I got a corn snake last May at an expo. I brought her home and she seemed fine. Suddenly, she started twitching when she was taken out of the cage, startled, etc. Even if she’s picked up and seems relatively calm, she starts twitching. The older she gets she’s resistant to being handled, even though it’s been as consistent as my other snakes. Now if you try and take her out, she thrashes worse than the milksnakes. If I don’t handle her and she thinks something is happening besides food, she will start twitching. She has never missed a meal and has a great feeding response. No cloudy eyes, no mouth or scale issues, etc. It’s involuntary because she tries to move but the twitching sensation seems to not let her do what she wants. She doesn’t stargaze that I can see and doesn’t have a head wobble. The twitching will get worse based on how upset she is. Her personality also “changes” while this is happening. Does this seem neurological? Should she just not be handled?
That is very strange, the only twitching that I can think of is during courtship where they twitch against the other snake beforehand. Defensively they do twitch and rattle their tails. Obviously this is not the case, I would take it to a vet maybe with a stool sample and video of said twitching, see what they could make out. It does sound neurological, but I haven’t heard of this before. Maybe someone else has, I would ask maybe @t_h_wyman
I’ve had people with corns to tell me of their snakes when responding to be touched, they twitch/push against what is touching them. It is very defensive behavior. But I would only rely on that after the op gets a vet check first.
Yes, I understand what you’re saying. This is different than a reflex. She goes back into her cage and sits there twitching. The only reason I haven’t brought her to a vet is because whenever shes disturbed it starts happening for minutes at a time and the twitching can get worse the more she’s disrupted. I’m afraid she’s going to have a full out heart attack or something worse if I bring her to a vet from the stress. The reptile vet is about an hour away. I’m trying to avoid stressing her out for that long. I’m not sure if she could handle it.
Well, she’s not getting any better with out that treatment. So the risk might be worth reward, possibly. I wish there was more I could do to help. I was in a similar predicament with my boa, Kai. I didn’t know it was going on and I was concerned that it might be IBD but then I took the risk and I got him tested. This is before I ever got any other snakes so thank goodness he ended up being negative and I have never regretted that decision. I don’t want anything to happen to her and would love to know if she gets better.
Could you take a little video of her doing it?
Normal twitching can be attributed to breeding behavior or fighting, but what you’re describing doesn’t sound like either of those. The thrashing can be normal as well, for certain corns (I have one that thrashes and darts), but combined with the twitching you’re describing makes me think it might not be just a personality thing and may be neurological or something.
I think @lumpy is right, unfortunately I can’t think of anything else. Best case it’s a extreme defensive behavior(which would put your mind at ease to know at least) worst case something is medically or neurologically amiss and possibly could be helped.
Also possibly a vid like @solarserpents suggested may help someone who could have seen this behavior before?
I totally agree with everything you’ve been told. It’s very hard to get a true handle on the behaviors you’re describing without actually seeing it. One keeper’s “twitch” is another’s “seizure,” which is another’s “courtship” or “defense.” If you can get a video, post it to YouTube then post a link here so that we can have a look.
I sympathize with not wanting to transport the snake to the vet due to the stress of the whole experience. My herp vet is a solid 1.5 hours away if I hit no traffic snarls, but sometimes it is necessary to take one. I’ve never been sorry I did, only sorry for the snake that the visit was needed.
We might be able to give you a better idea of how needed a vet visit is if we can see the behavior but it sounds like you’re pretty worried. If there’s a problem, the vet can evaluate it and give you good, real information. In that case, the visit would be necessary. If there’s not a problem, the stress of the trip won’t cause a problem, and you can then address behavioral issues without worrying about physical issues.
I had a cat that started having seizures. On the way back from the vet for bloodwork she had a grand mal seizure and died in her carrier. It was not a silent peaceful event. We turned around and went back to the vets. They did an autopsy. They said it was neurological and the stress of the exam must have set her off. Nothing else was wrong with her besides that. I’m not someone who doesn’t bring animals to the vet. That’s why I’m asking before I decide to have something like that happen again. Especially because of the amount of time to get her to the vet. I don’t want to stress her out again today, but I will try to record and upload it the next time.
I’m sorry that you and your cat had that happen. That’s truly terrible. Please don’t blame yourself for that tragedy. If the poor cat had started having seizures, you were right to try and get help for it. With neurological troubles to that degree, even if you hadn’t gone to the vet, it’s virtually certain that there would have been some other triggering event. I am very sorry.
