Is your snake eating well? Or is he slithering away?

Anorexia in reptiles is a symptom and not a disease.  If your snake has stopped eating this may be due to a number of factors:

Adder_image_snake_bite_articleWho handles the snake and how often?  Remember that snakes are not domesticated pets.  Even though many species tolerate handling very well, there are some that can become easily stressed with rough or too much handling.

Additionally, think about the location of the cage within your home.  If it is a high traffic area, this can lead to nervousness and  sensitive breeds may strike at the glass.  Some shy reptiles also won’t eat if they are being watched or if there is too much going on around their vivarium.  Nocturnal reptiles won’t feed at all if you offer them food during the day – even if they are in perfect health.

A vivarium should have plenty of space for the snake to hide in to feel secure.  Terrestrial snakes like hides such as caves and tunnels.  Arboreal snakes, however, require branches with either artificial or living leaves which need to provide sufficient cover for the snake to feel secure.

If your snake is from a warmer climate, it may have a dormant period during the autumn which forms part of their period of ‘brumation’ in the winter.  Brumation allows them to survive winter temperatures that are below their preferred temperature level and is often associated with a period of anorexia.

Most meat-eating snakes will be fed a diet of frozen, thawed rodents.  Anorexia in younger snakes can be caused by failure to convert them to a diet that is readily available.  This can be done by ‘scenting’ the food with lizard skins because lizards would be their food of choice in the wild.

The same applies to Royal Pythons who, as a rule, prefer gerbils that have been frozen and then thawed.  However, if there are no reliable commercial sources of these, it can lead to problems later in life if the only options available are rats or mice and the python is bound to eating gerbils.

If a female snake is pregnant, she may frequently stop feeding.  Species such as the Green Tree Pythons also incubate the eggs maternally and will not eat during this time either.  A number of snakes become anorexic whilst they shed their skin.  Their vision is affected as their eyes become clouded during the days leading up to shedding.  Also, hatchling snakes will often refuse feed until after their first shed.

If your snake has gastrointestinal problems or dental disease this may lead to anorexia.  Dental disease can often lead to tooth loss and therefore the snake will have difficulty holding prey.  Another common and long term cause of anorexia in snakes is overfeeeding – mainly because for many snake owners, feeding time is their favourite part of reptile keeping.

It is important that the underlying cause of the anorexia is identified in order that the correct treatment can be prescribed.  Good husbandry is essential in the keeping of reptiles.  Without this, many will not recover.  If you think your snake may be anorexic, contact us on 01553 771457.  We are always here for you 24 hours a day, 365 days a year.


Written by Paula Grant – Communications Manager