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Old 08-05-2018, 09:42 PM   #1
Vitamin supplements and forcefeeding snakes

I recently had to force feed a snake over a long period of time. I live in an area very remote from veterinary support and supplies, so I had to improvise while these tools and supplements got to me, and I found it difficult to get information on the specific levels of vitamins to aim for, so I thought it was worth putting up a thread with the basic nutritional information I eventually found, in order to make a quick reference for anyone in a similar situation.

In further posts I'll add a few personal experiences in force and assist feeding, and if anyone else has hints or tips to add, please feel free to do so.

I emphasis that I only post this for those who are, as I was, unable to get veterinary support. It is MUCH better to get professional help than to flail about like the amateur I am....

I used beaten egg as the main food source, administered with a 50 ml medical syringe and an old tube from an oxygen mask. It was a struggle to get this tube down, and the syringe was not a smooth delivery system, so the experience was stressful for both me and the snake, but we managed it about once a week.

Here's the nutritional breakdown of a standard egg:
Protein ... 6 gm
Fat ... 5 gm
Carbohydrate ... very little
Vitamin A ... 64 mcg
Vitamin B2 ... 0.25 mg (Riboflavin)
Vitamin B12 ... 1.4 mcg
Vitamin D ... 1.6 mcg
Biotin ... 10 mcg
Choline ... 144 mg
Folate ... 2.4 mcg
Pantothenic Acid ... 0.7 mg
Small amounts of Selenium, Iron, Calcium, Potassium, Zinc, Manganese, Vitamin E

After a few weeks, when he still was not feeding voluntarily, I began supplementing the beaten egg with liquid vitamin drops meant for use in new born human babies to 1 year old toddlers. As I had no idea what the correct doseage for reptiles might be, I was very conservative with the baby vitamin drops. I gave 1/2 of the baby, or about 1/5th of the toddler dose to a 2.5 kg snake. While this kept my snake alive, he wasn't thriving.

In the meantime I had ordered specific reptile supplements and feeding tubes and they were wending their very slow way to me. Once I got the reptile supplement I was really surprised to find out that the human infant supplements were over 100 times weaker than the reptile ones, so I had been severely underdosing him.

I used Fluker's Liquid Vitamins for all reptiles.

Their recommended dose is 2 drops per 50 gm of body weight of your reptile.

According to the supplement formula, the vitamins per kg (2.2 pounds) of your reptile's body weight (which would be found in 40 drops or 2 ml of the supplement) works out as:

Vitamin A. . . 913,240 IU
Vitamin D3. . . 73,060 IU
Vitamin B1. . . 548 mg
Vitamin B2. . . 785 mg
Vitamin B6. . . 182 mg
Vitamin C. . . 9130 mg
Nicotinamide (Vit B3). . . 3652 mg

My snake was 2,500 gm, so he needed 100 drops, or 5 ml of the supplement:
(2,500 gm / 50 gm = 50 doses, or 100 drops;
20 drops = 1 ml, so 100 drops = 5 ml;
so 1 gave him 2.5 x the amount of vitamins stated above)

I added my 5 mls of vitamin supplement, and 2.5 ml of Flukers liquid calcium supplement
to one beaten egg and a little water and whisked it all up.

I delivered this through a #12 feeding syringe and tube bought from the Bean Farm:
This was MUCH easier to get down the snake than the oxygen tube had been, although I needed to add a little more water to my egg mix to make it thinner.

My overall message is, try HARD to get the proper supplements and feeding tools, but if, for some reason, these are not available, beaten egg makes a reasonable food base for a snake in the short term.

If you need to force feed over a longer period of time, you'd need to add vitamin supplements, and it would be by FAR the best thing to try and get proper reptile ones. If you only have human vitamin drops, do not be afraid to use lots of them. I had been adding 0.25 - 0.5 mls of baby/ toddler vitamins, and it should have been at least 5 - 10 mls to be anywhere near the levels in the Flukers Liquid Vitamins.
Old 08-06-2018, 07:50 AM   #2
Robert Walker
Very detailed and excellent post there Helen. Sounds like and extensive effort. I'm assuming the snake in question would have been a bird eating snake naturally, hence the "egg" mix??

What was the conclusion to the force feeding of that particular snake, off of it now?
Any idea why a 2500gm snake decided to stop eating?
Again, great post.
Old 08-06-2018, 06:44 PM   #3
Thanks Robert.

This was my Fiji Boa that stopped eating after a really bad RI/ pneumonia and an extensive course of antibiotics. I used egg because it was the most complete liquid food I had available (however his normal food is 2 week old chicks, so the basic ingredients are the same I suppose ).

He still isn't eating voluntarily - to date we've been doing the eggy dance for over 5 months now.

The whole story, and some great advice from Fauna members, can be found in a VERY long thread at
Old 08-07-2018, 10:42 PM   #4
Here are some more tips on this topic - garnered from suggestions and advice given to me by other Fauna members (thanks again all! )

When tube-feeding snakes:
Just before you insert the tube (catheter) into the snake, make sure the tubing is filled with the liquid all the way to the tip (ready to drip)- you want to avoid putting air bubbles into the snake, that won't help them digest.

Its best for the snake to be lying flat when you tube-feed, with a towel they can lay on. That way drips are easy to clean up, but be sure to keep their body level with their head elevated as you put them back into their own enclosure.

