Feeding Your Snake
What do snakes eat?
Unlike most pets, snakes eat whole prey items including mice, rats and hamsters. Larger snakes will also eat whole rabbits.
Since snakes eat entire prey items, this simplifies things for snake owners, and most certainly prevents many dietary-related diseases so commonly seen in other reptiles. However, although it is easy to obtain frozen whole carcase prey, the freezing process may reduce the vitamin content of the food. Also, many of these animals are very fat and may contribute to obesity in the snake.
It is illegal to feed live prey to snakes unless there is absolutely no other method of feeding.
How often should I feed my snake?
Obesity is a big problem in snakes. In the wild they only hunt when hungry and don’t always catch. In captivity, food just arrives!
Therefore it is good to get away from the “feed once a week” culture. Young growing snakes are an exception and may be fed once weekly. However, adult snakes should be observed to perform hunting behaviours before attempting to feed. If the food item is not taken in a couple of hours it should be removed and feeding re-attempted in a few days.
It is important too to regularly check body condition – a round-bodied snake is usually too fat!
My snake won't eat! What's wrong?
There are many causes of anorexia, or failure to eat in pet snakes. These could be benign causes such as the stress of a new environment, shedding, pregnancy, or breeding season anorexia. Failure to eat could also be a sign of a more serious problem such as cancer, kidney failure, gout, or parasites. Most, however, are due to husbandry problems especially low temperature. Your veterinarian can help determine the cause of your snake's anorexia after a thorough physical examination and appropriate laboratory testing.
Do I need to give my snake vitamins?
As a rule, no. However, since your snake "is what he eats", it's important to make sure that your snake's prey is healthy and well fed. Many owners raise their own rodents for feeding to their snakes for this reason. If in doubt, check with your veterinarian about this first.
What about water?
Fresh water in a ceramic dish that won't easily tip over should be available at all times. Snakes will not only drink from the water bowl but will often bathe in it as well (although it is perfectly acceptable to mist the snake with water a few times a week too). Make sure the water stays clean; many snakes love to defecate in their water bowl as well as drink from it!
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