Shedding is just a natural part of life for a snake to help it grow bigger and rid itself of any unhealthy scale issues. However, you may notice that shedding not only affects the appearance of your snake, but also its appetite.
Do snakes still eat while they are in the process of shedding?
Some snakes will eat while they shed, although their appetite is usually diminished. However, most snakes will not eat at all during the shedding process due to the ingrained instinct of the dangers that hunting can entail while in such a vulnerable state.
Every species of snake is different. Most ball pythons will not eat at all during the entirety of the shedding process, while redtails will continue chowing down meals like nothing has changed. For that matter, individual snakes also have their preferences about eating during shedding.
It’s important to get to know your snake’s eating habits when it comes to shedding because snakes continue to shed multiple times per year throughout their lifetime. We’ll discuss when to feed your snake before, during, and after shedding, what to feed him, and whether or not you should worry if he refuses to eat.
Should I Feed My Snake While He’s Shedding?
You can feed your snake during shedding, but that doesn’t mean he will eat. If you are concerned about keeping a regular feeding schedule and his feeding day occurs during the middle of a shed, you can still offer him food to see if he’ll eat.
He may be used to the schedule and have learned that eating food during shedding is not a threat which would encourage him to eat. However, most snakes have the natural instinct to avoid eating during shedding because they are left more vulnerable to prey that could injure them. In the wild, snakes will not even attempt to hunt or seek out food until their shedding process is complete.
If you want to try feeding your snake during shedding, only do so if it falls within his scheduled feeding time. Offer a smaller meal than you usually would so that he doesn’t devote a lot of energy to digesting a large meal. Since a snake’s skin is more vulnerable during shedding, it can easily acquire cuts and scrapes and the body needs as much energy as possible to focus on healing.
If your snake refuses to eat, make sure to remove the food after no more than twelve hours so that it doesn’t rot and make your snake sick. You can try to offer food again the next day, but if he still doesn’t eat, just wait until the shed is complete. Putting out food too often during shedding can stress your snake out and make him less likely to eat even when the shedding process is over.
Make sure to monitor your snake carefully if he does choose to eat while shedding. Since the act of shedding his old skin requires a lot of movement, your snake can easily regurgitate any meal he tries to consume.
How Long After a Snake Sheds Will It Eat?
Most snakes will wait until the shedding process has been fully completed. Once the old skin is fully detached from the body and the new skin has healed up, then most snakes are more than happy to consume a decent sized meal.
Some species of snakes are not so picky however and will eat just as soon as the old skin’s shed clears the eyes and mouth. At this point, there is little risk of the old skin tearing up the snake’s mouth or scratching its vulnerable eyes, so eating does not present a problem.
You can see this snake waited only long enough for the shed to peel back from his head before consuming an entire rat for dinner:
Other species do not pay much attention to whether or not their old skin has been completely shed. Rather, they will not eat until their vision returns to normal. When a snake sheds its skin, the entire body secretes excess fluid to help separate the old skin from the new.
This fluid also fills up the eyes making them appear blue in color. During this period, a snake’s vision is impaired so that it cannot accurately detect prey (or anything else for that matter) via eyesight. Most snakes choose not to eat until the fluid decreases and their vision returns to normal so as to avoid mistakenly eating something that could harm them.
Even when all of the different phases of the shedding process are over, you may find that your snake is still stressed out. If you recognize typical signs of stress (not related to hunger) in your snake, you may want to wait a few days until it relaxes before trying to feed it because introducing food might make matters worse.
If your snake refuses to eat once it is done shedding, don’t panic. Wait a few days or a week and try to feed him again. Snakes in the wild can go for weeks without eating, so your pet snake going on a mini hunger strike after his exhausting ordeal shouldn’t be too concerning.
Will Snakes Eat Before Shedding?
Just like eating after and during shedding, some snakes will eat beforehand while others may not. Most snakes typically decrease all physical activity including hunting in preparation for shedding. The shedding process can burn a lot of energy, so snakes don’t want to waste it all on other activities.
Additionally, as a snake begins to prepare for shedding it will become more vulnerable so that exposing itself to injury from prey that may fight back is not appealing. You may notice your snake’s appetite begin to decrease as much as one or two weeks before the actual shedding occurs.
Other snakes will eat like normal up until the time for shedding comes. These snakes will take advantage of their regular meals in order to build energy for the coming ordeal. All snakes have different tactics for handling their food intake before, during, and after the shedding process.
It is beneficial to observe how your snake handles meals so that you know best how to proceed for subsequent sheds.
What Is the Best Food to Offer My Snake While He’s Shedding?
If you know your snake will eat during shedding or at least want to try to offer food, there are a few things you need to keep in mind when selecting what type of food to give him.
Never present live food to a snake while it’s shedding. At best, he will completely ignore it. At worst, he may attempt to hunt it and become seriously injured. Newly formed skin on a snake is soft, vulnerable, and can be easily torn. Most snake prey you might feed live such as rats or mice can seriously harm a shedding snake with their claws and teeth.
If you present these types of food, make sure it is already dead. If you use frozen rodents, heat them up to body temperature so that they are appealing to the snake. Any advantage to making a meal extra tempting will go a long way to enticing your snake to eat during shedding.
Present your snake with food that you know it likes. Break out the special treats to see if he will come out of hiding long enough for a bite. You know your snake best; use his favorite food to your advantage to see if he’ll continue to eat during shedding.
Should I Be Worried If My Snake Doesn’t Eat While Shedding?
If your snake doesn’t eat while it’s shedding, there really is no cause for concern. Most snakes don’t eat during this time for a number of reasons. They are aware of how vulnerable they are to potential predators and even to the counterattacks of their prey. Instead of risking a meal that may end up in injury or worse, most snakes choose to stay hidden until their new scales harden.
On top of their lack of physical defense, snakes also cannot see very well during shedding. The fluid that turns their eyes blue clouds their vision so that they cannot accurately pinpoint prey items. What they believe to be food may in fact be something completely inedible, or worse, something that could hurt them.
Additionally, a lot of snakes eat weekly or biweekly so adding an extra week in between meals to accommodate for shedding is not going to affect the overall health and wellbeing of your snake. In fact, even with a skipped meal or two due to shedding, pet snakes still get fed more often than wild snakes.
Wild snakes must rely on their ability to hunt as well as availability of prey. Some snakes will go for weeks without seeing any food and still survive to live a fruitful life. Pet snakes can count on food being there when they need it and oftentimes are considered overfed.
For the most part, you don’t need to worry if your snake doesn’t eat during or even for up to a week after shedding. However, if you notice that your snake has lost more than 10% of its body weight, you may have cause for concern. This is considered a significant drop in body mass, and you should contact your vet if you notice this happening to your snake during or after shedding.
Your snake may have injured itself during shedding and contracted a bacterial infection which influenced its appetite. Alternatively, your snake’s shed may not have completely detached and this can lead to a whole host of health problems. If you notice any injuries or a partial shed especially coupled with a refusal to eat, let your veterinarian know so they can help you get your snake back to good health.
Shedding is all part of a snake’s natural growing process. However, shedding can be exhaustive and even stressful for some snakes. Even if the process goes smoothly, most snakes will refuse to eat while shedding to conserve energy and protect themselves from potential harm. Some snakes will even reduce their appetites before or after shedding.
Every snake is different when it comes to their eating preference around shedding time. The best thing you can do for your reptilian buddy is to pay attention to what he needs. Present food as an option but don’t force it – he’ll eat when he needs to. Pay attention to how he responds to food around shedding time so that you can better accommodate him for the next time around.