Boa constrictors (Boa constrictor) are known for being voracious eaters. Like all ambush predators, they rarely pass up a meal. If your snake has refused more than 2 meals, it may be time to figure out why your snake isn’t eating.
Here are 8 reasons why a boa constrictor may not eat:
1. Poor Enclosure Conditions
The very first thing you should check when your snake refuses 2 meals in a row is the temperature and humidity. It is possible that your thermometer or hygrometer is no longer accurate.
Use a temperature gun to check the surface temperatures of the basking area, hides, and other parts of the enclosure your snake spends time in.
You should also check the humidity levels and make sure they are right. If your snake is too cold or hot, it may refuse to eat.
This is because your snake can tell if it is at risk of indigestion or having prey rot in its stomach. A dehydrated snake may also refuse to eat.
My boa constrictor care sheet covers everything you need to know to setup the perfect enclosure for your snake.
Stress can put any snake off its food. If you handle your boa often, it may become stressed out. Your snake will also be upset if it has just been brought to its new home.
Major changes in the enclosure, moving, and lots of activity near its enclosure can stress out a snake. While snakes can’t hear many sounds in the air, they can detect vibration.
Loud music or other sounds can upset your snake and stress it out. Boa constrictors are shy animals that prefer to be left alone. Give your snake at least a week in a quiet space so it can relax.
Avoid handling a snake that is not eating, since handling can stress it further and cause the feeding strike to last longer.
Juvenile boa constrictors are more susceptible to stress.
3. Breeding Season and Gravidity
Even if you don’t intend to breed your snake, it may know when the time to breed is. Many males go off food in the spring during the breeding season.
Some females will also refuse to eat during this time. Gravid females will also refuse to eat as the babies grow. Since they can have 10-64 babies in one litter, they take up a lot of room in a snake’s body.
Once the breeding season is over or the babies are born, the snake should eat again. Remember to watch the snake’s weight and take it in if it starts dropping weight quickly.
Check your snake’s body condition as well, since if the snake is looking very thin, it needs to go in to a qualified reptile vet.
Parasites are a big concern for snakes. Mites and ticks can stress a snake if they are heavily infested. They can also transmit diseases that will make your snake ill.
Internal parasites can make it hard for your snake to eat. Look for signs of mites, which look like black poppy seeds, and have a fecal test to rule out internal parasites.
Keep any new snakes quarantined so they don’t risk passing parasites to other snakes you may own.
A number of infections can cause your snake to refuse to eat. An infection in the stomach will result in your snake refusing a meal.
Boas can also suffer from mouth infections, skin infections, and infected wounds from prey that will result in a lack of appetite.
Check for any changes in the skin or changes in respiration. You may also see your snake breathe with its mouth open or have pus or blood-filled mucus.
In this case, take your snake to the vet immediately. Most infections can be treated with antibiotics, so your snake will be fine if you get it checked out at the vet.
6. Inclusion Body Disease (IBD)
Inclusion Body Disease can cause repeated regurgitations and a lack of appetite for early infection. It is caused by a virus that may be passed by direct contact, mites, or poor sanitation.
In boas, it is very common and causes a chronic illness that will eventually result in death.
It can be subtle, but there is a blood test that can determine if the snake is infected. It is sadly always fatal, and there is no known treatment. Euthanasia is recommended for infected animals since the disease causes suffering.
7. Other Illnesses
Many illnesses in snakes present with a lack of appetite. It is important to take note of any other changes in your snake and take it to the vet if you suspect it may be sick.
It is better to be wrong than have your snake die from something that could have been caught and treated early. Since boas are good at hiding illness, any signs including changes in color or a sudden change in behavior should be investigated.
8. Prey Pickiness
Snakes can be picky with prey type. If your snake is used to white mice, it may refuse to eat a brown rat. While you will likely need to size up prey and change species for large snakes, some snakes may go on feeding strikes. This isn’t a huge concern unless your snake is losing a lot of weight.
Weighing your snake weekly will help you monitor its health. Ambush predators like boa constrictors can withstand some time without food, but you may have to feed smaller prey more frequently if that is what is required to get your pet to eat.
If you are trying to feed frozen prey, some snakes may refuse it at first. Most will take it when they are hungry enough. At worst, you can use live or freshly killed prey.
Take it slow and be patient, particularly if you are introducing completely new prey items like young rabbits or chickens to larger snakes. Offer food weekly until your snake takes something.
Boa constrictors may refuse to eat for many reasons.
Always rule out the most serious causes first and be ready to take your snake to the vet if it has other symptoms or starts dropping weight quickly.
Boas hold onto weight well, so sudden drops in weight or body condition is a very bad sign. If you have any questions or comments, please leave them below.