There is a massive difference between the feeding habits of reptiles, mammals, amphibians, and birds. While a healthy snake will mostly feed without any issues, sometimes you might notice that yours seems to reject food. This is a common occurrence mostly during Winter. If a snake is not feeding, should it cause an alarm? What should I do when I can't get my snake to feed and it's not during winter?
Although the loss of appetite is a natural behavior of snakes, it could also be due to illness or minor environmental adjustments. If it's a first-time occurrence, then there is no cause for alarm; however, a frequent loss of appetite with symptoms like mouth ulcers needs medical intervention.
From this article, you will learn about what it might mean when a king snake that is not feeding. I will help you explore some remedies, and hopefully, you will find one that works.
What to Do When My King Snake Won't Eat?
Snakes do not feed all the time. This is because they have great control of their metabolism, which fluctuates to suit their survival. However, after you have observed your pet, it's essential to ask yourself some vital questions. For instance, how often does the snake eat? If your king snake is not eating, explore the following considerations:
Snakes don't eat often
Younger or smaller snakes eat twice a week, whereas larger or older ones can go a week before desiring any food. Some, such as the ball python, will go for even six months or longer without eating. If you have an older snake used to feeding once in 3 weeks, do not be surprised if it refuses to feed weekly.
What is the ideal food for my snake?
Understand what food the snake eats. Does it prefer live, fresh pre-killed, or frozen prey? Certain snakes are afraid of live game, while some can only eat prey they can overpower.
If during the feeding process a snake does not know how to get to the food you give it, or it gets hurt in the process, it might develop a phobia. Most snakes are chasers and they prefer to go after an animal thus they may develop some pickiness when it comes to scent and can refuse to eat frozen prey.
Why Do Snakes Lose Their Appetite?
Snakes have many reasons that make them lose their desire to eat. The following are some of the causes of snake anorexia:
Snakes shed their skin periodically, depending on their age. Your king snake might be feeling itchy and uncomfortable during this period. As a result, it may not eat a week before shedding and a week after. If you suspect that molting is the cause, then wait and check up after a few days to confirm whether it has molted, then try feeding your king snake again.
How to Tell When a Snake is Experiencing Pre-molt Anorexia
There are certain signs you can look for in your King snake to determine whether it's shedding. These include:
- Pale Skin
- Dull Skin
- Bluish and milky eyes
- Decreased activity levels
- Loss of appetite
- Aggression or defensive behavior
- Seeks out rough surfaces to rub off old skin
- May look for water to soak in.
If it's shedding here are a few things you could do to help with the process:
- Check the humidity level and adjust accordingly.
- Give your snake plenty of space, and minimize contact.
- Soak your snake in lukewarm water if it is struggling to shed.
- Do not remove the patches of remaining skin, especially around the eyes, without professional help.
- Seek medical intervention when you notice abscess or blisters on the skin.
- Low Temperature and Humidity Controls
Every animal likes to live in an area where they are comfortable. If the cage is too humid or too hot, the snake may refuse to eat it's prey.
Just like any other cold-blooded animal, snakes have an extreme dependence on their environment. A warm atmosphere helps the snake to digest food. If the snake's cage is too cold, the snake can develop digestive problems and thus lose it's desire to try feeding. When the digestion becomes slow, the food rots inside the snake's belly, causing severe illness.
Incorrect humidity can cause respiratory and skin disorders. This discomfort causes it to keep off feeding. A digital hygrometer is highly recommended to maintain.
- No Hiding Place
A high traffic environment where the snake cannot hide can cause increased stress and anorexia. Some snakes, especially in old age, prefer to stay away from the open. Some want to sleep more or are naturally nocturnal. Hides and climbable items provide an ideal environment for such snake behaviors.
- Diseases and Parasites
When snakes are suffering from an illness or parasitic infestation, they will less likely demonstrate the desire to eat. It's essential to check for symptoms such as;
- Discolored Scales
- Wheezing sounds when breathing
- Oral or nasal discharge
- Mouth sores
Growing snakes require more food and are likely to eat more. However, older snakes eat far less and may even go for a week without wanting to eat.
When snakes accidentally consume something they cannot digest, they get obstructed. When this happens, they cannot eat anything else. Once you notice an obstruction, take your snake to the vet as it may require surgery.
There are certain times when a snake may fail to get enough moisture from it's environment. As a result, it fails to defecate regularly and gets impacted. To help an impacted snake, give the snake warm water soaks for 15-20 minutes a day so that it can be able to pass stool normally.
What Do Snakes Eat?
All snakes are carnivores. However, there is no universal diet for snakes. It's very fundamental to understand the dietary needs of your pet snake. Different types of snakes will prefer varying feeds.
Egg Eating Snakes
There are only two breeds of snakes that exclusively eat eggs; the African egg-eating snake and the Indian Egg Eater. Some snakes like the Black Rat Snake can eat eggs, but only when other food forms are unavailable.
These types of snakes are adapted to exclusively eating animal eggs. They have a particular spur in their vertebral hypophysis that sticks out and crushes the egg after they swallow it through. This is not present in snakes that cannot digest eggs.
Lizards, Frogs, Worms, Fish, and Insects
Snakes like the Garter snake, feed on lizards, insects, tadpoles, fish, and frogs. Some cannot eat rodents, but can feed on any prey they can overpower. Snakes that eat fish should be fed every five days, while those that eat worms should eat twice a week.
Rodent Eating Snakes
Some snakes feed on rats primarily. They squeeze their prey to death and swallow it whole. They prefer small rodents such as mice, rats, and moles.
How to Increase the Appetite of a Snake
You can improve the appetite of your snake, especially when it's not sick or experiencing molting. This can be done by:
Know Your King Snake's Preferences
As highlighted above, some snakes like eating rats, while some prefer fish or lizards. Moreover, some change their diet periodically. It's impossible to entice a snake to eat when you do not know what it should be eating. While most animals prefer variety, dependence on a single prey is frequently seen with snakes.
Do thorough research on the kind of snake you have and know its feeding needs. It will be much easier to increase its appetite when you know it's diet.
Reduce its stress
When a snake is stressed, it won't eat normally. It's desire for food decreases, and it becomes fixated upon eliminating whatever is causing it stress and discomfort. Specific actions such as excessive handling of snakes that have not yet adjusted to their new environment, and poor living conditions or sickness can cause immense stress.
Ensure that your king snake has ample time to rest and settle. Keep track of temperature and maintain humidity levels accordingly. Moreover, ensure that the snake has enough hiding space.
Switch it up from time to time
For some species, monotony can be dull. Switching up the color of the prey to brown or black can encourage your snake to eat. Most laboratory mice are white, and some species are genetically inclined towards darker shades. Although some are conditioned to accept white mice, do not assume your king snake will act the same.
Different light intensities will excite the snake. Feeding it in subdued lighting or total darkness instead of glaring light may increase its appetite immensely.
Warm the food
You can try warming the food before feeding it to the snake. This makes it appear like a recently dead animal. Some snakes want to feed on a warm meal, especially if inclined towards eating warm-blooded animals.
Most new owners feel helpless when their pet snake refuses to eat. If the snake is not ill, anorexia is natural. Patience and tolerance are fundamental in learning what, when, and how, to feed your snake. Ensure the snake is comfortable and in a stress-free environment. Continuously regulate the temperature and maintain minimal contact, especially with a new snake, until it adapts.