If you are reading this, then you most likely know the answer to the question – ‘Do snakes fart?’ While a snake’s fart may be surprising the first time, such behavior isn’t as uncommon as many may think.
Many animals fart, and interestingly a snake is one of them. Unlike other pets you have around the house, snake farts are infrequent.
As they are carnivores, there is less buildup of gas in the gastrointestinal tract of the reptile and as such, they fart less often.
A single fart is normal and should be nothing to be worried about. However, if your snake is farting frequently and loudly this could be a cause for concern.
Reasons Snakes Hardly Pass Gas
Flatulence is common in humans, and many other pets around the house such as dogs. However, this biological occurrence is rare among snakes. Why is this so?
Flatulence or passing gas occurs when gas is expelled from the digestive tract, in particular the gastrointestinal tract. This action is usually accompanied by a loud noise and sometimes a bad smell from the digested food in our intestines.
Since our diet consists of large anoint of plant matter we are more likely to expel gas that builds up within the lower intestinal tract.
The bad smell is down to the action of the natural bacteria in our intestinal tract that breaks down the food.
As explained earlier, eating plants is more likely to cause flatulence. This is because more bacteria is required to break down plant matter.
The gas which is the by-product of the digestive process is produced in higher quantities. That’s why animals such as cattle are much more flatulent.
Some foods such as legumes (such as soybeans, chickpeas, peas, and beans), plant foods high in insoluble fibers (seeds and husks), fruits (such as pear, peach, apricot, and apple), vegetables (cabbage, Brussel sprouts, onions, eggplants, and carrots), and dried fruits (prunes and raisins) are all more likely to cause flatulence.
Dairy products (such as milk) also cause flatulence in persons who are lactose intolerant.
As you may have guessed since snakes do not eat plant matter, they simply fart less frequently. You may never ever witness your snake fart unlike a dog or even a cattle.
While snakes do indeed pass gas, the gas passed is very little and the activity itself is very quiet.
Defensive Flatulence (Cloacal Popping)
While this is very uncommon, some snakes fart as a way to scare off predators. This is similar to the hissing and rattling of a rattlesnake.
This is a sign that the reptile is scared and feeling defensive. Some snakes will instead pass gas quite loudly. This is referred to as cloacal popping.
So which species are likely to pass gas as a defensive measure? Two species that use this defensive technique are the Chihuahuan hooknose snake (Gyalopion canum) and the Arizona coral snake (Micruroides euryxanthus).
To make this farting sound, the reptiles will contract the cloacal sphincter. This will forcefully expel air.
They then create popping noises by relaxing the cloacal sphincter, then contracting it again. The farts are only about two-tenths of a second long but are usually repetitive.
They are quite audible and the sound produced can travel to 6’6 ft. The farts sound almost indistinguishable from that of humans although the pitch produced is higher.
While two species have been recorded farting as a defensive measure the only requirements for this action are the cloacal sphincter and its related musculature. As such, a lot more snakes may employ this defensive measure.
Arizona coral snake (Micruroides euryxanthus) cloacal popping
Micruroides euryxanthus is a venomous coral snake endemic to the southwestern United States, and northwestern Mexico.
This snake is about 11 to 24 inches long and has a color pattern of alternating rings of black (broad rings), white or yellow (narrow rings), red (broad rings), and white or yellow again. The venom of the Arizona coral snake is potent and neurotoxic.
When scared, startled, or threatened, M. euryxanthus will hide the head underneath the body.
It will then tightly curl and raise the tail. This is where it will proceed to fart.
The snake does this noisily and forcefully expels gas in the cloaca. The gas passed is extremely unpleasant and foul-smelling.
The foul smell is usually enough to scare off most predators. As you can see this is a very effective defensive behavior.
The cloacal pops of the Arizona coral snake have an amplitude of around 50 decibels and a frequency/pitch of (442 to 5523 hertz).
The Arizona coral snake is also known as the Sonoran coral snake.
Chihuahuan hooknose snake (Gyalopion canum) cloacal popping
G. canum is a small snake that reaches a length of about 14 inches. This snake is grayish with dark botches.
The underside is cream in color. The upturned snout of this snake gives it its common name – hooknose.
This name is found in Mexico and also in the Chihuahuan Desert.
When scared, G. canum will pop its cloacal, producing a loud popping noise.
An experiment conducted by Bruce Young of Lafayette College, Pennsylvania showed that the species farts are capable of lifting them completely off the ground.
The cloacal pops of the Chihuahuan hooknose snake have an amplitude of around 70 decibels and a frequency/pitch of (359 to 15,178 hertz).
The Chihuahuan hooknose snake is also known as the western hook-nosed snake.
Health Issues Associated with Farting
While flatulence in snakes can be innocuous, this can also be associated with poor health. This is particularly true if the fart is audible. Innocuous farts would usually be inaudible and would usually go unnoticed.
As established earlier, snakes may fart (pop their cloaca) when scared. However, this mechanism has been recorded in only the Chihuahuan hooknose snake (Gyalopion canum) and the Arizona coral snake (Micruroides euryxanthus).
