Common Health Issues in Pet Land Snails

Common Health Issues in Pet Land Snails (Archachatina spp., Achatina spp., etc.)

Giant African land snails (such as Archachatina sp. and Achatina sp.) are fascinating creatures to keep as pets. With their distinctive shells, they can make a great addition to any collection. However, caring for them can also be a challenge, and hobbyists must be prepared to meet the specific needs of these creatures.

Improper handling, suboptimal environmental conditions, and wrong diets are one of the most reasons why they become sick and stressed.

In this article, I will examine the main problems that hobbyists may encounter when keeping Giant Land snails and provide tips for their proper care.

Giant African land snails are not similar to dogs or cats. We can’t measure their temperature measured or undergo tests. Most vet clinics won’t be able to provide assistance as well.

Therefore, it’s important to learn how to determine their health. Symptoms of the illness include:

  • sluggish behavior,
  • loss of appetite,
  • weigh loss,
  • closure of the shell entrance,
  • retreat into the shell,
  • excessive mucus (white foam),
  • shell problems (peeling, breaking, etc.).

Improper Handling (GALS)

Giant African land snails have delicate bodies, and improper handling can lead to body damage. When handling them, it is important to support their entire body, including the shell, to avoid any stress or injury.

Both adults and children may harm the snail by improperly picking it up by its shell and forcibly removing it from a smooth surface, causing strain on the muscles that secure the shell. This may result in shell damage or injury to the snail’s internal organs.

Advise:

The correct way to handle a giant land snail is to moisten the surface it is on, then use a moist hand to lift it softly and very slowly, supporting its head with a finger. Another way to hold them is to use a large cabbage leaf.

Environment Changes

Giant African land snails are sensitive to temperature and humidity levels. Depending on the species, their terrarium should have a temperature range of around 68 – 82°F (20 – 28°C) and relative humidity of 60-80%.

At low temperatures, the snail usually falls into a state of stupor (hibernation) and can die, while under the influence of direct sunlight or a hot temperature – it can almost “cook alive” in the terrarium.

If the environment is too dry, the snail’s shell can become dehydrated, leading to health problems.

Advise:

Monitor your temperature and humidity. Do not allow it to fluctuate too much.

When the environment is unfavorable, snails will naturally retreat into their shells for safety. Don’t attempt to force the shell open as it will only cause additional stress to the snail. Instead, allow the snail to come out of its shell on its own by providing a moist environment and placing food nearby.

Baths

Avoid submerging Large African snails in water as they can’t breathe underwater and may drown.

Advise:

Instead, give them a short, warm shower as a substitute for bathing, since they do enjoy moisture but it must be done with caution. The shower will mimic the rain in their natural habitat.

Do it once a month to keep them healthy.

Dirty Hands (Contaminations)

Many hobbyists also have cats and dogs in their homes. Of course, they periodically treat their hairy friends for fleas and other parasites.

Unfortunately, it is important to note that such treatments commonly used for dogs and cats can be highly toxic to Giant African land snails.

Almost the same can be said about hand creams, cleaning agents, and food residue (especially salt). Salt and household chemicals are the true enemies of these snails. When corrosive substances come into contact with the skin or internal organs of the mollusk, it releases a large amount of white foam.

Advise:

Clean your hands before handling. Do not use sprays near snail tanks. It may leave burns on the snail’s delicate body or even has a lethal effect on them.

Incorrect Feeding

Giant African land snails are nature’s natural scavengers. Basically, they will eat anything they come across.

Therefore, pet owners often mistakenly believe they can feed them any food. This can lead to health problems if they give snails fatty, salty, or spicy food from their own meals. Children may be particularly prone to making this mistake.

Advise:

Giant African land snails require a varied diet of fresh vegetables, fruits, and calcium supplements to maintain a healthy shell. For example, feeding them a diet that is too low in calcium can lead to shell thinning and softening.

Related article:

Losing Its Shell

A snail falling out of its shell can occur due to severe damage or genetic factors. Bacteria, infections, and fungi can also cause this issue.

Unfortunately, in 99% of cases, it leads to the death of the snail.

Related article:

Shell Diseases

Physical damage, fungal infections, contaminated substrate, too high or too low humidity/temperature, calcium imbalances, and vitamin deficiencies can cause shell problems for the Giant African land snails, including deformities and tissue changes.

