View Full Version : Purchasing a finicky eater.

12-16-2007, 07:40 PM
Hello everyone :). I have had my eye on a gorgeous western hognose snake at my local reptile store. I've never owned a snake before, and always been unsure of which species to start off with, after five minutes of handling this gorgeous well tempered snake I was sure it was the one for me.
I've now done all the research and I am confident that I can provide a great home for this snake. The only thing is, it apparently hasn't eaten in four months I think now. I was shocked at hearing this, as he does not seem underweight and is very healthy and lively.
The snake belonged to some guy first, and it was feeding regularly with unscented mice. Suddenly it stopped eating, and he gave it back to the reptile store. It's been here for a few months now since and it hasn't eaten yet. But I don't know of any lengths they've gone to try to make him eat, as far as I know it's only been unscented mice.
No one wants to buy it, I mean, its a snake who hasn't eaten in months, if it doesn't start again soon its bound to become ill. But I do not want him to fall to that fate, I've fallen in love with this snake and I have hope that if I keep him in a proper environment and try all the methods of getting him to eat I can bring him back around again.
I know the owner of the store, so if I want to take it off his hands he's offered it to me for half price, as he doesnt believe anyone else will buy it.

My first question, and the question that I importantly need answered very soon is, am I stupid? As the snake has not eaten in so long is there really any hope that he will eventually go back to the regular eater that he once was? He's a gorgeous snake and he once ate well, so I'm hoping that with the love and care he needs he will maybe start to eat like he used to. But please tell me if that is not likely to happen. I am willing to try anything you can reccomend to get him to eat.

My second question is for when I bring him home, could you tell me some of the things I should try to entice him to eat. Or if there is already an article made on this could someone point it out please. I know of a few concepts like scenting with a frog or a toad and brain splitting. But if someone could write out in plain english the methods that I should take to get him to eat again I would very much appreciate it.

And finally, has anyone else had a snake not eat for so long, and then came around again and eat healthy like he used to??

I'd love to hear what you's think, sorry this is such a long post.
My main question that I really need answered (preferably tonight as I am hoping to get him tomorrow finally), is will this be worth it? Do I have any chance of encouraging such a finicky feeder to eat? Or should I sadly accept that this little guy wont make it, and try to find a healthier one to start off with. I just want to give him a chance, if I dont buy him no one will.

I'd love to hear from you's soon guys, thank you all so so so much.

Clay Davenport
12-16-2007, 08:53 PM
First of all, this being your first snake, I would encourage you to begin with the most healthy and well started animal you can.

That being said, I wouldn't consider the snake in question to be a lost cause. I'd feel confident it could be enticed to eat again with the proper technique.
You left out a critical piece of information though. How old is the snake?
If it's an adult, then it very well could be the time of year that is causing it to go off feed. Four months ago is a little earlier that we are accustomed to in the US, but in northern Ireland you may have had adequate cooling by that time to trigger the brumation instinct.

What I would do is get him set up, and make sure he has plenty of heat. Then after a week or so start trying a few things. Offer a live prey item, put him in a deli cup with a fuzzy mouse. There's a number of tricks that can be employed.
If after trying several things he still refuses food, then I'd brumate him. Put him in a container with a water bowl and some bedding into which he could burrow, and take him down to 55 degrees or so (12.7C) for a month if he's real small, or a couple of months if he's a larger specimen.
I've often seen colubrids that were finicky feeders return with a strong appetite after the winter cooling period.

Also, for what it's worth, in my own group of western hognose I have always noted that the females were much stronger feeders than the males. My males will go off feed for sometimes 3 or 4 weeks at various times during the year. The females pretty much always eat though.
I haven't talked to other hognose keepers about this so I don't really know if this is a common occurrence or just something I've seen with my small group.

12-16-2007, 10:37 PM
Thank you so much for your advice Clay :). Much appreciated especially from someone who seems to have a lot of experience.
Sorry that i forgot to mention the size, how stupid of me!! I think he is probably around a foot and a half, give or take a few inches. I can't be totally sure, but I dont think he's quite fully grown yet but he's probably not far off. Also the guy said he thinks he's a male, but he's gonna check for me and tomorrow I'll find out for sure. And yes it is freezing weather around here at the minute so there's probably a large chance its causing him to want to brumate.

