New "keeper" with health concerns?

Asked July 19, 2016, 8:19 PM EDT

Hi, my fiancé and I are taking care of our friend's corn snake for a bit until they are done remodeling and settling into their new living situation. He was unfortunately moved during mid-shed (which I know is an already stressful time), so I'm not sure if that has a high contribution factor to my concerns. Any way, we had him with us for two nights until we fed him. He eagerly ate two small mice 5 days ago (on the 14th). After the first mouse, there was a noticeable limp, but was not noticeable after long. Once the second moused was ingested, the lump has been present since. He has defecated a small amount and moderate amount of urate (that was yesterday). Still today (19th) I can see the "bump" or "lump" from the second mouse. Is this normal?!? I'm not sure how long it should take for a corn to fully digest. I have tried soaking him in warm water and he really hated it (not sure if his owners have ever offered him a bath), really did everything he could to get out of the water. I have included some photos of the described mouse bump. My second concern is something I just noticed today. He was very active and curious, more lively than I have seen him yet... but I observed him opening his mouth and stretching his jaw. I've only seen him do it 3 times, and he didn't keep his mouth open for very long. Was wondering if this is a behavior I should be concerned about? Also, the warm end is around 81 and low around 70. I appreciate any help to ease my mind and possibly point me in the right direction!

McLean County Illinois

1 Response

Thank you for your question. Let me first say that I am not a veterinarian, nor have I received any medical-related training on reptiles. That being said, I would be concerned about the persistence of this lump when it's been five days since the snake was fed. I have a couple of rat snakes and three corn snakes. They usually defecate 4 - 5 days following feeding. Based on your description of the temperature of the snakes enclosure, it should be warm enough for the snake's digestive system to function properly. If it were me, I would take the snake to a reptile veterinarian to have it examined. If the lump is undigested food, it can cause serious problems, including killing the snake. If the lump is caused by something else, then it is still worth having a vet evaluate it.

I wouldn't be too concerned about the snake opening its mouth and stretching its jaw. Snakes do this from time to time, especially after eating to get things realigned. If the snake was keeping its mouth open for long periods of time, that could be an indication of a respiratory problem, but since your snake has only done this a few times, and it seemed to be for the purpose of just stretching the jaw, this sounds like normal behavior.

Hope this helps, and thanks for using Ask an Expert.

Jim