How To Get Your Hognose Snake to Start Eating Again
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Whether you’re a first-time reptile owner or an experienced keeper, one pet that can cause a lot of trouble is hognose snakes. These adorable snakes are known for their upturned snouts and the way they play dead in the wild— two traits that make them popular pets. However, they can also be picky eaters depending on a range of circumstances.
This behavior has been observed in baby hognose snakes, subadult hoggies, and even fully-grown adults. Because of this, it’s a more complicated issue than something solely age-related.
Ultimately, solving the problem of a hungry hognose who won’t eat will require you to understand their behavioral tendencies in free-living populations and captivity. This information is directly related to their eating habits, and it’s essential to help you identify and treat your pet’s issues
Check out these common problems and some simple ways to resolve them; soon you’ll be able to feed your pet hognose without any issues!
Are you feeding them the right prey?
One of the most popular types of prey to feed any kind of snake is a rodent. And while it’s the most popular due to many snakes’ natural affinity for this food source, it’s far from the only option. In fact, many wild snakes don’t eat rodents— especially young hognose snakes. Not only can they be vicious when defending themselves from predators, but they’re also difficult for snakes to find.
A common alternative food source for many wild snakes are small reptiles and amphibians. These creatures are small enough to eat, are often left unprotected, and can be abundant in many environments. For western hognose snakes, toads are among their favorite choice of meals. For eastern hognose snakes, amphibians such as frogs are their favorites.
If you’re worried about sourcing toad and amphibian-based food sources for your pet, we can help!
After receiving hundreds of emails and social media messages about this issue, Reptilinks has developed Frog and Quail links that are great for hognoses. Alternatively, you can try feeding your pet Frog and Rabbit and/or Iguana Meat “links” that come in many different sizes to accommodate baby and adult hognose snakes. But if you still want to try feeding rodents to your pet hognose, there’s another option: frog juice that can scent your mouse or rat in order to make it more appealing.
Are you housing them in the right enclosure?
Let’s say you’ve tried changing your hognose’s diet to suit their natural tendencies, but he or she still won’t eat. What’s the next thing you can try?
Something else that can be affecting your pet’s appetite is the size and layout of their enclosure. Specifically, placing your pet in a space that’s too large and open can cause a lot of stress for your scaly companion.
Just about every snake seeks out dark and tiny places in order to feel safe. In the wild, the only time they leave these small “hides” is to regulate their body temperature and seek out prey.
If you’ve got a large enclosure for your pet — like a ten-gallon aquarium — you might think that it’s as easy as adding tons of brush and lots of small hides. Sure, this can work in a few cases; however, the truth is that aquariums like these are really only ideal for housing fish.
Having several transparent walls all around your hognose’s enclosure will make them feel exposed on all sides. However, you can prevent this by using dark construction paper or nontoxic paint to cover the sides and back of your pet’s enclosure. Additionally, you’ll want to place at least two appropriately-sized hides in the tank: one on the cold side, and one on the warm side.
Even when you put in the effort to densely fill your enclosure with brush, opaque walls, and hides, it can still make your pet feel anxious if the tank is too big.
Generally speaking, you don’t want your pet’s enclosure to be larger than twice its length. Not only does this help your pet feel more cozy, but it also ties into the third most important factor to consider when trying to get your hognose snake to eat:
Are you maintaining appropriate temps?
As with any ectothermic creature, a hognose snake needs an appropriate thermogradient in its enclosure to stay healthy. Inadequate temperatures — especially during the winter — can result in your pet fasting or entering brumation.
In nature, snakes like the hognose can live in environments with extreme weather changes. As a colubrid, hognoses are accustomed to hard fasting in reaction to changes in temperature and barometric pressure. Unfortunately, this behavior can kick in due to temp changes in your pet’s enclosure, resulting in a refusal to eat.
If you suspect that your hognose snake is experiencing this natural response, you have two options. The first is to allow your pet to enter brumation, adjusting its temperatures to replicate natural winter conditions. (65 to 75 degrees Fahrenheit) If you do this, they will not eat for a period of three to four months, so you should avoid this practice if your pet is young and have only had a few meals in their entire life.
The second action you can take is to adjust your enclosure’s temperature to maintain a tear-long summer environment (84 to 92 degrees Fahrenheit). In addition to increasing the temps on your bulbs or other heat sources, you can insulate the sides of your tank with towels or bits of plastic to prevent heat loss.
This isn’t a complete list of problems that can cause your hognose snake to stop eating, just the most common issues based on the experiences of fellow reptile lovers. You should always talk to a veterinarian if you’re unsure of your pet’s health.