Lets talk BACTERIA
Yes, I do mean that. Odd topic perhaps, I know, but this is something I wonder if many keepers have thought about. Bear with me because this is a bit of a long one, but hopefully a good one.
Someone asked me today – What do you use to clean your enclosures? My answer surprised them. I use warm water and dish soap. No, I do not routinely sterilize my enclosures.
Let’s consider the world we live in today where the incorrect use of chemical compounds has created super bugs, and poor life choices have led to bad immune system function. Antibiotic resistance is a fairly well known topic. However, did you know that resistance also develops to house hold cleaners, antiseptic solutions, parasiticides, antifungals, and antivirals? It’s a scary world we live in today where so many individuals are colonized by super bugs and don’t even know it; OR have such poor immunity that even their own healthy normal flora can make them sick.
There is an alternative to using antiseptics to protect ourselves from disease. That alternative is to maintain normal good bacteria and a healthy immune system. This is true of us humans AND our pets.
By repeatedly sterilizing our environment with cleaners like Rocal, Nolvasan, and F10 we are killing all microbes, even the good ones. Our bodies need our normal flora alive and well for things like gastrointestinal health and immune system function. A population of healthy normal flora can OUT COMPETE the bad bacteria and help your immune system fight them off. However, if your immune system never has a chance to see those potential pathogens it cannot form a defense against them. Allowing ourselves exposure to small amounts of pathogens through normal healthy living is what keeps us strong and adaptable to new diseases.
Yes, I use antiseptic products when cleaning our ICU enclosures, quarantine, and surgery suites. No, I do not use them in the Snake Haus healthy animal areas. Instead, we use good husbandry and cleaning practices to ensure the amount of bacteria in the environment stays at an acceptable level. That means changing out dirty substrate and water much more often than most people do.
I cringe when I hear people say they like deep substrate because it helps absorb the urine and fecal material produced by the animal. Unfortunately, deep substrate soaked in excrement is an excellent environment for bacteria to grow. You may have seen that we use layers of brown paper and mats for our snakes rather than deep substrate. I do this because it makes it impossible to hide how dirty, or clean, each enclosure is. When it does get dirty simply roll the paper up and replace it – ta-dah! Clean enclosure in 30 seconds flat!
Another aspect of this is STRESS! We all know that too much stress causes us humans to have lower immune system health. That is true of our snakes as well. Simple things like appropriate hides, climbers, and cage furniture can lower your snake’s stress level so much that it gives them an immune boost!
Snakes are like us and benefit from having healthy normal flora and low stress living. May I suggest we strive to improve our husbandry to a high enough level that we don’t need our animals to live in a sterile environment?
Ok now go outside and play in dirt for your own health 😃 Cheers!