neumeindil (neumeindil) wrote in cornsnakes,

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122 days of anorexia-- any pro keepers in here?

We've had a rescued adult male normal corn of unknown lineage for 18 months, that was supposedly eating f/t hopper mice steadily in his last home. In that time, he's eaten 9 times, mostly adult mice and small rats, which are appropriate for his size if he was eating twice a month. In the last 122 days, he's refused everything we've offered, which wouldn't be so worrying except that he's actively *hiding* from it. The only options left to try are live mice and lizards, and good luck finding anoles in the Great Lakes in the middle of winter! But, we hesitate to try live because of the fear response when offered a feeder, again regardless of type. There's no way we can put a live feeder in with him and trust it not to injure him if we're not there to supervise, but he won't even attempt to feed with us present, whether he's in his own enclosure or a feeding bin (which we generally don't use because it distresses the animal so much of the time).

The implications when we were given this animal are that the former owner would take the snake out and frighten his fiancee with it, and considering he'd be under the influence of unnamed "substances" at the time, I've no doubt this animal has been flung into walls or shaken. He's moved from a 20 gal tank to a 29 gal. tank, and from that to a 28 qt sweater bin (about 18" x 12" x 4"). He's had a hot side as high as 90*F and a cold side as low as 75*. We even let him brumate at 60*F last winter hoping to "reset the system". We've treated for parasites and fecaes look normal. His sheds are all normal. Puzzlingly, his weight is steady through all this.

How does one rehab an animal that does nothing but cower in fear from food?

When is it time to euthanize due to suffering?
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Is it possible he's just reacting strongly to the seasons? Is there natural sunlight where his tank is? Even if it's not directly reaching him, it may still be enough to trigger him to rest rather than eat. My Noodle has a definite slow-down during this part of the year. The days are just now getting longer, and right on cue, he's just starting to rummage around. I fed him about five days ago; his last meal before that was about two months prior. Remember, in the wild, snakes would commonly go entire winters and then some without food; it would be very rare for them to be eating as frequently as we tend to feed them in captivity, even in the summer.

Have you tried braining the mice? Wiggling it with tongs to imitate live food? Have you tried rats instead of mice? How long have you left him alone with the f/t food? Every once in a while Noodle will get ornery and won't eat unless he's in his box and I don't even enter the room for like 45 minutes.

If his weight is steady, I wouldn't go into panic mode yet, unless you're seeing an obvious mass growing. If it would help put your mind at ease, I'd recommend taking him to an exotics vet and see if they notice anything that might be causing him to decline food. Otherwise, maybe wait until the days get longer and the weather warmer to see if his appetite perks up?
I'll second the braining. Sometimes that will entice my snake to eat when nothing else does.

Also, your comment gave me some serious nostalgia, I remember you and Noodle from when LJ was more active years ago. :)
lol Noodle's famous. He's 10 and a half now! My babysnake is my oldest animal...
WOW...i think i remember baby pictures lol
First off, please understand that this isn't panic. I'm hoping to ask these questions of people who have kept multiple corns for multiple years, the "seen it all" specialist in corns ideally a la Kathy Love. (I just can't find her email address or other contact info.) Between my husband and I we have over 20 years of keeping experience, and currently house over 60 animals between rescues and those we keep for shows and education events. We know what will typically address this problem in a typical snake; we do it regularly for everything from ball pythons to red tailed boas, and larger at the nature center and exotics sanctuary where we volunteer. (Don't tell Florida or the federal Dept. of Fish and Game; I've nursed a Burmese Python back to health and lived to tell the tale. :) ) We've done everything you ask about above and then some. I'm here because it's not working.

As I said above, he cowers in fear regardless of the type of feeder or how it's presented. "The only options left to try are live mice and lizards" which we can't get right now, and I'll be apprehensive about since his default reaction to anything that moves is to hide his head and flee at the first opportunity. He's been left overnight, undisturbed, with f/t hoppers, fuzzies, adult mice, rat pups, crawlers, and weanlings, and a f/t chick. They've gone entirely untouched, whether brained or not. When we soaked one in chicken broth, he hid his head and then bolted. When we tried tuna juice (a good trick to know for western hognosed snakes that go off feed btw.) he did the exact same thing.

He presents no signs of masses anywhere. No weight fluctuation. The vet declares him "a normal snake, just a fraidy cat". How in hell is a snake so "afraid" in three typical/adequate habitats over 18 months that he starves himself? We almost certainly have to be looking at a neurological issue? The only other option I can think of is that this one cornsnake out of over two dozen that have lived or currently live with us, doesn't like being housed near a kingsnake, which has been the case in all three of his enclosures. (Now that I've put this bug in my other half's ear, he's going to see if he can find a different slot farther from the kings but still dark, warm, and quiet.)

We've been following "wait and see" for over a year, and keeping meticulous records; there's no pattern to his feeding v fear in terms of day/night cycle, temperatures, time of day he's fed, which of us feeds, or what kind of food. The Other Half thinks it's time to have him humanely euthanized due to the amount of stress he must be under; I want us to ask ourselves if something else could be wrong. Not that snakes have "psychology" as such, but there's a distinct possibility that whatever the first home was like caused some kind of harder-to-detect damage.

I appreciate your attempts at figuring this out with us. I hope the above makes the oddness of this situation a little clearer. :)
Gotcha. Hope I didn't come off as condescending or anything, I just know that a lot of issues I see at work (vet clinic) can come from some very basic things the owner's missed, so that's always where I look first.

Switching away from the kingsnake is certainly worth a shot. I've had some betta fish that were extremely sensitive to anything in a five-foot radius from their tank. Even stupid things like pencils. They'd be very upset until I removed the offending object, assuming I could figure out what that was. 8|

So weird though that he was eating for you initially but now won't. There wasn't anything that happened while he was eating while you had him that might have caused him to associate scary things with food? Like weird movement near him while he was eating, or weird smells, or anything? I'm sure you've already tried feeding him in a completely new place... Dunno, just throwing out ideas here.
They do pay a surprising amount of attention to their surroundings sometimes- I thought my corn snake must have taken ill a couple of years ago when he started coiling up out in the open regularly instead of under either of his logs. It took me days to work out that he had found the only vantage point in his tank from which he could watch my rescued wood mouse in its cage on the other side of the room! I can imagine that if it had been another snake stressing him for some reason rather than a potential meal it might have bothered him even from quite a distance.
Any progress?
Semi-progress, yes. We were able to track down someone who was hands on with this animal before we got it and figure out what pet store it came from. I made a call to ask who their reptile supplier is, looked up that company and started reading reviews. Turns out this animal is likely wild caught from southern FL. So, he's on our "wild caught injured" protocol instead of being treated as a CB animal. Hot side: 92*, cool side 80*, back on aspen chips instead of towels, misting once a week. Might end up putting him on a potting soil/peat/sphagnum mix if he refuses again. BUT--

He took a live fuzzy mouse on Friday, and a frozen crawler rat on Tuesday. We'll worm him again after 3-4 more successful feeds. So, cautious optimism in the snake room this week. :) I just want to punch a poacher posing as a reptile "breeder" in the reproductive parts.