As such if your pet isn’t from these two species and farts audibly then it is usually an indicator of illness especially if it is repetitive and loud.
There are of course other symptoms to look out for such as the presence of mucus and difficulty breathing. Health problems generally come with several other symptoms.
As such flatulence will never be the only symptom. Here are some other symptoms that may accompany flatulence – discharge of excessive thick mucus that may contain blood or cottage cheese-like pus from the mouth, difficulty breathing, wheezing, crackles when breathing, refusal to eat, loss of weight, and keeping the mouth open all the time.
The causes of these health issues are usually parasitic, fungal, or viral. You can tell your sick is sick if there are deviations from the normal behavior of the snake.
It is important to have the snake treated by a herp vet. The sooner the treatment is, the better.
Treatment & Prevention
If the illness is parasitic in nature, then the snake will be treated with a dewormer which may be administered through an injection or orally.
Stomatitis is treated with antibiotics orally or through injection.
Respiratory infections can be viral, fungal, or parasitic. Here, the cause will determine the treatment offered. Tests such as blood tests, cultures of oral or nasal discharge, and even x-rays may need to be conducted.
Treatment includes antibiotics administered orally or through injections. The use of eye or nasal drops is also possible. If the reptile is severely ill, the snake may need intensive treatment at the vet hospital.
Inclusive body diseases are untreatable and the reptile may have to be euthanized.
In order to prevent health problems keep a clean enclosure with the right temperatures. Additionally, you will need to quarantine any reptile you suspect to be unwell.
Also, quarantine any new addition until you are sure that they are disease-free. It is important to do a health checkup for all your recently acquired pets.
Frequently Asked Questions
Why do snakes fart?
Unlike humans and many other mammals, snakes are carnivorous. As such, they hardly ever fart.
However, they still do fart. This is usually down to the following reasons. Indigestion can be a reason why snakes fart. The most common occurrence of this is when a snake brumates soon after eating a large meal.
This should be avoided as the reptiles’ bodily functions slow down drastically. This slow down in bodily functions also includes digestion. The meal eaten by the snake is unable to digest properly and this can cause flatulence.
Indigestion during brumation can also lead to infections. You must avoid this.
Illness can also cause repetitive flatulence among snakes. These illnesses can be viral, fungal, parasitic, and bacterial in nature. The infection can be stomatitis or a respiratory infection.
It is important to get any illness treated as soon as possible as these can be fatal when not treated early.
Snakes may also fart when defecating or urinating. Snakes may be fat when defecating and urinating.
Snakes urinate and defecate from the cloaca. The process of expelling waste can also produce farting sounds. The only reason to worry is if this becomes a common occurrence. This can point to something more serious.
A few snakes fart to deter predators. This is quite uncommon.
The two species that are known to do this are the Chihuahuan hook-nosed snake and the Arizona coral snake.
It may be possible that other snakes do this as well but as of now, this is unknown. If your snake isn’t a specimen of either species, then they aren’t farting to deter the potential threat.
What should I do if my snake is farting repetitively?
If your snake is farting repeatedly, then you have to go see your regular herp vet. Since farting is unusual for a snake, it is even more unusual if this activity is frequent.
Other symptoms may need to be taken into account when determining the health problem afflicting the snake. The vet may also need to run tests such as blood tests, x-rays, and even collecting and culturing samples f the snake’s bodily fluids such as mucus.
How do snakes expel waste?
Snakes like any other animal need to expel waste. They expel waste using their cloaca.
This is what they use for passing urea, and fecal matter. They also use the cloaca to lay eggs. Additionally, the cloaca plays a vital role during mating.
In addition to all this, the snake passes gas from the cloaca.
What can I do to prevent my snake from farting frequently?
As they say, ‘Prevention is better than cure.” Preventing illness should always be the objective.
The first thing to do is to keep a clean enclosure. If the enclosure is clean, there will be fewer pathogens available. Spot clean as often as possible. This includes removing excrement as soon as you notice it and removing any pieces of uneaten food.
You also have disinfected the enclosure. This should be down every 3 to 5 months. Disinfect the snake’s cage using a 5% bleach solution. Thoroughly rinse the cage using clean dechlorinated water.
Keep the temperature within the enclosure at the right level. Each species have their specific temperature needs. Ensure that the enclosure is not too cold and that you provide the right amount of heat. Respiratory infections thrive when temperatures are too low.
Also, make sure you don’t feed your snake right before it goes into brumation. Brumation is the reptile equivalent of hibernation.
So do snakes fart? Well, they do.
This is however very uncommon. If your snake is passing gas this could be an indication of a much more serious problem.
Reptiles don’t build up gas in their gastrointestinal tract as mammals do. What problems could passing gas be indicative of?
Passing gas can be caused by parasitic, fungal, viral, or bacterial infections. It could also be tumor-related. Most of the time, however, flatulence is caused by a respiratory infection.
This should be easy to treat if reported to the vet early. When left untreated, an RI can be deadly.
Another reason for flatulence is impacted air after consuming a meal. A snake that brumates too early after eating can fart a lot as excess gas builds up in the digestive tract.