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Topic: Snake people...A little help...
Message: Posted by: gsidhe (Feb 16, 2007 09:49AM)
I have a feeding problem with my 15 year old Ball Python.
She has stopped eating.
Not just one skipped feeding...She hasn't eaten in six months.
(For non snake people...This sounds absolutely HORRIBLE, but Ball Pythons are notorious for being picky and inconsistent with their feedings. A ball python can actually go for a full year without food.)
I don't like to force feed, but if I can't get her to eat SOMETHING this month, I'm going to. It is stressful for the snake, stressful for me, and might damage her temperment. She is an older snake, and I don't know for sure if she could take it.
She has never been weaned to pre killed food (Got her as a rescue when she was 12 years old and it was too late to get her to change her ways), and she was always a picky snake. Would not eat a white rat or mouse, only spotted ones (Because in the wild, ball pythons eat wild hampsters which are never ever white. White rodents don't set off her feed mechanism). So cracking the skull of a dead rat for the smell wouldn't work.
Unfortunately, her last feed, she got a really viscious rat who mauled her face. She's all healed up, the scars came off with her last shed, but now she seems afraid of her food. I switched to large mice, hoping that the assosciation would go away, but those she just ignores as too small. I've tried everything I could think of, even dipping a live mouse in chicken broth to increase the smell.
They just wound up in the corner of the cage together, the mouse sleeping in her coils.
So now I have three pet mice.
She is still active, handlable and docile. No signs of real stress or hostility, but she is starting to lose a little weight.
Any suggestions would be welcome. If I don't get her to eat this month, I'll take her to the local herp vet, and then most likely will wind up force feeding.
I really don't want to.
Message: Posted by: freefallillusion1 (Feb 16, 2007 11:49AM)
I would definitely go to a good herp vet, not just a "cats and dogs" kinda vet who also read a book about snakes- hopefully there's someone good nearby. Also, try asking for advice on the forums at kingsnake.com as there are always lots of experts there. Ball pythons aren't hard, though, and assuming that you've got all the correct conditions (heat, etc.), then I'd guess a vet trip is in order. Only force-feed as a last resort!

Message: Posted by: sperris (Feb 16, 2007 02:21PM)
Talk to Steve August or Snake Babe or even Steve Chezaday all these guys are friends of mine, good people, and know what they're doing and use snakes in their shows...good luck
Message: Posted by: Sylver Fyre (Feb 16, 2007 02:28PM)
Luckily there is a vet that is part of the ARAV (Association of Reptiles and Amphibian Vets) near Gwyd and I and we will probably go see him.
Message: Posted by: Chezaday (Feb 16, 2007 04:17PM)
In snake years 15 is a long time in captivity. I recently lost my boa, she was only about twelve years old. She stopped eating over the summer .. and I tried everything, even the force feeding. She died only days later in my hands .. it was very sad. I take real good care of my animals .. but sometimes its out of our hands. You could spend hundreds of dollars trying to diagnose her condition .. but you are very lucky to have had her all these years.

The force feeding wasn't really that big of a deal .. but, I'm not sure how effective it really is. Find a vet for herps and good luck ...

Message: Posted by: Chad C. (Feb 16, 2007 09:30PM)
I have two ball pythons, one who is around the same age. She has not eaten regular in the 3 years that we have had her. She will eat for a couple months regularly and then go for 6 months or so without eating anything - and acts very scared around the rat/mouse. This used to stress me out. But she is still fat and healthy and shows no sign of sickness, etc. So I don't worry about it too much anymore.

I tend to buy only one rat at a time, try to feed her and if she eats, I go buy a second rat for the smaller ball -which rarely misses a meal. That way, I have no extra pet rat. But, then, all of the sudden, she will eat again for no apparent reason. As long as your snake doesn't show signs of sickness or lose of weight - I wouldn't stress out too much.

That's been my experience.
Message: Posted by: ssucahyo (Feb 19, 2007 10:01AM)
I also face same problem with my albino morolus python, she is almost 3yrs old, and till now she hasn't eaten in 4 months...
I dunno what I should do...just thinking to force her to eat...will need any advice...

Message: Posted by: Stevenleeaugust (Feb 20, 2007 10:52PM)
Oh Geez,
I know I am going to sound like I am picking on you but I have to tell you that you have very bad info on snakes.

Letís look at the immediate concern. First, relax. I have never seen a ball python starve after 6 months but I do not know the health of your pet. I also do not know if your snake was of normal health and weight prior to its fasting. That is important information you should be sharing with your veterinarian. If you are caring for it properly you have its weight checked with each yearly vet checkup. Check to see if it has lost a significant amount of weight before you even consider force feeding. Force feeding is always a last resort and if it was healthy to begin with I would not suggest force feeding yet.