I hear what you're saying about starting with a healthy specimen and I agree totally. I know I don't have the experience but i have knowledge and passion for these animals and I would work as hard as I can to get him healthy again. I just wanted to find out if there was any hope for him. In the past few months people have wanted to buy him until they heard he hasnt eaten in a while, he's such a gorgeous snake with a brilliant temperment. In the store i dont think they're trying new things to get him to eat and they certainly wouldn't attempt to brumate him like you suggested I dont think.
I could do all that though and maybe give him a fighting chance. I just don't want this lovely animal to end up dieing because someone hasn't done just the right thing to make him want to eat again.

Thankyou so much for your advice mate. I will think this over tonight and decide for sure tomorrow. If anyone would like to try and sway my decision or give anymore advice please don't hesitate to post.

Thanks again Clay,

12-17-2007, 11:49 AM
I have a female that eats me out of house and home. But my male is also a picky eater. My male has not eaten for me in the last 5 weeks. And there have been other times where he wouldn't eat for 3-6 weeks, then all of a sudden take a meal or two and go another few weeks before eating again. From what I have read, and talking to others, that just seems to be the hognose nature.

With the temps around freezing, I would say it is probably time to brumate. If he has sufficient weight to him, go for a month or two, but keep supplying fresh water and check on him occasionally. If he begins to show signs of excessive thinning or respiratory infection, slowly warm him up and seek out a good vet.

I personally feel the hognose is a great first snake, although I might be somewhat biased because my pair of hognose were my first snakes. ;)

Hope this helps!
Robert Charvat

12-17-2007, 11:07 PM
this always seems to be the problem with hognoses. Trust me, this is not the first thread, and im positive it wont be the last. i had the same problem with my hognose. she stopped eating for four months, yet she looked completely healthy. i blamed it on hibernation, but she was active and captive bred. who knows. it could be a whole bunch of reasons. but the point is, there definitely is hope. she/he will eat in its time. just make sure she/he stays warm. and try keeping the snake and mouse together in a bag overnight in the tank..worked with mine, from what i can remember.

12-18-2007, 02:10 PM
I know how you feel!! I've had so many problems with my hoggie and the pet store offered to take her back, but I just can't seem to do it, I love her way wayy to much.
Anyway, when i first got her from the pet store they said she ate a few times since they had her, but when I took her home, she didnt' eat for about 5 months. She got so skinny I took her to the vet a few times and had her tube fed. She turned around a few weeks later and started eating on her own again. Then she stopped again, and started. It's an ongoing cycle. Shes's also got this problem with her bone growth....she developed these protruding bumps along her spine, so that might be why she doesnt' eat much, but she's still active and loving ;) I beieve they will eat when they are truly ready and NEED to.
So, my advice would be to look at her and make sure theres nothing else wrong with her to make her not eat. But, why not try...I would always try to save a hoggie :)
best of luck
keep us posted

12-18-2007, 02:55 PM
Hey guy's thank you so so so soooo much for the replies. I picked up this gorgeous snake yesterday and I am so so so happy that I did. She's a girl, around a little less than two foot long and I've decided to name her Hannah. She gets a little grumpy when you first try to pick her up, its so cute. Then once you handle her for a minute she's so so calm and sweet. So glad that I decided to rescue her and hopefully help her.
Just trying to get the temperatures right in her tank, at night time it drops a little bit low so I've got a heat mat to try and rectify that. I was having trouble measuring her basking spot temperature, the thermometer was giving rediculously high readings like 120 degrees, but I think I maybe had it a little too close to the bulb, I think a more accurate reading was in the low 90s, which should be ok shouldn't it?
One more question, I was told that I should tape the heat mat to the bottom of the inside of the cage. I was just worried about her burying down and lying on top of it, she wouldn't be burnt by it would she?
Apart from the not eating she seems very healthy as far as I can tell, so for the next week or two im going to just work on making her happy in her new home before I attempt any feeding. Then I will need your guys help with all the advice you can give on that topic :).