Thank you. I really appreciate that. That’s why I asked here first and didn’t go straight to the vet. I didn’t want a repeat. I realize the “chances” of it happening twice may or may not be slim. But holding down a screaming animal that you love while it has a seizure and dies from stress you tend to want to avoid that in the future.
I’m so sorry that happened to you. Maybe you can contact a vet and ask them to review footage of the twitches happening, and do a consult on at least the behavior without bringing her in just yet. Then she could be spared the stress unless the vet thinks there’s something that could improve her quality of life- besides perhaps sending in a fecal sample that maybe you could collect at home if they give you a bottle/vial.
That’s a really great idea! I was going to suggest asking if a home visit was possible, but this seems a lot more feasible for the veterinarian. Give that a shot! Talk to your vet and see if there’s an email or a business Facebook page that you can send the footage to for review. See what they say on wether or not it is absolutely necessary to take them in.
That way you can be absolutely certain you are not going to go stress out your snake for no reason.
I will that you get the help your snake needs.
Oh my, yes, a video for the vet is a great idea!! It makes absolutely perfect sense. If you’re usual vet can’t accommodate the request, there are some reputable online options. (My daughter is a vet. I can tell you which service she recommends if you like. She doesn’t work for them, no conflict of interest.) State laws vary as to whether or not the vets who see patients online only can write an rx for the animal, but they could certainly evaluate behavior. Great idea!!
Caveat that I have not had any personal experience with this behaviour, however when I received the notification of this tag over the weekend I reached out to some of my friends that keep corns and here is the info I received back so far (still waiting to hear back from a few others, will update as I learn more)
From my perspective, the behaviour you describe sounds like it might be neurological. I would ask if you have used any kind of insecticide or mite/tick/flea treatment near the animal recently? Also, any cleaning products you use when cleaning in/around the caging for this animal? And then I would ask about any changes in the feeders you have been using (new vendor, freezer failure, etc)?
The folk that I spoke with indicated that something like this but non-neurological is not unheard of. Some animals, as they mature, become very high-strung and basically flip to perpetual “flight mode”. In some cases it can be helped by trying to offer the animal as much security as possible - adding a bunch more hides, blacking out the sides and front of the caging, moving the caging to a lower traffic area, only interacting with the animal when absolutely necessary (feeding and cleaning only, no handling). This is not guaranteed to correct the behaviour, but in some cases it can reduce it
Thank you. I didn’t realize that I could just call around the state and see if any vet would just review footage and possibly a sample. I asked mine and they said because of liability etc. they wouldn’t. But I would prefer someone just look at her behavior first and then go from there. That’s a great idea. I’m going to do that.
Thank you so much for getting back to me. Whatever I do with her, I have other snakes that either eat the same feeders, or have everything else chemical-wise, etc. the same. My most docile cornsnake will come out from the cage onto your hands without being picked up and hang out with no problem; I got them at the exact same time (different breeder) and it’s like night and day. I did black out the sides and she has stacked hides everywhere so she could be anywhere in the cage and hiding if she wanted. She’s also in a reptile room and not a family room, no TV, etc. From reading everyone’s suggestions if it’s not neurological, could it be she’s in a room with other reptiles and just can’t handle the smell? Maybe she is just high strung and other snakes set her off? There’s a milksnake in the same room that does pee whenever you take her out. But I always wash everything she hits after, won’t wear the same shirt or clothes if I take her out the same day, etc. I’m not sure if I should move her into a room alone while I’m looking for a vet that I can send a video too?
This may be part of what’s alarming the corn snake. Milk snakes belong to genus Lampropeltis, which is the kingsnake genus. Kingsnakes do eat other snakes in the wild. Your flighty corn snake can smell a predator, even if the milk snake is just hanging out calmly in its own home. The corn doesn’t know that she’s safe where she is. With the valid concern about her stress levels, it would likely be helpful to relocate one of them to a different area of the house if at all possible.
I was going to go with an epileptic seizure until I read your post but I think you have hit the nail on the head! Your suggestion makes perfect sense and I bet that’s the problem!
Hit someone else up this morning that I had missed my first time around. They had this information that I think might be helpful:
"The difference between ‘twitch’ and ‘seizure’ is if they have control of their head. Breeding, male combat, general touching from another snake or person, they will still have a very stable and controlled head.’
From your observations, does she have head control?