Anorexia in Snakes
Anorexia is a common problem in snakes but it is not a single disease – it is a sign brought on by many different causes:
1. The most important causes relate to husbandry. Low temperatures are the most common cause of anorexia as they cause the snake’s metabolic rate to fall. Temperature should always be assessed over 24 hours - it can be fine during daytime but fall during the night. Failure to provide hiding places for shy species is also a problem.
2. Food source. Poor quality food or a “bad batch” may also put the snake off eating. Similarly presenting food in the wrong manner or inadequate defrosting (food should be gently warmed to blood heat before feeding) may cause problems.
3. Physiological. Some periods of anorexia may be “normal”, e.g. in gravid females.
4. Disease. Many disease syndromes cause anorexia and these should be thoroughly investigated.
5. Finally, some snakes simply do not tolerate the stress of captivity and these may never be “cured”.
When is anorexia significant?
Certainly any snake that goes more than 3 weeks without feeding should be checked. If it is also losing weight then it should be checked sooner. If the snake does feed but regurgitates then it should be checked as soon as possible.
The following should be investigated:
1. The environment and husbandry should be thoroughly checked as should the food that is being offered.
2. The snake should be examined. It may be necessary to take clinical samples to check for parasites, blood counts, etc. Radiographs and ultrasound examinations may also be necessary
Problems that are found should be corrected.
If the snake still does not eat it should be re-evaluated. If previous problems have been corrected and no new problems are apparent then force feeding may be needed. This can lead to problems (including damage to throat and oesophagus) so should only be used when absolutely necessary.
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