IMPACTION of the gut in reptiles can not only be a costly process for its owner it can also lead to the reptiles death.
WHAT IS IMPACTION?
Impaction is a term given when a reptile eats too much substrate or material that it blocks the intestine, preventing the natural process of digesting food. Unless this blockage is removed or clears naturally the reptile will surely die.
WHAT CAUSES IT?
The most usual cause of impacting is the ingestion of substrate, mainly mineral based substrates such as sand. Some of these substrate are just not digestible and once eaten will form clumps then in turn will compact leading to impaction.
Before panicking and removing all your substrates , it is normal for small amounts of substrates to be eaten by your reptile, these smaller particles will normally just pass through the gut and eventually be passed out. The problem occurs when your reptile deliberately eats the substrate, when this happens the material will accumulate and eventually cause impaction. It is very likely that this would also happen to reptiles in the wild as millions of reptile live in very sandy areas and will intentionally digest substrate. So why would reptiles in the wild eat substrate if they run the risk of impaction? Well they do this because usually the substrate they live on is rich in minerals especially calcium and all reptiles need a certain amount of calcium in their diet, many reptile also at small stones in order to supplement themselves, this behaviour is called geophagy. so in the wild these reptiles top them self up with substrate but this is usually done over a long period of time.
WHAT ARE THE SYMPTOMS?
The most common symptoms are a swollen abdomen, lack of faeces, straining to pass faeces or blood in the faeces. Some faeces that do pass through may have substrate in it so its important to check faeces when cleaning the vivarium. If spotted early in its stages full impaction may be prevented. If in any doubt consult your local independent reptile specialist, or reptile vet.
WHY IS IMPACTION AN ISSUE?
A reptile that is kept at the right temperature, with the correct UV light and supplemented regularly may well eat small amounts of substrate, intentionally or unintentionally. This will usually pass through the system with ease just as it would in the wild.
However if a reptile is kept in the wrong conditions it is likely to develop low blood calcium levels as well as other deficiencies. In this situation the reptiles natural regulatory will kick in and will intentionally try to top up on what it feels it is lacking and the first thing it will try is the substrate. The problem is without the right temperature, UV and supplements the reptile will not be able to absorb any calcium from its gut therefore its calcium levels will not correct themselves. So the reptile will continue to try and correct the situation and will eat more substrate.
HOW CAN IMPACTION BE PREVENTED?
There is no 100% way of preventing impaction. Some keepers will keep their reptiles on a solid substrate to prevent this but we believe that with the right conditions and the right environment that allows your reptile to display its natural behaviours would benefit your reptiles well being far better than a piece of lino or carpet that may encourage your reptile to eat and walk in its own faeces. Good husbandry is the key to Reptile Keeping, having the right knowledge and keeping your reptile in the right conditions with the right equipment.
Ron’s Pet Supplies offer a free health check on you and your reptiles, to give you piece of mind that you are doing the best for your pet. Please contact us for more details.
Please do not be tempted to buy any exotic species unless you have the correct knowledge to meet its needs, with the equipment and knowledge available these days it is very easy to keep exotic species and we are more than happy to equip you with everything you need but as a responsible exotic retailer we will also refuse a sale if we feel that you are unable to fulfill the reptiles needs.