Hognoses have earned a reputation for being one of the most notoriously difficult captive snakes to get eating a rodent based diet consistently. In the wild, hognoses feed primarily on amphibians, small lizards and their eggs. Their upturned snout aids them in digging up their prey, the Duvernoy’s gland they possess subdues their prey as they do not constrict.
It’s not only neonates that go off feeding. We’ve had adult females who have gone months refusing meals. Before jumping to assist feeding, we suggest keepers try other methods. Increasing the hot spot or ambient temperature by a few degrees may encourage them to eat. Removing their water dish for 24 – 48 hours, then offering a smaller prey item has worked for us, as well as “braining”, where you make a small incision in the top of the skull to allow brain matter to excrete from the area. You can also try moving the problem feeder to a smaller, temporary enclosure and leave the (dead) prey item in for up to 24 hours. In our experience, this has not been an effective way to get them to eat, if anything, removing them from their secure enclosure causes more stress. If the aforementioned methods fail to work, scenting the prey item is a popular method. Below is a comprehesive list of the most commonly used items for scenting.
White Cloud Minnows
If none of the above methods work, your hognose has lost around 1/4 of it’s body weight and matters become dire, you can try assist feeding. We have use Carnivore Care, mixed with water so it’s runnier than baby food consistency. Fill a slip tip syringe with the mixture, hold their head gently between your fingers and gently apply pressure to the sides of their mouth. If they refuse to open their mouth, you can use a slim object to help open it. We prefer to use a guitar pick when opening their mouths. Many people use credit cards, bank cards and the like, but we find the edges to be too blunt that they may cause trauma to the mouth area. With their mouth open, carefully slip the syringe in a tiny bit and slowly press the plunger. After one or two times assist feeding, we like to see if that’s encouraged a feeding response by offering a small prey item.
**Assist feeding is traumatic and stressful, both to the snake and owner. It should only be done as a last resort and we feel shouldn’t be done for an extended period of time.