Loose substrates & the myth of gut compaction. - Reptile Forums

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Old 11-09-2017, 01:28 AM
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Default Loose substrates & the myth of gut compaction.

Time & again there are posts by keepers of snakes & lizards saying they use paper, tile or carpet flooring in preference to a natural loose substrate because of 'too high a risk' of gut compaction in case the reptile ingests any of the substrate.
But this is largely a myth, & if correct husbandry & a properly suitable substrate is used, compaction need never occur.

Benefits of a loose substrate are as follows:
It looks more natural.
It allows the reptile to dig & burrow.
It absorbs smells of faeces & urates.

Negative points of solid flooring such as paper, lino, carpet etc:
It looks awful.
It denies the reptile its natural instinct to dig.
It smells when the reptile poops.

There are of course, some loose substrates that are not advisable:
Wood chips.
Calci sand.
These really can cause gut impaction.

Suggested loose substrates:
Eco earth.
Play sand.
Soil.
Orchid bark.
prepackaged substrates.
Sand/soil mix.
Auboise.
Aspen.
Which of those you use depends on the type of reptile of course.

Also, bear this in mind:
Reptiles rarely encounter paper, lino, carpet or tiles in the wild (not unless they come across them on a rubbish dump or anywhere like that). They do however, live on loose substrates such as sand, soil, gravel, rubble & leaf mould, & gut impaction doesn't seem to be a problem there.
Therefore, loose substrates shouldn't be a problem for your pets. Even if a reptile does ingest some substrate, if your husbandry is up to scratch it will pass safely through the gut. Many reptiles will spit it out anyway.
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Old 11-09-2017, 08:23 AM
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Just to pull the other thread in as it has quite a bit of useful info and viewpoints on the issue.

http://www.reptileforums.co.uk/forum...impaction.html

Its a common issue and widely misunderstood, people hear of impaction and blame it immediately on loose substrate, but theres much more to it.

Its not the substrate, its the care that actually creates the situation that the substrate can then lead to impaction, and more people really need to get to grips with this and learn about it.

Removing the loose substrate only has a negative impact, and if the care is not correct, those environmental issues will simply cause problems elsewhere (dehydration, incorrect heat, poor diet etc can ALL have far, far more serious implications if left unchecked).
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Old 11-09-2017, 09:25 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Azastral View Post
Just to pull the other thread in as it has quite a bit of useful info and viewpoints on the issue.

http://www.reptileforums.co.uk/forum...impaction.html

Its a common issue and widely misunderstood, people hear of impaction and blame it immediately on loose substrate, but theres much more to it.

Its not the substrate, its the care that actually creates the situation that the substrate can then lead to impaction, and more people really need to get to grips with this and learn about it.

Removing the loose substrate only has a negative impact, and if the care is not correct, those environmental issues will simply cause problems elsewhere (dehydration, incorrect heat, poor diet etc can ALL have far, far more serious implications if left unchecked).
I have asked Stephen P to sticky my post & also add it to the snake section as a sticky.
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Old 11-09-2017, 10:11 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by wilkinss77 View Post
I have asked Stephen P to sticky my post & also add it to the snake section as a sticky.
Just getting the ok from the others

Anything else you would like to add?
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Old 11-09-2017, 04:41 PM
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there should be a caveat in this regarding neonate's, especially of small species, their digestive tract is minuscule and very fragile. what an adult can pass may not travel as well in the neonate form. iv seen this personally in a yellow rat neonate i believe it was, the lower portion of the large intestine was blocked and i had to manually remove the compacted substrate, so its not a myth when it actually happens.

some dry substrates expand when they come in contact with fluids inside the stomach and intestines and this should be kept in mind. a main point not mentioned here is that you should thoroughly dry ur food items to prevent food sticking to it and then being consumed, and the consumption should be kept to a minimum as we do not know what chemicals or contaminants or pollutants are added in the industrial process or at point of source.

another point wild animals are not eating mouthfuls of substrates regularly, the rodents they eat are warm and dry, no large amounts of matter are sticking to them during swallowing.

if there is a myth its not compaction its that snakes are regularly consuming the substrate they live on, they have a biology suited for accidental and minimal substrate ingestion, that is contaminant free mind you. captivity is the opposite, their ingesting larger amounts of foreign matter alien to their biology, ie a hognose did not evolve to pass wood pulp or coconut husk and it should not be assumed it can be done without consequence over the animals lifespan, as we have no idea what compounds a snakes stomach acid can leech from these "natural" substrates.

another point, papers and their like have their place in quarantine enclosures mite treatment enclosures etc. the comparison between what animals live on in the wild and the substrates (and parameters around them) offered in captivity is flawed, soil in a wooden cage is not wild replication and it should not be assumed that anything that happens thereafter is "natural" and consequence free.

