The life of a snake is way more comfortable in captivity than in the wild. Under human care, these reptiles don't need to watch out for predators or make so much effort to hunt their prey. But still, sometimes, pet snakes refuse to eat, which, of course, can be dangerous, and we'll tell you why.
There are several reasons why a pet snake stops eating now and then. Sometimes, the pet may be molting or still digesting its last meal, so it'll eat again in some time. But, in the worst-case scenario, the snake could be experiencing mouth rot or parasites.
But how do you know what's making your snake stop eating? And what do you do to help your snake recover its appetite? Keep on reading to find out!
Before we go into the many reasons why your snake is not eating, you need to know something. We arranged the list to start with the less threatening causes and end with the most serious reasons. Now, let's take a look!
Depending on the species, both baby and young snakes can have a bigger appetite than adults. So, as your pet grows old and becomes an adult reptile, it may not eat as much as it used to.
For example, you may have to feed your baby snake with thawed frozen mice twice a week. But, as the snake gets older, one meal per week will be enough to feed its appetite. That said, keep in mind to increase the size of the prey as your pet becomes bigger.
To understand your snake's diet better, you should take it to the vet regularly. If possible, look for a vet with experience with cold-blooded pets.
If age's the reason why your snake's not eating, you shouldn’t worry.
Molting is the official name for the process of shedding skin. Depending on the species and age, snakes can molt from two to four times per year.
Molting is a very vulnerable time for a snake. So, before, during, and even after molting, your pet may not want to eat. To know if the snake's molting, check for a blue coloration on its eyes and a paler tone on its skin.
If you're one of the few people who feed live mice to your pet, removing the prey is even more critical. Live mice could end up nibbling on the snake while it is vulnerable and hurting it.
You can try feeding your snake right after molting, but it may be better to wait for a few days.
Though it doesn't happen to every snake, some species can lose appetite as the seasons change. So, if winter is coming and pet snake's not eating, it may have to do with the weather and climate conditions.
Which takes us to:
Depending on your snake species, the reptile may feel the natural need to hibernate. So, as the temperature drops, the snake may become lethargic and lose its usual appetite.
Keep close observation on the snake and call a vet if you think it may be necessary. We know how scary it can be when a snake doesn't eat, moves, or leaves its hiding spot that much.
It may seem very obvious, but have you considered that your pet snake could not be hungry? In the wild, these reptiles can spend days and, sometimes, even weeks between meals. Why? Because snakes are both hunters and prey.
Thus, a snake slides around a lot, trying to escape predators and, when possible, hunt their prey.
In captivity, it can be a common mistake to overfeed your pet. So, research your snake species and take into consideration its age to figure out its diet. And, as we said before, a vet's opinion always comes in handy.
Like molting, feeding is a very peculiar time for a snake.
Since snakes don't have real teeth besides their fangs, they swallow their prey whole. So, you can see a bulge in your snake's body when it's still digesting its meal.
To avoid overfeeding your snake, offer prey when the bulge in its body is completely gone. Or you can follow a feeding schedule of once per week for an adult snake, and it'll be fine.
Likewise, sometimes, snakes can let you know they're hungry. If your snake is flicking its tongue more often and prowling, it's time for dinner!
Pro tip: Use a pair of tongs to drop the food into the snake's enclosure. Even though common pet snakes are friendly and non-venomous, they could still bite you. Hungry reptiles can be very, well, savage.
Although your snake lives in captivity, it still needs a daylight and darkness cycle. This cycle tells the snake when to "hunt" and feed since some species are nocturnal, and others are diurnal. Think of it as a psychological effect that also allows the snake to know when to rest.
Depending on the species, it may be enough to place your snake's enclosure near a window. But some snakes will need special UV lights, lamps, and other devices to thrive in captivity. So, once again, it's essential to research and know your pet's unique needs to provide them.
If the snakes are not getting enough hours of light or darkness, they’ll get stressed out and not eat.
Friendly reminder: Though you can put the snake's tank by a window, make sure it's not under direct sunlight.
Snakes need privacy to have a nice rest when they're not active. Thus, you need to provide the snake with some kind of cave for it to go into and relax. And don't worry, you don't have to spend that much money.
If you can't afford to get a cave at the pet store, you can try placing cardboard in the snake's tank. In the end, the material doesn’t matter, as long as the reptile has a place to retreat. Otherwise, the snake may not feel comfortable in its enclosure and could refuse to eat.
We're now entering the most serious reasons why a snake could stop eating. Though reptiles have these parasites (called "worms"), an overpopulation of parasites is problematic.
Although pet snakes are less likely to catch more parasites than those in the wild, they still can get them from:
Parasites are particularly tricky because they're impossible to spot. Unless you have a microscope, if you suspect parasites are why your snake's not eating, take it to the vet. We can not stress this enough: Early medical attention makes a big difference and can save your pet's life.
Yes, snakes can get respiratory diseases and infections like pneumonia. Snakes can even sneeze!
So, if you notice your snake's breathing through its mouth or sneezing, take it to the vet. Other symptoms of respiratory disease in snakes are nose or eye drainage. And, as you can imagine, not being able to breathe makes the snake lose its appetite.
As you may notice, snakes are very sensitive to their environment. If the temperature in your pet's container is not warm enough or if it doesn't change by night, it may refuse to eat. Placing a thermometer inside the tank will come in handy to check the temperature often.
Sometimes, by accident, a snake may swallow something it can not digest.
For example, your pet could be eating and up also getting a big rock in its mouth. As a consequence, the snake may swallow the stone and have an intestinal obstruction.
The good news is that you can see an obstruction because the snake will have a big bump on its body. If the bump lasts longer than the usual, post-eating bulge, call the vet.
The bad news is that, in a lot of cases, surgery may be necessary.
Last but not least, another reason why your snake could stop eating is mouth rot.
Mouth rot is the consequence of bacteria and a weak immune system in reptiles. The snake may be more fragile because its environment is not meeting its needs.
This disease’s symptoms include loss of appetite, pus, and Inflamed, red tissue on the mouth. If you notice any of these signs, please take the snake to an exotic pet’s vet.
Over time, the infection can spread to the lungs and kill the snake.