A curiosity of snakes or owning one as a pet may lead to you asking questions about what they can and cannot eat and drink. We know that snakes need to hydrate and drink water, but how about milk? Do snakes consume milk as part of their diet, and can you feed it to them? Is this something that a mother snake will provide her offspring?
So, do snakes drink milk? Snakes do not drink milk, nor is there any need for them to do so. Drinking milk and lactating are mammalian traits. As reptiles, snakes do not have mammary glands, nor can they produce milk and lactate.
Mammals are renowned for drinking the milk of their mothers.
On the other hand, humans are unique because some of us continue to drink milk into our adult years and do so from other mammals (cows, goats, etc.).
While it may be tempting to offer your snake milk or think this is a way of providing extra nutrition, you should continue to read this article.
We will be discussing why this is not the best of ideas and what you should do instead.
Do Snakes Drink Milk?
Snakes don’t drink milk; they drink only water and on occasion at that. Snakes are reptiles, and therefore, have no connection to milk.
Baby mammals drink milk naturally from their mothers as a way to acquire nutrition.
So, for non-mammals, a need or liking for milk doesn’t exist.
If a snake is very dehydrated, it might drink whatever fluid is available, even if this was milk.
However, doing so is likely to do more harm than good.
For any animal to digest and process milk (whether this is cow’s milk, goat’s milk, etc.), the enzyme lactase must be present in the intestine.
This enzyme works to break down a protein compound known as lactose, which is present and abundant in most milk (unless it has been processed out).
This is why some people are unable to digest dairy; they are what we call lactose intolerant.
This is also why you get lactose-free milk products and why these very individuals are able to consume them safely without any consequence.
Equally, snakes do not have lactase in their digestive systems. When you think about it, all species of snake are technically lactose intolerant.
There are legendary myths in India involving snakes sipping milk from the cow’s udder and drinking milk offered to gods and goddesses.
These are just stories, and we cannot confirm whether these events ever occurred. Nor can they be rationalized from a genetic or scientific standpoint.
If you wanted to offer milk to provide nutrients and minerals, there are better options.
First and foremost, you want to ensure they are consuming a varied diet.
This should include rodents, worms, insects, and even fish.
Insects are perhaps one of the most nutritious food sources you can introduce.
They are easy and practical to feed, and they store for a long time.
This is the best source of crickets available on Amazon that many snake owners swear by.
Do Snakes Drink Milk From Their Mother?
As reptiles, mother snakes do not make milk for their offspring.
Reptiles (like turtles, lizards, and crocodiles) do not feed their young at all.
Mother snakes aren’t very maternal, and many do not even protect and guard their eggs before they hatch.
Baby snakes absorb the rest of the yolk in their eggs before hatching, and they can survive off the yolk for weeks, as necessary.
The most a mother snake does for their young is to indicate that food is present.
Baby snakes are relatively independent from day one.
Serpents are precocial creatures meaning that they are pre-developed when they hatch.
Therefore they don’t require parental care and nurturing the way mammals need it.
The ability to hunt and look after themselves is coded into their DNA. The remainder of their egg yolk will keep them going, but soon after, they will venture out and look for prey independently.
Some snake species can eat animals their own size while others eat smaller animals, at least when they are young.
Many snakes can eat animals as large as themselves because they can unhinge their jaws and expand their mouths to a much larger capacity. This allows them to swallow live animals whole.
The boa constrictor is an example of a snake species that can consume large prey like deer and gazelle whole.
What Do Snakes Drink?
The only liquid that snakes can drink is water. This is true for all species of snake. As with all living beings, snakes require water to live. If they can’t get access to water, they will dehydrate and inevitably die.
Many people wrongly believe that a snake will get all the water they need from their food.
While they do acquire some hydration here, they do require access to freshwater. Some snake species require less water than others, but they all must hydrate.
Snakes are notorious for their split forked tongue, which, as you can imagine, is not ideal for drawing fluid.
This is not much of an issue as snakes only need to drink water rarely. When they do so, they drink in a very peculiar and engaging way.
As mentioned, snakes derive some water from food, but when they are drinking out of thirst, their bottom jaw enables them to do so.
The bottom area of a snake’s mouth has many tiny grooves that absorb water like a sponge. The snake’s jaw muscle can siphon water into the snake’s mouth.
Some snakes take water from rivers or ponds. For pet snakes, they will take it from the water bowls and dishes you provide. Corner dishes are particularly useful.
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Snakes will put their mouths into a water source, and it will appear as if their jaws are moving to get water into their bodies.
Their jaws are not doing the work; the capillaries in their lower jaw absorb water into their body.
Muscles in the intestine then carry water towards the serpent’s stomach.
For instance, Boa constrictors suck water into their bodies via a tiny hole in their mouth – as if drinking through a straw.
This happens because the skin in the lower jaw can open slightly, and it enables the free movement of water directly into the stomach and the intestines.
This way of drinking water is ideal as snakes do not have organs to allow them to get water into their bodies in the way mammals can.
Other snakes will draw water through tiny holes in their skin. They hydrate through the water droplets that are present and acquired through the atmosphere.
It is truly a marvel of nature when you think about it when you consider all the restrictions snakes endure to get hydrated.
If you have a pet snake and are concerned that they’re not hydrated enough, you can do a simple check. All you need to do is gently grasp the skin on your snake’s neck.
If the surface has enough elasticity, it will go back as soon as you let it go. In this case, the snake is not dehydrated.
If, however, the skin doesn’t go back straight away and stays loose, your snake is dehydrated, and it needs water right away.
Snakes are amazing creatures; they are capable of hunting and feeding themselves from the moment they hatch.
They don’t need to learn anything, and all they require for life, nature has provided for them.
Snakes are reptiles, and the main distinction from mammals is that they don’t produce milk.
As such, they do not drink it. They do not have the enzymes in place to even break it down.
Instead, snakes drink water, albeit infrequently.
Nonetheless, snakes need water to hydrate and be healthy. Snakes can and often suffer from constipation, which is usually a result of insufficient water intake.
Snakes are cold-blooded and predatory; they survive by eating rodents, birds, fish, frogs, insects, and other animals.
It is unwise to offer milk or any dairy product to any reptile, including a snake. If you own a pet snake, you must try to replicate their natural diet as closely as possible.
Many animals are omnivorous and can enjoy a wide variety of foods, and can drink milk and water.
Snakes, on the other hand, receive all the nutrients they need on their entire meat-based diet.
If you did want to treat them or boost their nutrition, opt for a high-quality insect product; this is your best option.
Be sure only ever to offer your snake water, that is the only liquid they will ever need to drink.
I am a practiced pet owner with decades of experience owning a number of different pets. I am also the main writer and chief editor here at Pet Educate; a site I created to share everything I’ve learned about pet ownership over the years and my extensive research along the way.