Now, getting it to eat.
You need to check your husbandry (care) practices.
Is the heat gradient correct?
What is the humidity level?
Do you have an uninterrupted day / night light cycle?
Does it have a hide spot in its cage?
What is its heat source? Is there stress from too much handling?
Is it properly clean for the snake?
Is your cage spacious enough for room to move to enable muscle development?
Have you done recent fecal exams?
Have you had throat cultures done?
This is important to the over all health which effects your snakes eating.

Now on to live feeding.
If youíre feeding live you may be transmitting parasites that would inhibit its hunger.
You are also putting your snake in a position to get hurt as it did. I have had hundreds of snakes come through our facility and ALL have been converted to prekilled- frozen and thawed food. Your terrible feeding practice may be just what caused the hunger problem. NEVER Never ever feed live. I can send you lots of info on this if you want.

The color thing had me laughing. Gerbils are natural to them but if healthy and the factors I mentioned are in line then they eat regardless of color if they are hungry.

I am sure this is overwhelming so far so I will just end here before Chezaday gets mad at me because I picked on him to like this...
Please let me know if you need more help.
Message: Posted by: Chezaday (Feb 22, 2007 01:46AM)
Yes .. I've heard all this and more many times, but sometimes it's out of our hands. One of Steve's best suggestions to me was the purchase of Radiant Heating Panels. I have the info around here somewhere .. but they really help keep your snakes nice and warm. They are different than Hot Rocks and provide a natural warmth in the enclosure. I'm sure the other Steve will chime in about them.

Take his advise .. he's the best in the business.

Message: Posted by: Dynamike (Feb 22, 2007 07:02AM)
I would take the question to a snake forum for free advice:






Good luck
Message: Posted by: Autumn Morning Star (Feb 22, 2007 07:58AM)
Stevenleeaugust has some quality information. First: Take the three "pet" mice out of the snake cage. They will nibble away at her tail. You have to really observe the snake when live mice and (especially)rats are placed in a cage. They cannot be left alone together.

FYI: Your snake is not old. Ball pythons live to be about 38 years old with a record 48 years. Some ball pythons have been known to go without eating for a year.

When you get your ball python to eat again, PLEASE feed your ball python killed rats only. I know she is picky, but this is just too dangerous. Rats are too dangerous and can inflict terrible damage to your snake. This rat that mangled her could have damaged her Jacobson's organ, tongue, or pits, making her unable to detect food and/or heat.

With killed food, you can take hemostats (very, very LONG hemostats) and animate the food to make it look like it is alive. Try rubbing your mouse against a bird (preferably a chicken - maybe a dove) to make the smell more attractive. Color of food really makes no difference to a snake. The most important motivation is motion and smell. My snakes will NAIL my hand if I stick it in the cage and move it in a certain "food-like way". (I am sort of olive-beige and not at all spotted!) :)

This time of year, snakes don't really eat that much. But six months is a long time. With her past of being a "rescue", there is no telling what could be troubling her. Try the suggestions above regarding light/dark cycles, heat, humidity, etc. If this does not work within a few weeks please take her to a vet. Let us know how she is doing and best of luck!
Message: Posted by: Stevenleeaugust (Feb 22, 2007 11:54AM)
On 2007-02-22 02:46, Chezaday wrote:
..... but sometimes it's out of our hands....
Donít make me come over and kick you spandex covered butt. If it is out of your hands then you should not have the pet.
And thanks for the compliment.

Posted: Feb 22, 2007 1:09pm

On 2007-02-22 08:58, Autumn Morning Star wrote:
.... You have to really observe the snake when live mice and (especially)rats are placed in a cage. They cannot be left alone together.. ....


I know your suggesting going with pre-killed but in this sentence you say its OK if your there to oversee it. Well, I am a lousy magician but a pretty good juggler. As a juggler I have very fast hands. Ask any of my girlfriends and wife. As fast as my hands are I can not stop a little mouse from biting an eye off a snake just by watching over a feeding. It only takes a split second. Live feeding is an unsafe practice.
Message: Posted by: gsidhe (Feb 22, 2007 01:13PM)
Really, I am not in any state of panic. Just concern at this point. If any of my critters changes behavior drastically, it gets my attention. I know they can go for a year, but it is very unlike my Ball to skip even one feed.

Ok...To my meager defense...

1st...The mice are not still in the same cage as her. They really are pets now. Cute lil buggers...
I never leave any food in the cage for more than a couple of hours.
And I did try to wean her off of live critters for more than a year. The vet I was woking with at the time told me that she wasn't going to change her habits after being on live for so many years. So I gave up.
As for the color thing...I have never seen her even strike at a white rat. One patch of black or brown and she's right on it (At least until recently). So...The theory I read over the internet seemed to fit and make sense.
If that is not the reason, so be it. All I know is the behavior I saw.
Never thought of rubbing the dead rat against one of the doves though...Wonder how the doves will react to that...
Losing weight...I'll admit, that is just perception at this point. She feels flabbier than she should. Not as solid as she usually is.
Overhandling- I don't think so. When she is off of her feed schedule, I limit handlings to less than an hour a week.
She is on a 12/12 light schedule, heat is through a heat lamp (She used to have a heat rock with her former owner...Got rid of that right away) and is around 80 to 85 at the warm end, 70 in the cool near her hide box. Humidity is a little above 60%.
She is in a 55 gallon tank and can stretch out fully. She also has a large driftwood climbing area in her warm end so she can regulate her temp and get closer to the heat source (Without getting close enough to burn herself)as well as use the abrasive surface as an aid in her shedding. Her sheds are regular and complete- Very unlike the ones when I got her with bits hanging off of her everywhere. She was in rough shape.
She has a large water dish central in her enclosure. Her substrate is unprinted newsprint.
She has not had a throat culture or fecal exam since I got her three years ago.
If you think that is where the fault lies, I will make sure it is done when I bring her in next month.

