My Snake Won't Eat Check List

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nick_75

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Hi All,

I've written this up after seeing the thread posted by ronhalling some time ago.

Please make comments/edits and when everyone is happy with, we'll ask Rob to put it up somewhere.


My Snake Won’t Eat Check List


A problem/concern consistently encountered by new keepers is a snake not eating. This check list is to be used to problem solve some of the reasons snakes not eating.

As a general introduction into the biology of snakes, specifically the periodic necessity to feed, snakes do not need to feed with the same regularity as other animals. Most snake species in the wild go through periods of feast and famine. A good example of this extreme is The Chappell Island Tiger Snake. This species only has a regular food supply during the fledging season of the Mutton Bird that nests on the island. This period generally lasts only two to three months, the rest of the year the snake is without a regular food supply.

A snake can remain healthy and in good condition after going through an extended period of not eating. The snake will reduce body function to survive until a meal is available or environmental conditions reach the preferred ideal.

Keepers should monitor the body condition of the animal. An animal in good condition will be firm to the touch (good muscle mass), with no skeletal system visible. Pythons will exhibit a body shape of the following: a pronounced head with a thin neck region, a gradual increase of width to the body (the body will be the thickest part of the animal and will differ in length between each genus), then a gradual reduction of width to the tail. Females and males will differ in the body to tail region. Females retain more width in the body to tail region.

Most other species in the wild do not suffer such an extreme but do go through periods of not eating. Reasons for this can be due to the following:
  • Weather Conditions (to hot/cold)
  • Brumation
  • Breeding Season
Weather Conditions

A snake will only feed when digestion is possible, snakes require specific/consistent temperatures in order to digest meals.

Brumation

A snake will not eat generally through the period of brumation.

Breeding Season

Males, in particular, generally will not eat during the breeding season.

A keeper should be aware of the particular temperature range that each species requires and the extent of the species breeding season in order to diagnose if these reasons are causing the snake to refuse food. A keeper should be aware of the signs of brumation.

Another factor that can cause a snake to refuse a meal is stress.

Causes of stress can be:
  • A new environment (a new enclosure or the existing enclosure in a new room)
  • Let the animal settle in for a period of one to two weeks. Do not disturb or handle the animal during this period. Do usual water changes and necessary cleaning but limit interaction with the animal.
  • Light stress (some animals prefer darkness to feed)
  • Try feeding at night with no ambient light.
  • Not enough hides at different ends of the temperature gradient (snakes after feeding like to hide)
  • Providing hides at different give the snake the ability to thermoregulate and remain hidden.
Some snakes can be shy feeders, try covering the enclosure or leaving the food item in the enclosure overnight. Note: this is advisable with dead food items only.

Another factor that can cause a snake to refuse a meal is the food.

Problems with the food can be:
  • The size of the food
  • Try smaller food items.
  • The type of food may not be recognised as food or the lack of scent is not triggering a food response
  • Try scenting the food with bird feathers or lizard tails. Try braining or fresh killed food items.

Medical Conditions

Regularly check animals for lumps or swelling and other medical issues. Consult a vet if anything abnormal is discovered.

In conclusion, fasting is natural for snakes and should not be a worry for keepers as long as the animal is in good condition. Young snakes should be under more scrutiny by keepers.
 

Susannah

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Great post! Definitely one to keep pinned.

Another reason (at least for my little guy) is for shedding. He'll go from eating weekly/fortnightly to refusing food for up to 9(!!!) weeks until the whole sloughing process is done...plus a day to recover. It totally freaked me out the first couple of times, but he will shed, then go back to eating again regularly. I think he just likes to keep me on my toes!
 

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