Your pet snake leads a fairly easy life and doesn't have to avoid predators or hunt for its food, but it can still develop anorexia or lose its appetite. Even if you can keep your pet's environment almost perfectly where it should be in terms of temperature and humidity, you can't always entice him to eat.
Of course, if a snake doesn't eat for an extended period of time, it may end up getting infections or starving to death. So you need to find out what causes the anorexic symptoms or if your otherwise healthy snake refuses to eat for more than a few weeks, how to intervene.
Why snakes lose their appetite
In some cases is loss of appetite a natural component of a snake's behavior, but it can also be the result of a problem that you may be able to solve with small adjustments to the environment or diet. a visit to your exotics veterinarian.
Natural causes that do not require intervention
Your snake will lose its appetite from time to time as a natural part of its life cycle. When this happens, there is no need to take action because your snake is perfectly healthy. It is important to remember that the eating habits of reptiles are very different from those of mammals. Of course, it is important to monitor your snake's behavior to make sure that what appears to be a natural loss of appetite is not a sign of illness.
Fell is the most common cause of loss of appetite: your snake may stop eating when it is about to molt or shed its skin. On top of the anorexia at the time of shedding, your snake's skin may become very pale and dull, its eyes blue and milky. Your snake might not eat anything for a week before and after molting.
Other natural causes of appetite that do not require intervention include:
- Seasonal changes: Your snake may respond to changing seasons with changes in its appetite.
- Attempts to hibernate: Some snakes naturally hibernate, and cooler weather can lower your snake's energy level and appetite.
- Age Factors: younger snakes grow and need more food than older snakes; while younger snakes eat once a week, adult snakes eat much less.
Causes related to the environment
Snakes can react negatively to several environmental problems that you can easily solve. These include:
- Type of substrate. Snakes need a suitable substrate, and it is important to choose the right ground cover for your pet. Some types of wood shavings, such as cedar, can lead to parasites or even skin rot.
- Daylight-Darkness Cycle. Most snakes require a specific daylight-dark cycle to thrive in captivity, and it is up to the owner to research the proper light cycle for their pet. Once you know what your pet needs, it's easy to give it.
- Type of food. All snakes are carnivores, but different species require different types and amounts of food. If you are unsure of the ideal diet for your pet, contact your veterinarian.
- Need for privacy. Snakes need "snake shelters" in which they can comfortably disappear for part of the day. This can be anything from cardboard boxes to artistically designed structures. Without privacy, some snakes develop appetite problems.
Keeping an eye on the temperature
One of the most important things to keep an eye on with your snake is the temperature of the enclosure. Snakes need a warm environment to stay active and digest food properly. If a snake gets too cold, it becomes lethargic and can develop several diseases, including a respiratory infection or pneumonia.
What is the temperature in the sunbathing area? What is the temperature of the coldest part of the cage? And how cold does it get at night? If you have any of these questions below 21 degrees celcius answered, chances are you stay too cold is.
Check your references for proper sun temperatures and cooler acceptable temperatures for your species of snake and try to get as close to the ideal temperature as possible. You may need to add another heat lamp or increase the wattage of the lamps you are currently using. Under-tank heaters are useful for additional heat, but don't do much for the ambient temperature.
Snake diseases that can cause decreased appetite
There is a wide range of snake diseases that can reduce your pet's appetite. Some can be easily treated, while others can be deadly. Keep an eye on your pet to make sure you don't see any symptoms of these conditions; if you're not sure, a visit to the vet is a good idea.
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If you've ever had a toothache or aphthous ulcers or bitten your tongue, you know what it's like to have some mouth pain. Mouth rot is a painful form of mouth infection; your snake will not want to eat if it has any degree of mouth rot. If you are not sure if your snake has a healthy mouth, have it checked out by your specialized veterinarian.
Snakes won't eat if they have respiratory infections or pneumonia. If your snake sneezes, has eye or nose drainage, or is breathing through its mouth, it may have some form of respiratory disease and will not eat. Call your veterinarian if you suspect this.
Intestinal parasites, better known as "worms," are microscopic and normal in reptiles. However, when they become overpopulated in your pet snake's gut, it may stop eating. You won't see these parasites, so you should have a direct fecal smear and flotation performed on your snake's fecal sample. Call your veterinarian to make an appointment for a fecal screening if you haven't had one in the past year or if you suspect this could be a reason for him to stop eating.
Obstruction and impaction
Sometimes snakes accidentally get a mouthful of something they can't digest and become obstructed. At other times, they don't get enough fluid in their environment to poop regularly and get impacted. Both obstruction and impaction can cause your snake to stop eating. Placing the snake in warm water for 15 to 20 minutes twice a day may help pass its stool, but an obstruction may also require surgery. Call your veterinarian if you have not seen the stool pass within a day or so of your snake's last meal or if you think it may be obstructed.
Treatment and prevention of loss of appetite
You cannot completely prevent loss of appetite, but you can:
- Make sure your snake's environment is suitable for its needs, provide good substrate, snake skin and good day/night lighting
- Provide your snake with the right amount and type of food
- Check that the temperature inside the enclosure is appropriate
- Check that your hose does not have any respiratory disease or painful sores
If all these elements are present, your hose is not shedding, and you are certain that age or season is not a factor, there are still many other reasons why snakes stop eating, including severe organ failure and disease, systemic infections and more.
If you are not sure why your snake has stopped eating, call your veterinarian. You may not be able to completely prevent your snake's loss of appetite, but a Careful observation of your pet and proper management of its environment can help him regain his appetite. Once your snake starts eating again, be careful not to overfeed it: overfeeding can lead to a recurring digestive problem.
If you suspect your pet is sick, call your veterinarian immediately. For health-related questions, always consult your veterinarian, as they have examined your pet, know the pet's health history, and can make the best recommendations for your pet.