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Oct 29, 2019

Never Forget the Danger Within

Avoid these deadly heat pack mistakes.

What is the most dangerous aspect of shipping reptiles? The ubiquitous heat pack. Without question, the most dangerous part of the entire shipping process is the heat pack inside the box. The vast majority of deaths during shipping are caused by the misuse of heat packs—mistakes that could have been--should have been--easily avoided. 

We've reached the time of the year when the use of heat packs is essential to safe shipping, and when used properly, they are a valuable tool for success. Please read the following very carefully and pass it on to everyone you know that may consider shipping animals. 

When we think of reptiles, we often imagine them in hot climates like deserts or tropical forests, but the fact is, reptiles come from a huge range of climates and temperature zones and have an equally huge range of temperature tolerances. One thing they all have in common, though, is that they are far more tolerant of temperatures that are too cold for them than they are of temperatures that are too warm. 

A few degrees too chilly will simply slow most reptiles down. A few degrees too warm can cause neurological damage, and a few degrees warmer than that can cause death. The risk of a respiratory infection caused by cooler temperatures is far smaller and less dangerous than the risks of permanent damage or death that are caused by too much heat. 

Heat packs are intended to keep the shipping box from getting TOO cold. They are NOT intended to make the box “warm”.  

We have set up some very specific guidelines for when to use heat packs and when not to use them. By carefully following these guidelines, you can mitigate most of the risk and ensure yourself the highest chance of success in shipping during cold weather. 

You MUST check the DAYTIME HIGH temperatures at both the origin AND the destination of your shipment. If the high temperature is 70 degrees or more at either end of the journey, then do NOT use a heat pack. If the high temperatures are both below 70 degrees, then a heat pack may be used. If the daytime highs at each location straddle the different parameters (ie: 85 degrees at origin and 60 degrees at destination) then CALL US at 303-730-2125 to receive specific directions on whether or not to use heat for that shipment. Failure to do so will nullify any Live Arrival Insurance for that shipment.

Amphibian shipments have a slightly different temperature range to be aware of. All the specific details can be found on the FAQ pages of our website.  


Using a heat pack when it's too warm outside.

If the HIGH temperature at either location (origin or destination) is 70 degrees or above, do NOT use a heat pack!

Overnight lows do not factor into this equation. During the night, your package is either on the plane or in a warehouse, both of which are temperature controlled.

Properly insulated boxes will protect against the short transition periods between buildings and planes.

Remember: Cooler temperatures are much easier for the animal to endure than temps that might get too warm!

Using the wrong type of heat pack. 

Hand warmers and other small heat packs that can be purchased at big box stores or sporting goods stores are NOT the same as what we sell. They burn very hot for a short period of time and can cook the animals in the box.

We sell 40-hour and 72-hour heat packs specifically designed to release a measured amount of heat over a long stretch of time. They do not get too hot and they will last for the duration of your Priority Overnight shipment. 

Using too many heat packs.

Some people seem to think that if one heat pack is “enough” then more should be even better. Perhaps they reason that “reptiles like it hot”. Making it “hot” should never be the goal! You just don’t want it to get too cold. 

ONE heat pack is plenty in all but our largest box. If you use the 30x16x10 box, then one heat pack secured at each end of the long box is fine. But anything smaller, a single pack will be more than enough!

Too much heat in too small a space.

We strongly recommend that shippers do NOT use heat packs of any sort in the small 6x6x6 or 7x7x6 boxes. There is often not enough room to provide a buffer zone between the animal and the heat. Plus, the heat can become too concentrated in such a small space.

While some experienced shippers have success at using heat packs in the small boxes, we find that the margin for error is far too slim to be comfortable recommending the practice.

We prefer to use heat packs only in boxes 12x9x6 or larger. 

Loose heat packs.

Heat packs should never come in direct contact with the animal or the container it’s in, whether it is a bag or a deli cup. 

Never put the pack beneath the animal or the container it is in. This traps heat and concentrates it enough to cause burns or even death. It’s the equivalent of laying your animal on top of one of those evil old heat-rocks from the 80’s.

The pack must be taped securely to the underside of the styrofoam lid with enough space to allow a barrier of packing material between the pack and the animal.

Lack of ventilation.

Heat packs consume oxygen in order to work. The red stripe on the pack indicates a ventilated area where air is drawn in. If you tape over this stripe, air cannot get to the material inside and the pack cannot get warm.

Holes must be punched into the shipping box (four holes total, two at each end) all the way through the styrofoam inserts. A Philips screwdriver is a great tool for easily punching through and achieving a perfect 1/4" sized hole. This allows fresh air into the box to allow the pack to work properly without consuming all the oxygen in the box.

Carefully review our guidelines for heat pack use.

All it takes to succeed is an understanding of what your reptile actually needs, what the real purpose of a heat pack is, and a little bit of common sense.

We are ALWAYS happy to help guide you through the decision of whether or not heat should be used for any particular shipment. The safety and well-being of your animals is our highest priority!