Snakes from temperate climates are often made to hibernate in zoos to stimulate reproduction. Unfortunately, deaths have occurred during and after hibernation. This study evaluated the health status, pre- and posthibernation, of 31 adult viperid snakes. It included morphometric measurements, hematology, and blood chemistry. No differences were seen in body weights and weight to length ratios between pre- and posthibernation examinations, suggesting that the overall condition of the snakes did not change. No differences were seen in hematologic and blood chemistry parameters, except that bile acids (3α-hydroxybile acids) decreased, the implications of which are unknown. Three individuals had markedly high plasma uric acid levels posthibernation; of these, two individuals died from extensive visceral gout and one recovered with fluid therapy. Viperid snakes should be clinically healthy, well hydrated, and in good body condition when they are put into hibernation. They should be maintained in an environment with sufficient humidity and should have access to water. Blood samples should be collected on arousal for measuring plasma uric acid levels. Changes in morphometry, hematology, and blood chemistry appear to be abnormal and should be investigated thoroughly.
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Vol. 34 • No. 1