What the hell can a snake do in my home? I know this is a question that many people may be asking themselves, but a snake is a companion pet. As a matter of fact, not all snakes are poisonous, and that is why it is not strange to find them in homes. Now for many years, I have been receiving calls from snake keepers seeking to know why their snakes are not feeding. That is because I'm an expert on snake diet, and I have been helping people from near and far arrest the situation of their snakes. Now before I dive into answering the above question, let me explain that most snakes will always feed without hesitation; thus, this post is not meant to propagate scare-mongering. So, what can cause my snake not to eat?
Like you and I, snakes may lack appetite to eat sometimes, and this is something I have experienced over the years. Personally, I have a couple of snakes in my home, and they have occasionally disappointed me when it comes to feeding. Thankfully, I have known how to fix the problem, and I have decided to share the same knowledge via this medium.
There are many reasons why my snake won't feed. For one, the reptile can fall sick, can be stressed, or the feeding environment may just not be appropriate. These causes, together with many more, are what I have compiled in this writeup to help any snake keeper out there restore the appetite of their pets. I have also included some of the practical solutions to apply to ensure that your snake eats on a consistent basis, stays healthy, and lives long to give you company. I have tried them myself and they have worked.
Personally, stress is one thing I fear most. It can eat you up, and it can cause slow death, and who wants slow death! Well, snakes, just like human beings, can have stress, leading to lack of appetite. And this can result from quite a number of things, which include bad environment: too much light, too much noise, and too hot/cold conditions. I also realized that my reptile can have stress if I introduce another snake, even if they are not sharing a vivarium. Just seeing a new snake around is a potential stressor.
But how do I know that my snake is stressed up? Well, there are many signs I watch out for. For one, the pet will tend to move around its enclosure. Yes, it's normal for a snake to move around, but too much moving should raise alarm, especially if it's depicting a sudden change of behavior. I also remember two occasions when my snake became stressed due to change of enclosure, so that new environment could as well be a potential cause of stress.
I have kids in my home and I know how aggressive they can get especially my last born son, Joe. This guy is just bad news, I'm telling you. He can be playing with my pet this minute, and the next minute he is launching a total war with the pet, hitting it with just about anything he finds. That is why he is always a suspect when my snake does not eat. Injury causes pain, and this is likely to directly affect the eating habits of the pet.
If you thought that constipation is unique to human beings, then you were wrong. Constipation is yet another potential culprit that can cause a snake not to eat. The causes of constipation in snakes are far and wide, including a hot enclosure, intestinal worms (which I will look at in detail in the next subheading), and meal size. Since the moisture in the environment determines how well a snake digests food, low humidity is more than likely to cause constipation. Of course, low humidity causes dehydration, which is a number one suspect when it comes to dehydration.
Just like human beings, snakes are not immune to intestinal worms. And while having some worms in the digestive system is normal/healthy, too much worms in the intestines is harmful to the health of the host, snakes included. I can simply tell that my snake has worms by simply looking at its stool. If the stool appearance is far from normal, then worms could be the potential culprits. If my snake is vomiting or experiencing diarrhea, then there are also chances of intestinal parasites.
Change of Food
One thing I realized is that my snake won't be happy with just about any food. Mice and rates are it's favorites, but things change when I try something else. And the rat has to be young, perhaps because the meat is soft and sweeter. A mature rat tends to be disliked, and this could be because the pet is not used to it. I just don't know whether your snake is used to mature or young rats, but my case is just like I have told you.
Skin shedding is part of a snake's life, and it's not uncommon for the reptile to refuse food when the cycle is just about to take place. The appetite may disappear just a few weeks to the shedding, but after the process, the snake should be able to regain it's appetite and feed normally. However, I realized that my snakes can lack appetite even up to a couple of weeks before the shedding. But how do I know that my snake is about to shed skin? Well, I usually look at the skin of my pet. If the skin appears dull and pale, then it's a sign that the process is just about to take place. In some cases, my snake's eyes may look milky; this is also a telltale sign.
Inappropriate Humidity and Heat
While I mentioned these two under stress, it pays to look at them in detail just a little bit so that you get to understand their effect on the feeding habits of snakes. First of all, let me admit that snakes are naturally sensitive to their surroundings, and they need the right humidity and temperature, which should mimic their natural environment, if they are to be comfortable. If the conditions are too cold, for instance, snakes usually become inactive, and that is why a snake hardly bites in the morning. Being a cold-blooded animal, the snake's body temperature varies depending on the surrounding. A warm environment, on the other hand, makes snakes active, and this aids in proper digestion.
At What Point Should It Be a Concern?
As I did mention at the onset, it's normal for a snake to refuse food, and that doesn't mean that I have to call my exotics vet as soon as I realize that my snake is not eating. Rather than give in to blind panic, I prefer giving it time just to be sure that something is not right. When my snake consistently refuses to eat, that is the time it becomes a concern, and I usually begin by finding out what the cause could be. Depending on the cause of the problem, the following are some of the solutions I have been applying on my snakes, and they have worked.
I usually phone my exotics vet as soon as I realize that my snake has worms. The best and perhaps the only solution is deworming. Of course, the vet will come and do his own examination before he administers a drug. However, it must be a licensed vet; not just anyone who knows a thing or two about snakes.
While I'm one of the luckiest people in the world to live where the temperatures and humidity seem to be perfect, it's my advice to snake keepers to ensure that their pets are not living in an environment that is too cold or too hot. I know of my friend who uses a humidity controller to ensure that the humidity in his home favors his pet. A good idea indeed.
Change of Food
If my snake won't feed as a result of a departure from the regular food it's used to, then I would simply withdraw the new food and reintroduce the familiar food it's used to, and this has always worked. If the food is cold, I may decide to warm it.
If preshedding is causing my snake not to eat, I simply give it time, and my pet will soon pounce on its food. One thing I realized here is that the appetite will not come back instantly. So, I have to be a little bit patient.
Other practical solutions include change of the feeding environment and soaking the snake in warm water to address stress and constipation respectively.
Snakes are treasured pets, and they deserve the best life. That is why I'm always concerned when my snake fails to eat. The good thing, however, is that there are solutions to the problem. The best approach is to determine what is causing the snake not to eat and address just that. This is what I do, and you too can do the same for your pet.