Those who adore reptiles and snakes often opt to have them as pets, and the milk snake has become popular for its interesting patterns and nature.
But, caring for a milk snake can be perplexing with so many considerations. So, how long can a milk snake go without eating?
Adult milk snakes can live two weeks to two months without food, but not without health risks. Baby milk snakes will not survive as long since they need more nourishment and feed more frequently than adult milk snakes.
Even though milk snakes can survive without food for a long time, it doesn’t necessarily mean they will be okay with it or that there will be no harmful side effects.
Join us to find out about the milk snake’s dietary requirements and how to go about ensuring that your milk snake is fed when it needs to be.
Everything you need to know about caring for Milk Snakes in captivity:
Read our Milk Snake Care Sheet (Complete Guide)
How Often Should I Feed My Milk Snake?
Different snake species need varying quantities of food and nourishment, with larger snakes typically needing more sustenance than smaller snakes. Adult milk snakes should typically be fed once every two weeks.
Once they have reached full maturity, feeding them more frequently can lead to the milk snake becoming overweight. Hydration plans necessitate a large water bowl within their enclosure, big enough for them to get into. Milk snakes will start prowling and flicking their tongues more frequently when they are hungry.
How Often Do Baby Milk Snakes Eat?
Hatchlings or baby milk snakes need more nourishment than adult milk snakes, irrespective of gender.
Providing sufficient nourishment during this foundation phase will greatly increase the milk snake’s happiness and health in the long run.
During this time, the young milk snake should be fed about once a week or approximately once every five days, provided that they are still feeding on smaller mice or prey.
Hydration is key for feeding, and juvenile milk snakes should have fresh water around the clock.
Soaking in dechlorinated water at a lukewarm temperature approximately 10 minutes before feeding will assist their digestion processes.
Once they begin to eat larger prey such as large or jumbo mice, the feeding frequency should be lessened gradually over about two years.
How Long Can a Milk Snake Go Without Eating?
Generally speaking, a fully matured and healthy milk snake will survive for anywhere between two weeks to two months without food, depending on the condition of the snake and other influential circumstances.
There have been cases of snakes surviving for months or even years without food. But, their capacity to survive without food will depend on their age, internal health, and overall physical condition.
How Do Snakes Survive Without Food?
Snakes can slow down their metabolisms drastically, which preserves energy over time.
They have the natural ability to slow their metabolisms down to 70% less when they feel it’s necessary, making it possible for them to survive without food and continue growing despite a lack of sustenance.
If the snake goes into survival mode and begins to starve, it will use up the energy held by stored fat. After this energy supply has been used up, various methods are utilized by different species.
Still, snakes typically use body functions and their natural necessity for fewer calories as an advantage.
What Do You Do if Your Milk Snake is Not Eating?
Although there are problematic reasons why your milk snake isn’t eating, natural inclinations and processes may be reasonable causes. However, it is not normal without the presence of certain circumstances.
Caregivers should attempt to identify the cause and consult a vet for a thorough examination.
Temperature and Lighting
The temperature and lighting conditions should be checked if one’s milk snake is not eating. They should be experiencing light and dark in equal amounts throughout each day. Temperature gradients can be checked by using a thermometer.
Shy, Afraid, or Stressed
If your milk snake is new to the area or has experienced instability with its living conditions, it may be experiencing fear and anxiety or may even be a little shy of its new home. In these cases, it is common for them to become stressed and refuse to feed, and they should begin eating once they are comfortable.
Snakes commonly stop feeding before they begin to shed, and their appetites will return once shedding is completed. This cause is relatively straightforward to identify since the milk snake will appear to have grayish skin and may seem irritable during this time. Their eyes may also appear milky or blue.
Brumation is a dormant period for reptiles, similar to hibernation for mammals. During this time, the snake’s bodily functions will slow to conserve energy for the following seasons, and they may not drink, eat, move, or defecate for a few weeks to two months.
Although brumation is natural for reptiles, it does pose risks for their health. Risks include various issues with bodily function. Such risks may have long-lasting effects on their health, such as the fact that dehydration can cause puckered skin and prominent backbones.
Brumation health risks can be lessened with a thorough diet and hydration plan and annual vet visits. To alleviate brumation entirely, lighting conditions, temperatures, handling, and nourishment should be consistent.
A milk snake may not eat due to illnesses like mouth rot and respiratory diseases or parasites, which will need to be examined by a vet. Symptoms include depression, weight loss, abdominal oddities and discharge, sores, vomiting, diarrhea, and much more, in addition to a diminished appetite. A trip to the vet is crucial in these cases.
Snakes are inherently accustomed to eating their prey while it is alive, and caregivers can try moving and wriggling their food around with a pair of tongs.
Caregivers can create a “hide box” and can place the food inside for the snake to find and eat on its own, and slice the skull of the food to increase the scent.
Caregivers can also try a new food item such as gerbils, chick, hamster, birds, or amphibians. Live rodents – pink un-weaned rodents, not adult rodents – may be necessary to provoke a reaction from the snake.
Although caring for a milk snake holds various complexities, many aspects are entirely natural and reasonable. With some preparation and background knowledge, caring for a milk snake does not have to be perplexing or stressful, and this intriguing snake species can offer owners plenty of endearment and companionship over time.