Brumation in reptiles



It’s that time of year again. Reptile owners around the country are wondering why their snake or lizard has stopped, well, doing anything! They are doing something though, they are “brumating”. This is the reptile equivalent to hibernating. The animal’s activity will slow down, they will seek out the coolest area of their habitat, and will slow down or cease to eat. In this area of the country, early fall through mid-February is when this phenomenon usually occurs. The reason for this is that they take cues from the shorter days, dropping temperatures, and even barometric changes.

To a reptile owner this is very scary stuff! But the good news is, it can be completely normal. Even with perfect husbandry, temperatures, and humidity, these animals will do what nature tells them.

During brumation their heart rate drops and respiratory rate decreases. In some cases, these animals can completely stop eating, drinking, and defecating. A pet that is healthy and has good energy reserves will sluggishly wait for spring with little to no issues.

But how do you know if your reptile is brumating or something is really wrong? Not all reptiles will display this behavior which is why it is important if your pet shows signs of brumating, to have his veterinarian assess his health. This includes examination of a fecal sample to test for intestinal parasites. During the appointment, your veterinarian can discuss with you helpful habitat and husbandry tips for his species. You can also discuss if it would be better to try and delay brumation for the animals health, and if so, the different ways to do so.

If your pet is showing any signs of brumation, call and make an appointment with your veterinarian. Don’t forget when bringing in your pet during these frigid days, make sure they stay warm during travel and bring a fresh stool sample for testing.