To treat this, bathe the snail in chamomile and warm milk, clean its shell with a toothbrush, and clean the entire terrarium, replacing soil and accessories.

Ensure proper ventilation and avoid over-moistening the soil. Use Sphagnum moss to check humidity levels (if it is green, the humidity is OK).

Advise:

If you observe changes such as bumps, fragility, scaling, peeling, or gnawing, you need to check their environment and adjust the snail’s diet to include high-quality calcium sources like an eggshell.

Regular cleaning and using purified and aged water can prevent mold growth.

Health Issues

Giant African land snails are susceptible to a range of health problems, including:

1. Parasitic infections:

Snails can become infected with parasites such as nematodes, which can lead to serious health problems and even death.
A snail infected with worms becomes sluggish and loses weight, and some worms may even be visible on its body. If the owner does not take any action, the snail will die in most cases.
The following remedies are used for therapy: cucumbers and carrots, pumpkin seeds rubbed with the peel, and herbal infusions like chamomile, and aloe vera given in food or used for bathing.
Steps to take for a parasitic-infected snail:

  • Isolate the infected snail immediately from other snails.
  • Inspect other mollusks for signs of worm infection.
  • Clean the terrarium thoroughly and replace the substrate completely.

2. Infections (viruses and bacteria):

Treatment consists of the use of disinfectant solutions such as a very weak solution of manganese, penicillin, and streptomycin.

However, it is way easier to prevent infections than treat them. To prevent infection, the enclosure should be cleaned daily and the shell should be wiped periodically.

3. Internal Organ Dropping:

The causes of internal organ dropping in snails are unknown. Some people believe that it is because of overcooling, while others blame genetics or weak muscles due to lack of movement. What to do:

  • If the dropping is not severe, try to help the snail retrieve its organs by gently putting them back in place.
  • Ensure that the fallen organs do not dry out and that the mucus does not crack by keeping the snail moist.
  • I have seen people recommend startling the snail so that it retreats into its shell.
  • Another person reported success with the following method:  sterilize a needle with alcohol, and poke it. Once some liquid comes out, the snails should feel better.
Important: To be honest, I can’t recommend this method. If you decide that there is no other way to help the snail, you must take full responsibility for any possible negative consequences, as no one can guarantee success.

In Conclusion

To avoid all of the above-mentioned problems, simple and systematic daily actions can help. These include:

  • caring for the terrarium,
  • cleaning it and replacing the soil in a timely manner;
  • maintaining a balance of temperature and humidity;
  • selecting proper food, having a balanced diet and avoiding salty, cured, and sweet foods; handling raw fruits and vegetables, monitoring food freshness.

Keeping Giant African land snails as pets requires a certain level of commitment and care. Follow these rules and you will have a healthy pet snail that will bring joy for many years.

2 thoughts on “Common Health Issues in Pet Land Snails

  1. i have a question. my daughter brought home a garden snail she found. it was in her medicine cabinet for a little while and evidently crawled all over the place until she found it again. when i got it-the foot looked a little dried out, i thought it was dead. i put it in plastic tub with lid- not sealed so it can get air-we lift lid every day too to ensure enough oxygen. the problem was that i had little dixie cups in bathroom and used one to hold water and food and it ate the paper cup and seemed to use it to make shell or repair its shell. I have been feeding it hearts of romaine, i gave a peace lily leaf-it didnt seem to want it. and now gave carrot and egg shell. i am concerned with it making the shell out of the paper cup. what will happen with that? will it replace that with the calcium from egg shell? i know this is long, im sorry. weird situation too. we are living with my mother so it is hidden in the closet and i will turn light on…but we are kind of hiding it right now- so if your confused….

    1. Hi Andrea,
      No need to apologize for the length – it’s an interesting situation!
      Garden snails are quite resourceful. The snail may have used the paper cup to supplement its shell, and while it’s not an ideal material, introducing calcium from the eggshell should help improve the shell quality. Over time, as the snail continues to consume a calcium-rich diet, its shell should strengthen.
      Feeding hearts of romaine, carrot, and eggshell is a good choice. Just ensure a variety of calcium-rich foods for optimal shell development.
      Feel free to keep me posted.
      Best regards,
      Michael

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