videos of people giving their snakes belly massages to help relieve constipation so that you can get a general idea of where and how much pressure to apply.
Please see the video below for an idea of how to massage your snake’s belly.
This technique is commonly referred to as a “rat-lax” in the snake keeping world, and it should only be used as a last resort if you can not get your pet seen by a veterinarian, and you have already tried the other methods listed above.
If your snake is still accepting food, you can inject their regular pre-killed prey item with mineral oil at a dosage of 1 mL/kg (0.46 mL/lb or 0.03mL/oz) of your snake’s body weight.
If the above techniques have not helped, and your snake has lost his appetite, seems weak or lethargic, and looks visibly bloated, it is time for an emergency visit to your reptile veterinarian.
Please keep in mind that impaction will kill your snake if it goes untreated.
Your veterinarian may attempt an enema on your snake, and if that doesn’t work, he will likely need surgery to remove the impaction.
Wrapping Up Snake Poop
Congratulations! You’ve reached the end of your crash course in snake poop! I hope that you now feel comfortable and confident in evaluating the appearance and frequency of your snake’s excrement.
However, above all else, please keep in mind:
- Colorful or infrequent poops. This is most often biologically normal. It doesn’t require any action on your part unless your snake is displaying other symptoms like bloating, lethargy, and lack of appetite. Otherwise, you can usually let nature take its course.
- Risk of Home Remedies. Some home remedies have inherent risks. Please do not attempt any of them without at least consulting with your veterinarian, and unless you are entirely confident with the technique. A visit with your veterinarian is always the preferred and safer option.