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Posted by JohnRobinson on March 16, 2003 at 15:57:06:
In Reply to: SUCCESS!!!! posted by greg woodie on March 16, 2003 at 00:07:20:
Thiaminase is an enzyme that breaks down vitamin B1 (also known as thiamin, of all things!) When a snake is fed a steady diet which is thiamin deficient a series of neurological problems and eventual death can occur.
Calcium and vitamin D3 are an important supplement in lizard diets because they eat foods (insects) which are low in calcium and lizards seem to need higher levels of vitamin D3 to properly regulate absorption and excretion of calcium and phosphorus. Lizards normally spend much more time basking in the sun than snakes do and Vitamin D3 is produced in the lizards body when sunlight reacts with Vitamin D precursors in it's skin. Captive lizards often do not have the luxury of sunbathing so additional D3 is helpful for them.
Snakes, on the other hand, get plenty of calcium from their mostly vertebrate diet and don't seem to need supplemental D3 or calcium.
I worked for the Academy of Natural Sciences in Philadelphia where I was in charge of maintaining a large collection of snakes for educational purposes. Our water snakes consistently developed neuroligical problems and eventually died on thier diet of smelt. After doing some research on similar problems with captive marine mammals(seals) fed a smelt diet we began a regimen of scooping out the internal organs of the smelt and then dusting the body cavity with powdered vitamins that contained vitamin B3 (Reptivite works well). After that we no longer had any more problems with the natricines and snakes that were showing signs of weakness and disorientation quickly recovered.
I think that if you get one of the reptile vitamin supplements (rather than the calcium/D3 supplements) you will avoid all the problems caused by thiaminase in fish and have a bunch of healthy snakes! A few mice now and then or even as a steady diet will also solve the thiaminase problem although not all garters/waters will eat them.