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.
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?
She can somewhat move her head while she’s twitching. She can look around vaguely- but she can’t stop the twitch. I know it sounds weird. Like she can kind of move and look in different directions but she twitches while doing it. Kind of like if you have hiccups while talking. You can talk but you’re at the mercy of the movement. Or if it’s really bad in between twitches she’ll move twitch move twitch move, but the twitches deter her movement where she wants to go. It looks like she’s animatronic. Her tail doesn’t really twitch. It’s mostly the upper part and maybe the most in the neck area upper chest area.
Maybe if it is extremely anxious and frightened the milksnake smell may be adding to this behavior like @caryl suggested and moving the milksnake could be done just in case. I have never encountered this though and I had corns and kingsnakes on the same rack regularly put in the same enclosure to breed and the corns never showed any signs of distress. I think you may at least try to get a fecal sample to the vet as well as a video of the twitching problem. If it’s not rattling the tail or hissing and the twitching is mostly in the upper neck and chest I think it is probably a medical issue, hopefully not neurological but you may have a high parasitic load or who knows what else? Time for vet to do some tests and see it( at the very least online)
From that description it sounds like she’s got some control but it’s really hard to tell from a verbal description. They can twitch really energetically and it’s a behavior, not a physical/neuro issue. Does she essentially keep her head in a normal orientation? As opposed to more rolling or thrashing movement with her head corkscrewing? If you can get a brief video it will help. @banereptiles is right, getting a fecal sample to the vet is an excellent idea. If you can make that happen, it will at least help the vet get more info to you.
Just btw, in case you (or other readers) aren’t aware, corn snake hissing isn’t the dramatic “Ssssss” of threatening movie snakes. It’s more like a brief “Ffft,” kinda like a sneeze.
yes, her head is always a completely normal angle. She never hisses or blunt strikes. Her tail never rattles. Even twitching her head is upright and she’s looking around. I took her out to try and video it yesterday but she didn’t twitch that time. So it’s getting worse over time, but it doesn’t happen every single time. It’s like 2/3 times it happens now. I have been calling vets and trying to see if one will watch a video of her and assess.
Because it’s a service that requires significant research and time, I would anticipate that most vets would charge a consultation fee, as they won’t be able to assess thoroughly without providing history & doing an exam. A full assessment would require an in- person exam.
Definitely bring footage and know your husbandry practices and history so you can tell your vet. . If you call in advance and discuss the issue, they may have a better idea regarding whether an exam or consultation is called for. I lean towards an exam. Bring a fresh fecal sample- ideally within 8 hours of, um, production, and keep in the fridge but never the freezer.
Brief mention- temperature shock can also cause ‘twitching’ and even death. Just skimming (I’m babysitting my niece), it definitely sounds like pesticide or other toxin exposure should be strongly considered. Also musculoskeletal problems can sometimes be misinterpreted as neurological in origin, so footage for the vet is a must. I once misinterpreted a broken scapula in one of my leopard geckos, and trust me, it’s super embarrassing when you’re a vet too.
I am a retired dog/cat vet, but it sounds to me like either a consultation or appointment should happen shortly. Neuro issues generally need to be evaluated and (if needed) treated quickly to minimize risk to the patient.