So thank you so much again for all the encouraging advice, I really hope I can give her the best home she deserves.

12-18-2007, 03:32 PM
Sounds like a little angel. Let us know how she adjusts and the outcome of her first feed attempt.

12-19-2007, 03:46 AM
i wouldnt put the heat pad on the inside...i put mine on the outsid of the tank stuck on the bottom, and when she does lie on that side, i dont have to fear her getting burned or hurt. i would suggest the same for your baby. :)

Mooing Tricycle
12-19-2007, 04:01 AM
. I was just worried about her burying down and lying on top of it, she wouldn't be burnt by it would she?
Apart from the not eating she seems very he

thats why you get a thermostat. to regulate the heat tape/heat mats temperature to keep your animal from being burned, and an appropriate substrate depth ^_-
And yes, outside the cage.

12-24-2007, 04:53 PM
Hey everyone :)!! Just a little update with some fantastic news!!!!! I am so, so, so happy. Tonight I tried Hannah with a medium sized mouse and she ate straight away!!!
I was so shocked, I had great hope that I would one day coax her to eat but I had absolutely no expectations of her eating after just one week with me!

Just incase anyone missed it, this snake has not eaten a thing for 5 or 6 months. The reptile guy figured it was a goner, but she was so so so sweet that I couldn't just let her die in the shop, so he gave her to me at discount. I was worried at the start that I'd bitten off more than I could chew, but now I have great hope this little girl will be with me for a long time :).

I guess this means I'm doing something right, yeah?? I hope so. I like the thought that I might have saved her and gave her a good home :).

Thanks so much everyone, I wouldn't have bought her if you's hadn't encouraged me :).


12-24-2007, 10:11 PM
Hey everyone, just thought I'd put some pictures up of Hannah to see what you thought of her :)! Also I'm not an expert on snake health but I think she seems very healthy (and hopefully will stay that way now that she's eaten!) but yes if you notice anything wrong please let me know :).






Well that's all I got so far :)! Just wanted to say again that I couldn't be happier that I got her. She's a gorgeous snake and I'd love to maybe even breed her one day.

Would love to hear what you's think of her :)

12-24-2007, 10:12 PM
This is just sliiiiiightly off topic lol but here's some (pretty crappy) pictures of my four foot marine tank you can see in the background there :). Marine fish are my passion, and I one day would love to become a marine biologist.



Hope you enjoy. And Merry Christmas to everyone who's celebrating it tomorrow :).

12-25-2007, 09:16 AM
Hello everyone, so sorry to bother you all again. Just wanted to check this was normal. Hannah's underside (not sure of the technical term, sorry!), but her whole underneath is very pale and dull. Last night the black and white/yellow markings on her stomach were very clear, now everything's just very faded. The rest of her body, and her eyes, all seem to be a normal colour.

Just wondering if this is anything I should worry about, or is she just coming into shed?? Is it normal for the underside to go cloudy before the rest of her body?

Thanks very much, just looking for some reassurance, I'm sure she's fine :).


12-25-2007, 09:26 AM
It sounds like she is going into a shed, and no...it is not abnormal for the belly scales to be the first indication. With some snakes, that is the only change you will notice (until you are familiar enough with the animal that you begin to see more subtle things, anyway)

12-25-2007, 09:30 AM
Thanks so much mate :)! That's just what I had suspected, but thought I would have seen her eyes getting cloudy or something too if she was going into shed! But now I know that that doesn't always happen. Thanks so much for the help, really appreciate it :).


12-25-2007, 10:35 PM
yah..i was gonna say that from the pics she seems darker than the usual western hogs...but when you said that bout the foggy bottom...it makes complete sense that she might be going into shed..so you have not much to worry bout :)

12-26-2007, 11:00 AM
She looks good! For being off food for 5-6 months, she still seems to have a good amount of weight to her (at least by the pictures). Same thing goes for mine when they shed. Belly scales first, then the whole body darkens with the eyes going blue (cloudy).