I had one of my garters start acting lathargic today and did some research. I found since she has been on a fish only diet she probably has a thiamine (vitamin B1) deficiency so i went and got some beef liver and chopped up for them. I have never seen snakes go into a feeding frenzy before but they were literally fighting over it. Grabbing it from each other’s mouths. None of them have ever had anything but fish before. Everything i’ve ever tried, they just eat the fish and leave everything else uneaten. No more stinky fish for these guys lol. I hate cutting up those silver sides. They stink so bad. I’ll probably throw some chicken liver in with the beef next time but no more fish.
You can’t just feed liver, you’re going to end up with a serious nutrient imbalance. I’d try chopping up pinkies if you can stomach it, if they’re young. You can also mix it up and add chicken hearts or earthworms. If they’re larger snakes and can take whole mice, it’s really a better option, nutritionally.
I have always tried chopped pinkies every time but they don’t touch them. I don’t use worms due to parasite concerns, but i do plan to add chicken liver and hearts to the mix. They are all too small for mice right now. My albino checkerds eat f/t mice but these are eastern and florida blues and are way too small for mice. I just never expected them to even look at the beef liver and they went absolutely crazy over it. It was like tossing a bloody carcase in a pool of piranhas and they have never even tried anything but silversides before. I have offered pinkies at every feeding and chicken a few times because i hate cutting up the silversides. I don’t think they would have even touched the silversides tonight.
Josh’s Frogs and other places sell clean Nightcrawler worms you can cut up and offer, dusted with an appropriate vitamin powder. If you try other types of fish that do not contain thiaminase,they shouldn’t have problems with thiamine (Vit B) deficiency, according to experts I have heard talk about it, but you don’t want to offer just fish, they say. Chicken hearts are an organ meat that might be better to offer than liver very often. You can find those at Asian or Specialty food markets. They might enjoy silkworms occasionally too- my research says those are pretty darn good for bug eating reptiles. It seems offering variety is best so eventually you’ll surely end up with a list of stuff they’ll take and you could rotate it.
The adult female that was lathargic yesterday passed away this morning. I have no idea what was actually wrong with her though. She was fine around noon yesterday and lathargic by around 6. When i woke up this morning she was laying on her back and was gone by 10. None of the other snakes in that enclosure are having any issues.
She was the only adult in the enclosure. I have 6 other juveniles and sub adults in there though.
I’m sorry to hear that. I would put the body in the fridge and get a necropsy done. That will make sure that it wasn’t a problem that could spread to the other snakes.
I am so sorry! Thiamine deficiency may have been the cause, or not- only a vet could tell you for sure- but I’d recommend seeing a vet and/or finding a way to give the snakes you have vitamin B in whatever form is safe for snakes to digest. (there’s types of Vit B for people, I do know that, so I’m not sure what you give to reptiles)
I agree with getting a necropsy if you can, I’m so sorry for your loss. If you want a thiaminase free, less smelly, and easy to feed fish, you can get tilapia or cod from the grocery store. That way you’re not having to chop up whole, and since it’s for human consumption, is relatively safe. I’d also check into whether or not you have any earthworm breeders in your area, I get mine from a local bait producer and have yet to have any issue with parasites.
I’m sorry to hear you lost your adult female. I hope that a necropsy can give you answers which you can use to make sure your others stay healthy.
I haven’t been able to find any place that will do a necropsy near me. It’s an hour and a half drive to the nearest vet that deals with reptiles at all and they can’t or won’t do the necropsy. They didn’t offer any suggestions on where i could get it done at either.
That’s unfortunate. I know it can be quite challenging to find a good herp vet. (My current one is about 1.5 hours away, too.) I do think it would be worth calling the one you found and inquiring about where you could get a necropsy. Usually a vitamin deficiency will appear more gradually than what it sounds like your adult. In whatever case though, since garters live communally, I would be trying hard to get her necropsied. I know things don’t always fall into line the way we’d like them to, though.
You might be able to find a closer vet that will do a necropsy from these:
How to find a Reptile Veterinarian
I’m so sorry for your loss. And I’m sorry you’re having trouble finding a vet willing to do a necropsy, that’s really frustrating. I’m honestly not convinced this was a case of thiamine deficiency, because the symptoms you describe don’t really match up with what I’ve heard and read about the condition, but I’m not a vet. Without a necropsy, it’s hard to say.
There are fish with low/no thiaminase that shouldn’t cause problems. I’ve read that guppies and platies are safe, and are inexpensive and readily available. They’re also easy to breed, and if you breed your own, then you’d have access to feeders small enough that you wouldn’t have to cut them up.
I think that feeding a variety of options, including at least some whole prey (even if the “whole prey” is cut up, they’re still getting the bones, organs, skin, etc. that snakes derive nutrition from), is probably best. Things like chopped liver and hearts probably shouldn’t make up their entire diet, but it could be used along with some whole fish, worms, etc., especially since they seem to enjoy it so much!