Farting is a taboo subject.
Not many of us go around openly discussing our gaseous habits. However, for humans at least, farting is normal and good for your health.
We all do it, whether you want to admit it or not. In fact, research suggests that most people will pass wind upwards of 20 times per day.
You’d be forgiven if the farting habits of snakes hadn’t yet crossed your mind.
But what about snakes?
Contrary to belief, snakes do fart. But, snake farts aren’t regular farts. There are evolutionary advantages associated with a snake’s farting. From defense against potential predators to self-cleaning techniques, farts can be healthy for snakes too. However, if you have a pet snake Excessive or smelly farting may suggest an underlying health problem.
If you want to learn more about your snake’s gas-releasing skills then keep on reading!
What (Exactly) Is A Fart?
Writing in a public place has its benefits sometimes. However, writing in a public place about farts is a new one for me. Any passerby who happens to glance over whilst I’m writing may reward me with an odd stare or two.
But, before we delve into the unusual world of snake farts, we first need to understand what a fart actually is.
Farting, at least in humans, is a by-product of digestion. It is a way for us to relieve ourselves of excess gas trapped within the alimentary canals.
Humans are considered omnivorous. This means we consume both plant and animal products (unless of course, you are vegan). Bacteria within our gut break down otherwise indigestible plant matter and release gas as a by-product, typically out of the anus.
Due to specific foods we eat, such as products high in sulfur or fiber, humans have a tendency to produce smelly farts. However, farting is also caused when we accidentally swallow air from eating and drinking.
How Do Snakes Fart?
It’s not common, but snakes do fart. Just not in the way we’re accustomed to.
Snakes are obligate carnivores. Unlike us, they do not consume plant material. As such, they do not have gut bacteria to break down plant material.
As a result, the body of a snake does not produce gas in quite the same way we do.
Not only is the diet of snakes and humans different, but the anatomy is too.
For starters, humans fart out of their anus. Snakes do not have an anus. Rather, they have an anatomical feature known as a cloaca. Cloacas have a dual purpose; they aid in egg laying and waste expulsion. This includes gaseous waste, namely farts.
There are other differences, too.
Humans have a tendency to produce loud and sometimes smelly farts. Oftentimes, you’ll barely even notice a farting snake – unless it’s underwater and you see little bubbles or on loose substrate and a small cloud of dust becomes visible.
The internet is full of videos of farting snakes, some are louder than others, here is a small soundbite of a less offensive sounding fart:
Healthy snakes produce mostly odorless farts, that’s because their foods are not high in sulfur or fiber and so there is no gut fermentation to produce smelly farts.
Why Do Snakes Fart?
Now that we know how it’s time to explore the reasons snakes fart!
Reason 1: Self Cleaning
Earlier, I mentioned that fluctuance is sometimes caused when humans swallow air via eating and swallowing.
As it turns out, snakes have been observed doing the same.
However, unlike accidental air-swallowing in humans, snakes seem to carry out this behavior deliberately.
This method is a way of self-cleaning. For example, if a snake has debris, such as sand, lodged within its cloaca, they will open their mouth to take in air, and then expel the air through their cloaca, hopefully dislodging any particles in the process.
Most of the time, self-cleaning farts are silent. The only way to tell if a snake is performing this behavior is to observe it, as well as the surrounding area.
With the intake of air, the snake will momentarily swell up. If the snake is on loose substrate, such as fine sand or dried dirt, you may see a small cloud of dust being blown around the cloacal region.
Reason 2: Defensive Farting
Some snakes are brightly colored to repel predators. Others use warning sounds, such as hisses or rattles. However, there are some species that take their defenses to the next level.
Take the Sonoran coral snake, for example. This species, native to the Southern United States and Mexico, is highly venomous. However, using venom is incredibly energetically costly, so most venomous species would rather not use their venom for defense.
Their first line of defense is their brightly colored patterning. Known as aposematism, some venomous species use this tactic to advertise their toxicity.
If this fails, the Sonoran coral snake resorts to farting. That’s right. This snake actually farts to deter potential predators.
If threatened, the coral snake hides its vulnerable head under its body and raises its tail.
As with the self-cleaning method, the coral snake will take a big gulp of air. However, instead of inhaling the air through its mouth, the Sonoran coral snake actively sucks air into its cloaca and then forcefully expels it.
The motion creates a popping noise, which has been recorded to reach sounds of up to 5,500 Hz. This is a loud noise and above the typical hearing range of a snake, so scientists can rule out communication.
The term has, rather aptly, been coined “cloacal popping”.
The reality of the sound is like a squeaky, but shorter, human fart without the smell. It is thought that the “fart” can be heard over two meters away!
While relatively rare, another snake species, the western hook-nosed snake, uses the same method of producing cloacal popping. This suggests the two species have a potential predator in common.
Reason 3: Brumation
Most people have heard of hibernation, right? The process whereby animals spend a period of their life, most often winter, in a dormant state. Metabolic activity and body temperature are greatly reduced.
Certain species of snakes, especially those that live in regions with defined seasons, also go through a form of hibernation: brumation.
Brumation, in its simplest form, is hibernation for cold-blooded animals.
If a snake has recently eaten before starting a period of brumation, this may lead to indigestion and increased flatulence.
Whilst the snake shuts down its metabolism, the food remains within the gut for a long time. The undigested food begins to decompose, releasing gas that the snake must expel.
This mostly occurs in wild snake populations. Most captive pet snakes will have a specialized heat-controlled vivarium that eliminates the need for brumation altogether.
Should I Be Concerned That My Snake Is Farting?
Farting, though not a very common occurrence, is natural in snakes.
Snake farts, unlike our own, do not smell. So, if you start noticing an unpleasant odor coming from your snake, you may wish to seek medical advice.
A pungent smell could be one of the first signs of a bacterial infection around the cloaca or within the intestines.
However, other intestinal problems could be the cause of the issue. This could be from viral, fungal, parasitic, tumor-related, obstruction, or poor welfare standards.
Parasitic infections, as well as swallowing air while feeding, have also been shown to increase fluctuance for a period of time. In most cases, snakes suffering from indigestion will fart more frequently, but only for a period of a couple of days.
An early diagnosis from a trained professional may help shed light on any intestinal problems your snake may be experiencing.
There we have it, snakes do fart!
Although farting is not common in snakes, it is still a normal behavior and perfectly healthy.
Some snakes may deliberately fart to clean their cloaca from environmental irritants. Others use farts as a way of warding off predators.
However, if you notice that your snake has been farting excessively, or if there is a bad-smelling odor, then a trip to the exotic pet specialist may be advised.