OBESITY IN PYTHONS
Obesity is a common condition in pet pythons, especially Aspidites species (woma and black headed pythons) and water pythons (Liasus fuscus). Snakes are generally kept in small enclosures, where their ability to exercise is limited, and they are often fed high fat foods too frequently.
1) What is obesity?
For most species this is defined as being 15% over the recommended weight. A python that has a large fatty bulge before the tail, a dip over the spine, or a comparatively thick neck for its species is likely to be overweight.
2) What causes obesity in a python?
Obesity is the result of taking in more calories than are used.
Unlike their wild counterparts, pet pythons are often kept in relatively small enclosures. Although many wild reptiles choose to stay in one spot for extended periods of time, they will need to hunt for food, escape predators and move around to maintain their appropriate temperature ranges. Recent studies have shown many snakes have a much larger territory range than previously suspected.
Most pet pythons are fed high fat captive-bred rodent meals compared to the leaner foods that wild snakes consume.
3) Are there any problems associated with obesity in a python?
Obese pythons have a higher likelihood of developing hepatic lipidosis (fatty-liver disease) and heart disease, both of which can be fatal. They are also more prone to developing reproductive disorders such as failure to breed, follicular stasis (an ovarian problem) or dystocia (egg-binding).
4) How do I correct obesity in my python?
As a general rule, hatchling pythons are fed every 5-7 days. Yearling snakes are fed every 7-14 days and adults, depending on the size and species, every 14-42 days. A meal should be at least as wide as the widest part of the snake’s body, but able to be consumed within a few minutes. Move your snake to a diet of rats as soon as possible as these tend to be leaner than the equivalent sized mice. Very large pythons may do better on a diet of small rabbits rather than multiple large rats.
Exercise is very important to maintain an appropriate body mass. Providing multiple resting platforms, moving cage furniture around and having a moving “hot-spot” are all ways to encourage exercise. Time out of the cage is also beneficial.
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