Corn Snake with severe impaction
Keep in mind that every snake has its own specific needs based on the size and species, but here are some general rules to follow when maintaining and housing your snake. First is housing and habitat, you will want to provide your snake with a good substrate such as coconut shavings as it not only looks natural, but absorbs odors well, holds its shape, and maintains humidity. Aspen, cypress, newspaper, pads, paper bedding, or carpet can also be used but snakes may get either themselves or their prey stuck to these on occasion and anytime they are exposed to mulch the risk for splinters increases as well. Substrates to avoid would be sand, clay, cat litter, cedar, pine, gravel, or dirt from outside as these can either leach toxins or cause impaction if swallowed. We also recommend you provide enough substrate that your snake may bury itself or dig if it chooses and that at the very least you should completely clean out and replace it every few months unless you notice mold, bacteria, or it is just too soiled to wait until then. Next, it is a good rule of thumb to get your snake a water dish large enough to soak in, but not too deep that it could drown. We recommend cleaning the dish at least once a week, but if you notice any dirt or feces in the dish earlier in the week then give it a good wash. To determine whether or not the enclosure is large enough, a good way to tell is if the snake can crawl around the perimeter and its body does not cover more than two-thirds then it is likely to size. Some owners do use under-tank heat pads but this can sometimes lead to temperature or humidity becoming too great and can sometimes kill the occupants, in addition, we would also stay away from using any heat rocks as these have been known to cause severe burns in some cases. Each species requires its own range of humidity in which it should be kept in, if you are having trouble controlling the humidity in the enclosure then you can either increase daily misting or if your enclosure has a screen top then you can partially cover the top, provided that you still leave some space available for air flow. Much like humidity, temperature and lighting are also essential for keeping snakes. You should maintain the recommended proper temperature on both the cool side and warm side of the enclosure, you should keep a timed cycle of 12 hours for the basking light during the day and a nighttime bulb for the remaining 12 hours at night, the nighttime bulbs purpose is to ensure that the enclosure does not drop below whatever the lowest recommended temperature may be. If given the opportunity, it is a good idea to take your reptile outside whenever possible to expose them to as much natural light that you can. On both the basking side and the cool side of the enclosure there should be a hide which is large enough for your snake to hide in. For beginners, we do not recommend intermixing different species as not only could they not get along, but they may have different requirements. If you do manage to house several of the same species in one large enclosure then feeding them separately could be a benefit for each of them as they could become territorial, fight over food, or one could outcompete and take away food from the other(s). Some snakes only eat live mice and will not accept frozen, if this seems to be the case then sometimes you can try to dangle the mouse with tongs to mimic movement and get the snake to eat it. Do not feed or handle your snake while it is shedding as it is a stressful time and increases chances of aggression. A good rule of thumb, though this does not apply to all species, is to not feed your snake anything larger than the size of its head. We also do not recommend leaving live food unattended as in some cases your snake could be harmed by its prey. After feeding your snake and placing it back in its enclosure, do not handle for at least 48 hours to allow proper digestion and lower the risk of regurgitation We suggest that if you do plan to house several snakes together that you do quarantine any new specimens for at least a month or until you get them checked out by a vet to ensure that both are healthy enough to be around others. Upon bringing home any new animal they will need to adapt to their new environment and will be under some stress so if your snake does not eat for the first week do not panic as this can be normal, but if this behavior continues and they do not eat then we would recommend getting them checked for possible medical issues. Make sure you properly clean all separate feeding containers and snake hooks, maybe even use separate equipment for each snake you have. Lastly, do not forget to ensure the lid on your enclosure is well secured as they have been known to escape if given the opportunity.
If a snake bites you, do not panic, it will let go eventually. If you pour alcohol down its mouth, this will not hurt it, but it will more than likely let go. If the snake does not release, do not pull it off with your hands, you will break its teeth, which will not grow back, then the snake will starve to death because it can no longer eat. All snakes are supposed to shed in one piece, this is a general sign of good health that means they are getting nutrition the need and are physically able to shed with no issues. If a snake does not shed in one piece it is not necessarily cause for concern as the use other things in their environment and the skin can sometimes rip. It is only a problem if their skin flakes off in small pieces and sticks to the snake, this may mean the snake is not receiving enough nutrition in its diet, or it could be dehydrated. Impaction is fairly common in reptiles and can sometimes be passed through. However, if it is too much for the reptile, this can lead to many other internal problems. You can soak them in warm water to loosen it, or some medicines can be prescribed to be injected through the mouth to loosen up what is inside. Sometimes bringing them outside and exposing them to direct natural sunlight can cause them to release. If it hardens then surgery will need to be performed to remove the impaction. Breeding can lead to injuries on many reptiles as well. A lot of biting occurs, and can sometimes draw blood. The best thing to do is to separate the animals and wash the injury with warm water and use a light disinfectant to prevent bacteria from spreading. Do this every day until it heals. Eggs can also lead to some serious issues. Upon laying eggs, it will drain a lot of calcium in addition, it induces a lot of stress on the animal. Some eggs can become hardened and impacted as well, this will require surgery to remove. Mouth rot is another disease that can affect snakes. When a reptile is stressed, its immune system becomes weak and unable to keep regular bacteria in their mouths in check. This can be observable by a loss of appetite, inflamed mouth tissues, pus, dead tissue in the mouth, or drainage from the nose and mouth. It can also be caused by oral abrasions caused by the substrate or live prey. It can be treated by removing the tissue and simply maintaining their environment properly, flush their mouth antiseptic solution or topical antibiotic daily as well as opening and draining lesions. Reptile mites do great damage to reptiles, they breed quickly, spread fast, and can dehydrate and stress out a reptile to death all too fast. Immediate quarantine of the animal and its cage must occur as well as checking all nearby walls, accessories, and other cages, disinfect everything and do not bring either the reptile or its cage anywhere near any other animal. They can be treated by soaking your reptile in water and disinfecting its cage daily to drown the mites. There are certain medicines that can be provided to kill remaining mites, as well as certain sprays you can use on the snake and its enclosure that should kill any that are left. All reptiles should be handled at least a few times a week and at most every day for some period of time so that they get accustomed to people and do not feel threatened (with the exception of snakes who should not be handled for at least 48 hours after being fed). All reptiles should be handled in a manner in which the would be oriented normally in the wild. When being transported, the animal should have enough room to fully extend themselves and should be placed with a cool, wet paper towel underneath them.
Unfertilized Corn Snake eggs
Carpet Python, Hognose Snake, Corn Snakes, & Sand Boa with cloudy eyes showing they are beginning to shed
California Kingsnake shedding