From what it seems, the major point of contention is what I have been feeding her.
I never, ever wanted to feed her live. Feeding her was one of the most stressful things I had to do. I could hardly breathe until the rodent stopped twitching for fear of Cetis getting injured.
I have converted many snakes from live in the past. Cetis is the only one I was not successful with. I am willing to try again, so Steve, if you have any additional info on converting a snake to pre killed, I welcome it.

Just please do not lump me in with the whole "Dude...I got a snake! Wanna see it fight a rat!!" types that are so prevelant in the world. I have a number of "alternative" pets, each with their own unique set of needs. Half of them were rescued from the "Dude..I gotta..." types that bought something out of a pet store to freak out their friends.
I love my creatures dearly, Cetis especially. I am not a casual owner and spend a lot of time and thought on my pets. Out of all of the sites listed to go to by Dynamike, there is only one I have not been to doing research. From 92 to 93 I worked at a small zoo doing the herp demonstrations. That is where I learned how to wean a snake to prekilled, learned how to get a violent snake used to being handled and most of my environmental setup.

To end it all off, She will be going to a vet next month. A different vet from the one that told me to give up on prekilled. This one is the ARAV vet Sylver mentioned.

The health of my companions has never been, nor shall it be, out of my hands.
Thank you all for your imput (Especially the Steves and Autumn- The Steves for a well intentioned and informative bonk with a steel hammer, and Autumn for covering the hammer with velvet before a light bonk)
Message: Posted by: ssucahyo (Feb 22, 2007 01:45PM)
Thanks for the site...I will chekc it out...I wish I cand find something to help her...

Message: Posted by: Autumn Morning Star (Feb 22, 2007 03:26PM)
On 2007-02-22 08:58, Autumn Morning Star wrote:
.... You have to really observe the snake when live mice and (especially)rats are placed in a cage. They cannot be left alone together.. ....
[quote]On 2007-02-22 1:09pm Stevenleeaugust wrote:
I know your suggesting going with pre-killed but in this sentence you say its OK if your there to oversee it. Well, I am a lousy magician but a pretty good juggler. As a juggler I have very fast hands. Ask any of my girlfriends and wife. As fast as my hands are I can not stop a little mouse from biting an eye off a snake just by watching over a feeding. It only takes a split second. Live feeding is an unsafe practice.
Yes, Stevenleeaugust, that was a bit confusing. I want to be clear that I do not think it is EVER a good idea to feed live mice or rats. I wrote that statement in a progression of thought when it sounded like the mice could have still been in the tank. (Some folks leave the live mice in there for days.) Mice can do a lot of nibbling damage. Rats attack fast and you are never fast enough to stop it. Simple to solve this: Feed killed food.

Gwyd, I appreciate the fact that you do not think of yourself as a "casual owner" or one of those "I-got-a-snake-to-compensate" dudes. I think we all have different ways of expressing ourselves in print as opposed to speaking. The words you used concerned a lot of us snake lovers. It was probably written quickly, with deep concern for helping your Cetis snake. Your last post put me more at ease. I never meant to beat up on you, even with velvet! ;)

Somehow, I think Cetis really can make the transition to killed mice. I know you have tried really hard and have been unsuccessful in the past, but it is time to try again. Get some loooong hemostats and find a vet or Herp person who will work with you, to help you and Cetis make that transition to killed food successful this time.

PS: The next time Cetis poops, collect it in a plastic baggie and drop it off with the vet that day for analysis. Parasites really could be the problem. I am sure Cetis is not pooping much these days, since she is not eating, so collect it when you can.

To answer your question: I think your dove would be fine if you rubbed a killed mouse against his belly or under his wing. Doves are pretty calm and remarkably forgiving.
Message: Posted by: Daktari (Feb 22, 2007 03:51PM)
I was going to give my advice but as I scrolled down I saw what Steven and Autumn wrote and both have great advice. Steven covered everything I would have said. Just for information purposes, years go in college we actually encountered a Ball Python that hadn't fed for 18 months. It would regurgitate even after force feeding. The vets never determined what caused it and these were some good herp docs at the vet school. I think the problem is more frequent in the wild caught as opposed to captive bred but I may be wrong.