Never force the tubing: a snake will resist, of course, & occasionally their teeth can catch on the tubing, but otherwise the tubing should slide in easily; be gentle & when you feel the tubing stop, don't push any more (you're at the top of the stomach, where you need to be)...just dispense the liquid food fairly quickly, slide the tubing back out and let the snake rest. Some will open their mouth to try to regurgitate, because pulling the tube out just feels weird...massage their neck gently, & they usually relax & keep it all down.

Foods to try apart from egg:
Gerbers (baby food) "2nd foods- Chicken & gravy" - very easy for a snake to digest & doesn't have sugar in it: it's nothing but ground chicken, water, & corn starch. To tube feed, you have to add enough water so it goes thru the tubing easily. You can add a drop of olive oil in the liquid too, to make it "slippery", and add dissolved vitamins, minerals or meds as needed.

What NOT to feed to snakes:
Nutrical is a high calorie supplement paste designed for dogs/cat. The main ingredient is corn syrup, so it's relatively high in carbs compared to fats and proteins: not appropriate for a snake.
For the same reason don't use any old baby food - a lot if it is very high in carbs. Make sure you stick to the Chicken and Gravy described above.

Other supplements:
After a long course of antibiotics it may be necessary to replace gut bacteria to kick start digestion. Nutribac powder can be added to the food mix. There doesn't seem to be a critical dose, it's really meant to be added as a dry "dust" to food items. If adding to liquid food, it tends to "cake" and needs some vigorous whisking to get to dissolve. I added about 1/4 teaspoon to my 50 ml egg mix.
Ingredients list - Maltodextrin, Bacilus subtilis, Aspergillus oryze, Bacillis amyloliquefaciens, Enterococcus facieum, Lactobacillus casei, L.acidophilus

A lack of calcium can cause muscle weakness and other issues, liquid calcium supplement can be added to the water bowl or to the liquid food mix (see link in first post).
Old 08-28-2018, 12:40 PM   #5
One other thing, if you're about to tube-feed a snake (as above), it also helps to get the snake to lubricate their throat encourage them to drink a bit of water by gently passing their head under a low-running tap- this will usually get them to drink some and it's no more "rude" than when they're rained on in the wild.

If you've forgotten to do that, just as you put the tube into their throat you can slightly push the plunger on the syringe to release just a bit of the Gerber's mixture into the top of their throat...this too will make the tubing slide in the rest of the way easier- another reason to add a drop or 2 of vegetable oil to the liquid food. (I also apply a bit of oil to the outside of the catheter...slick just works better.)

I've never fed raw beaten eggs before, but I've tube-fed & saved a number of snakes using Gerber's Chicken babyfood. I haven't looked at ALL the brands so there may be others now with limited and quality ingredients that will work well for snakes too, but read all labels carefully if you can't find Gerber's brand. Gerbers is very well-tolerated (ie. quickly digested) for a snake that's ailing, and the simple limited ingredients are what a snake needs, not high fructose corn syrup etc. that's in many other brands I've looked at.

I know that many resist the idea of tube-feeding a snake, but I can assure you that it can be done gently & without further harming the snake. Think of it as similar to the I.V. you get when in the hospital...without that nutrition, you'd be far less likely to regain energy enough to recover. But we cannot give a snake an I.V.- so a tube-feed is the next best thing to keep them from a down-ward spiral.

It's critically important to use only the syringe & catheter* as described for doing this. *The catheter used is a human medical urethral catheter, made of flexible material that has a rounded end...the liquid goes thru holes NEAR but not at the end...this keeps the tubing from causing pain & injuring tissues when it's inserted. You never want to use just any plastic tubing for tube-feeding since the cut end can hurt (cause internal injuries to) the snake you're trying to feed and save.
Old 11-06-2018, 08:40 PM   #6
One more short addition about volume to feed at one sitting:

When I give my 1.8 meter (6 foot) / 2.5 kg (5.5 pound) snake 50 - 60 ml of liquid feed he is much more likely to spit up about a third of it.

40 - 50 ml always seems fine. (50 ml = 1.7 US fluid ounce)
Old 11-06-2018, 09:32 PM   #7
Socratic Monologue
This is a very useful thread! Thank you for starting it, Helen!

I've tube fed hatchling mountain kingsnakes for upwards of a year, and they grew well during that time. (I've since shifted to other tricks for getting them started on a rodent diet.) I used a ball-tipped dosing needle -- made for inserting into a reptile's esophagus, but rigid, unlike the soft catheter tubes. I have seen larger/longer needles for tube feeding other animals, but I don't know if they are made in large enough gauges to feed a 2500g snake. The rigid needle made for very easy insertion, especially when coated with some of the liquid food mix.

I fed plain chicken baby food with added egg yolk and some Repashy Calcium Plus. I fed up to 1ml of that mix to a 10g hatchling, and they kept it down well as long as I had the tip of the needle all the way into the stomach.
Old 11-06-2018, 09:42 PM   #8
I like that tip - a firmer tube would be easier. Do you have a source where the dosing needle can be bought?
Old 11-06-2018, 10:11 PM   #9
Socratic Monologue
I bought my little ones from Reptile Basics.

I recall seeing larger ones for feeding squirrels and birds. Here are some that are a little larger than the RB ones:

I imagine a 2500g boa needs at least 18 inches to reach the stomach?
Old 11-06-2018, 10:14 PM   #10
Originally Posted by Socratic Monologue View Post
I imagine a 2500g boa needs at least 18 inches to reach the stomach?
Yes, I don't think it would work for him, but it's good to know for new babies, as you say. Thanks for adding to the information.

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