There can be a number of reasons why your snake won’t eat, and it can be a common problem with captive snakes. There is no need to be concerned if this is the first time they have refused food. However, if you are unable to find the cause and it is a persistent problem or accompanied by other concerning symptoms, such as bloody stools or mouth ulcers, it is important to get them checked over by a vet with exotics expertise, to ensure there are no underlying causes that may not be apparently obvious.
Common Factors That Affect Appetite
Temperature and Humidity
Your pet snake is very sensitive to it’s surrounding and requires the correct heat and humidity in the vivarium for the specific species to mimic its natural environment. For example, a decrease in temperature can make a snake become less active as unlike mammals, they regulate their body temperate from their environment. Snakes need a warm environment to be active and properly digest food. Before, you call your vet in a blind panic saying ‘my snake won’t eat’, first, ensure the environment is set the recommended humidity and temperate for your particular species of snake and regularly monitor to ensure it stays consistent.
When a snake is getting ready to shed its skin, it is common for them to refuse to eat a few days or even a few weeks before. You can tell if this is the case if the colour of their skin is pale and dull and they may also have milky looking eyes. If you think this is the likely cause, the best thing to do is check over a few days to see if they have shed their skin and when they do try feeding again.
Changes to your snake’s environment can cause stress, for example, moving home, room, location within a room etc, as these can all affect the temperate, noise or light and of course the actual movement involved can be unsettling for them. Another potential stressor can be overhandling or the introduction of another snake. Even if the snake is not in the same vivarium, if they can see it, it can cause stress. Consider if these may be causes and try to address them.
What Else You Can Do
Once you have addressed some of the common possible causes, here are some tips you can try that may help coax your snake to eat.
If you are feeding mice, try something different like young rats or different size or colour mice. You may also benefit from warming the food gently or making a small opening so the smells are more intense and enticing to your snake.
Try adjusting the light in the cage to make it dimmer or indeed complete darkness, as snakes prefer this when feeding as it more closely mimics their natural feedback behaviour in the wild. If you usually leave the snake in the cage, you may want to try holding it by the tail with some long tweezers and making gentle and slight twitching movements.
Just like dogs and cats, snakes can get worms too. It is quite normal for reptiles to have a certain amount of worms in their intestines. The problem occurs when they become overpopulated in the intestines which can make them not want to eat. Other symptoms can be abnormal stools, diarrhea or vomiting/regurgitation. If you suspect this may be the cause, take your snake to your exotics vet for treatment.
When to be Concerned
If your snake has not eaten for some time and continues to refuse food despite your efforts, or if you have noticed other signs or symptoms, you should take them to your exotics vet without delay. It’s much safer to be sure your snake doesn’t have a potentially harmful or life-threatening disease and usually, early detection can make a huge difference to the treatment and prognosis. Yes, they may well end by being perfectly fine, but isn’t it safer to check than risk your pet’s health and wellbeing?