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From time to time you may experience problems with your snails. Very little is known about what these illnesses are, what causes them, and even less is known about treatments. Unfortunately it seems more time is spent on increasingly more ingenious ways to kill them.

Because of this, the following information is a mix of whatever research is possible and available, theory and hypothesis, logical thinking and the result of various discussions with a large group of snail owners. It is with the help of the community at large, that these problems can at least be documented. Where possible I have tried to link to example incidents.

Hopefully, we can find some effective solutions to the majority of these problems but for now I'm afraid you'll have to be content with various suggestions and discussion.

Swollen Body

There are two types of swollen body to consider:

Swelling caused by external sources

Whilst trying to feed a snail that refused to eat, I had the idea to try and feed through the skin. I sat the snail in a solution of water with a few drops of liquid vitamins added. On one occasion, I must have made it too concentrated because the body of the snail puffed up. The foot began to curl because of the swelling and I noticed the mantle extending from beyond the shell. In fact it looked like the shell was loose and could be slid off. This is either a defensive reaction of some sort or, perhaps more likely, a bad and not necessarily natural reaction to chemical agents trying to permeate the skin.

Bathing the snail in water caused an immediate reduction in swelling and within minutes there were no signs of the bloating at all. The snail in all respects seemed as it was before the incident.

The point is that, if you are unsure about a chemical or substance but you need to use it, then you must touch the snails body with a tiny amount before exposing them to it in larger quantities. If the substance is not acceptable, the snail will often produce mucus in response if the substance is applied locally and not generally, and not suffer any ill effects.

Snails have chemical receptors on their lower tentacles and if the snails is active it is worth seeing the response of the snail to a substance when it is put in front of it to find.

Swelling caused by internal sources

You may have heard of swelling caused by pasta. There is a particularly graphic account described here:


There are no doubt other foods that could have the same effect and actually millet caused the same swelling problem. If this happens to you with other foods please let us know so we can warn others against it. In mild cases the snails can recover but particularly bad cases result in death. In these bad cases fluid can be seen through the snails body and often leaking from the pneumostome (breathing hole).

"Not only was it's body filled with fluid, giving it a really bloated appearance, but it had pushed it's body from the shell, - as if to make new shell growth but on a massive scale. Instead of a millimetre rim of body where the area of new growth was, which I would expect, especially when the snail has over-eaten, there was an area of body showing that was a good 3 centimetres at it's widest part. Obviously the snail had been unable to digest the pasta, especially in such a large quantity, and his body had undergone some violent reaction causing swelling, fluid retention and death. Christabel Ashby - The Snail Pages".

Fredrik Häljesgård (someone else who witnessed this problem after feeding cooked millet) did a post-mortem examination and remarked:

"All the swelling was gone, but the body had taken a lot of beating from it. I took the chance to examine this Achatina smithii as well. The digestive organs were full of faeces, it almost looked like the snail had been eating vermiculite. It seems that they are not able to digest the millet at all, since the millet could easily be spotted in the remains."

Even the snails that survived with no problems sported completely undigested millet in their faeces.

From this post-mortem, it would seems that the most likely explanations are the following...

  • The undigested food causes a blockage in the digestive system, somehow inhibiting the release of water and other fluids which then get retained and cause the swelling. Particularly bad cases may have even had a ruptured organ causing leakage into other areas of the body.
  • The food somehow holds the water too tightly and means that the water is not extracted in the gut at the point it is supposed to be causing bloating.

...the former being the most likely.

Possible Treatment

The only course of action available is to keep the snail in a humid environment as its abnormal size will prevent it retracting. You just have to wait for the snail to pass what it's eaten to clear any blockage. For snails with particularly acute symptoms, there may be some milage in puncturing the body to relieve some of the snails discomfort from the swelling. The body can and will be healed if the snail survives the swelling.

Further Reading

To search the forum for threads definitely relevant to this problem click here.

To search the forum for threads that may be relevant click here.