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Old 11-09-2017, 05:02 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by loxocemus View Post
there should be a caveat in this regarding neonate's, especially of small species, their digestive tract is minuscule and very fragile. what an adult can pass may not travel as well in the neonate form. iv seen this personally in a yellow rat neonate i believe it was, the lower portion of the large intestine was blocked and i had to manually remove the compacted substrate, so its not a myth when it actually happens.



some dry substrates expand when they come in contact with fluids inside the stomach and intestines and this should be kept in mind. a main point not mentioned here is that you should thoroughly dry ur food items to prevent food sticking to it and then being consumed, and the consumption should be kept to a minimum as we do not know what chemicals or contaminants or pollutants are added in the industrial process or at point of source.



another point wild animals are not eating mouthfuls of substrates regularly, the rodents they eat are warm and dry, no large amounts of matter are sticking to them during swallowing.



if there is a myth its not compaction its that snakes are regularly consuming the substrate they live on, they have a biology suited for accidental and minimal substrate ingestion, that is contaminant free mind you. captivity is the opposite, their ingesting larger amounts of foreign matter alien to their biology, ie a hognose did not evolve to pass wood pulp or coconut husk and it should not be assumed it can be done without consequence over the animals lifespan, as we have no idea what compounds a snakes stomach acid can leech from these "natural" substrates.



another point, papers and their like have their place in quarantine enclosures mite treatment enclosures etc. the comparison between what animals live on in the wild and the substrates (and parameters around them) offered in captivity is flawed, soil in a wooden cage is not wild replication and it should not be assumed that anything that happens thereafter is "natural" and consequence free.



rgds

ed


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Old 22-07-2019, 06:22 PM
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I think what a lot of people fail understand is the fact that the majority of loose substrates are organic and natural and harmless when swallowed in small quantities. Snakes in the wild living in muddy, grassy, sandy, swampy areas are bound to swallow what is on the ground as well as their prey.
My snakes tend to get eco earth (usual substrate for my burrowing snakes) around their mouths while eating but not enough to cause any damage to the animal itself. Great post, things like this should be put out there more often.
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Old 18-08-2019, 01:11 AM
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Hi, this is my first post here. I'm a total beginner with reptiles, looking into getting my first soon and reading everything I can on the subject. You say to never use wood chippings as substrate, but I've watched a lot of videos and read a lot of care sheets today from the Northampton reptile centre and they only use coarse beech chippings. Are these ok? I'm looking at a Rosy Boa or Kenyan Sand Boa as a possible first pet and don't want to get something dangerous for the snake.
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Old 18-08-2019, 04:27 AM
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Welcome to the forum.


You will need to research the snakes needs. The two snakes listed may have totally differing requirements, . I've never kept either, but from posts on here sand boa's need a deep lose substrate so that they can bury under, so something with small particles would probably suit that species better than a coarse wood chip product.

If you are planning on getting a sand boa then you need to a lot more research of their requirements, one of which isn't keeping them on beech chippings. Are you sure that the care sheet is for a sand boa, as the shop in question does tend to be very knowledgeable on these things?

As this is a sticky post, I would suggest you start a new post if you have further questions, unless it's specifically discussing the subject of substrate compaction in the gut.
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Old 18-08-2019, 08:59 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Malc View Post
Welcome to the forum.


You will need to research the snakes needs. The two snakes listed may have totally differing requirements, . I've never kept either, but from posts on here sand boa's need a deep lose substrate so that they can bury under, so something with small particles would probably suit that species better than a coarse wood chip product.

If you are planning on getting a sand boa then you need to a lot more research of their requirements, one of which isn't keeping them on beech chippings. Are you sure that the care sheet is for a sand boa, as the shop in question does tend to be very knowledgeable on these things?

As this is a sticky post, I would suggest you start a new post if you have further questions, unless it's specifically discussing the subject of substrate compaction in the gut.
Rosy boas also need a fine, loose substrate as they too occasionally burrow, but not to the degree that sand boas do. I have a Californian coastal rosy- he's on a dry eco earth substrate about an inch deep.
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