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Re: Overfeeding con't.....

[ Follow Ups ] [ Post Followup ] [ The Crotalidae Forum ]

Posted by Kenny Wray on January 27, 2003 at 14:28:16:

In Reply to: Overfeeding con't..... posted by Brendan on January 27, 2003 at 13:01:52:

:First can you give me an idea of what you consider overfeeding? Is it feeding the animal too much at one time? too often? a combination of both?
Although you can definitely do both, I think we are mainly discussing frequency here. I also feel that overfeeding at one sitting (gorging), short of maybe throwing up the meal, would have minimal effects compared to frequent feedings (although gorging at every meal could definitely have some long term effects, regardless if the animal reguritated the meal or not).

:Would you agree that what would be considered overfeeding for one species (ie. frequency of feeding) of rattlesnake may not be for another. An example would be a neonate C.mitchelli phyrrus versus a C.atrox.
To some degree, depending on the species, the age, and the prey item, it most definitely varies. In general though, the members of the genus Crotalus (IMHO) are most often overfed in collections (private and public). If your feeding your neonate mitchelli lizards and the atrox (I'll assume you ment neonate) adult mice, than yese you could overfeed the atrox much quicker. The important variable, regardless of age, size, etc., that you should be comparing your animal too, is the exact same snake in a natural environment. In other words: what would a neonate mitchelli be doing in the wild (what prey, how often, how much, etc.) compared to your captive specimen. That's why Rich et al. opinions should weigh greatly on the minds of others. Not because they have been keeping these animals for ages, lots of people have been doing that, but because they have been finding these animals at all stages and developments in the wild. This anecdotal info is vital above any zoo or other captive records.

:I have rasied both from birth and just from limited personal experience it seems that a baby atrox can certainly handle 1-2 feedings a week and still go thru a normal cycle of digestion and defication.
Key word is "can". Lots of animals can do things, but should they. And more importantly, outside of your artificial environment, do they? There are many documented cases of captive animals (although not that I know of for snakes) that seem to experience "acclerated aging" by increasing food items. Humans for instance: Western civilization has experienced a marked decrease in the age of first menstration in females. The primary culprit has been the increase in calories/protein/fat. If we can assume that this occurs in snakes (which I feel confident it does), then we could bring a female Crotalus horridus to reproductive maturation much more quickly. They could also have offspring much more often. But we have seen in wild specimens that they may take up to seven years to mature and then, at best, only breed every other year for a total of three or four births (commonly). That brings the snake to a ripe old age of 13-15. But incaptivity it may be easy to bring these to maturity in 3-4 years and breed them every year. But, as in mice, we may be causing the animal to become "blown out". Rich and others pointed this out with kingsnakes and others. Remember: despite the fact that they can grow quickly, you can't reasonably expect them to have the same life expectancy.

I was always lead to believe that once an animal had eaten and followed up with an evacuation that they are ready to eat again as long as they accepted the food.
Lower vertebrates are well known to become glutinous, as it fits their life style. Not knowing when or where the next food supply is coming, causes and animal to "eat, while the eating is good", because times will not always be kind to them. (Coincidentally, this is the same reason that the fad diet, the Atkins diet, backfires on people that stop it). I have witnessed desert Thamnophis gorge themselves on fish until they couldn't move and later, without any outside disturbance, regurge them. The snake will always be on the lookout and ready to go for the next meal, that doesn't mean that it should get it. A once saw a study that showed that many small mammal species that have large ranges (east to west) tend to live shorter lives in the east (one hypothesis put forward was that there was a much more reliable supply of food and they simply completed their life cycles quicker and were replaced by the next generation, whereas the western individuals did not have this luxury).

:What I am trying to understand is how the accelerated food intake and subequent growth are a physiological detriment to the animals long term health.
For fear of sounding redundant, I think I tackled this above.

In humans it's not usually obesity that shortens a persons life span but the related disease processes that follow.
Obesity is correlated with these and, in many cases, it can be a direct cause/effect relationship. (i.e. obesity does cause the majority of people that have it to have a shortened life expectancy).

Elevated cholesterol, arterioscleriosis, overworked organs which lead to heart disease and death. Have studies been done on reptiles to see if there are indications of physiological imbalances in obese snakes?
Some, not many. We were just discussing this on the Field Collecting Forum in which some of us (me) feel that it is detrimental to the health of Heterodon platyrhinos to feed on mice. Many zoo vets have documented gout of the liver/kidneys and circulatory problems in large carnivorous lizards (monitors, tegus, etc.) which were fed high fat/protein/calorie diets (= mice and rats).

:Another question would be, how much of a role does an animals activity level determine what would be considered overfeeding?
That's the key to all of this. The most activity a snake experiences in the wild is the foraging for food and, occasionally, for mates. Most of this is taken away from the animal in captivity. Unless you are allowing your snake to crawl around the cage for weeks on end in between feedings (which is probably even more different for sit and wait predators like Crotalus which only move after sitting in a particular spot for some time. But what spot do they try differently in a cage?).

If an animal is very active (which many neonates are) then they are buring calories at a faster rate than a 15 year old snake who just hides in a box for weeks at a time. Therefor a younger snake who is very active would have no problem eating on a more frequent basis, right?
I would have to say, that they would eat a little more frequently, but not if the meals are larger than normal.

:These are just a few things that popped in my head so I thought I would ask. I have talked to people who powerfeed all their snakes from birth and still have animals that live in excess of 20 years. Help a lost crote lover out ;)
Hhhmmmm...I would bet that some people will go much longer than if they didn't power feed them.

Hope that helps some...
Later, KW

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