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Many reptiles are stimulated to engage in hunting and feeding behavior by rainfall in their natural environments. You can simulate this by spraying a fine mist of water inside the cage. Make sure the spray bottle you use is filled with clean water, and is one that has never been used for harmful or toxic chemicals.
Be sure to read the first assisted feeding tip to learn the mechanics first, as this is an advanced technique that can injure or kill a reptile if not done properly. For carnivorous lizards and snakes, a good formula is half and half Gerber's chicken and Gerber's lamb strained baby food, mixed with some Jump Start or NutriCal concentrated calorie supplement and thinned with a bit of Pedialyte or Gatorade to the consistency of toothpaste. Purchase NutriCal or Jump Start at your local pet store or in the Dealer's links section here, and Pedialyte (an electrolyte fluid for infants) in the same place you buy the baby food. The proportions are about one jar of baby food to one tablespoon of Jump Start to 2 tablespoons of Gatorade or Pedialyte. I also add a small pinch of appropriate reptile vitamins and a small dab of a probiotic supplement that helps benign bacteria flourish in the gut, such as Foal Starter. You can purchase Foal Starter at www.valleyvet.com. If you are in an emergency situation, you could use just the Gerber's baby food thinned with water or the electrolyte solution.
If your insect-eating lizard doesn't like crickets, try turning them green.
Powdered spirulina is a nutritious supplement you can buy in health food stores, and powdering crickets before offering them might help make them more acceptable to a wild caught animal accustomed to feeding on green insects.
Credit goes to Melissa Kaplan for making this suggestion.
When assist feeding large lizards with formidable teeth, the steel feeding tip needs to either be replaced by a softer length of aquarium tube, or slipped skillfully past the teeth so that the lizard bites down only on the soft plastic of the syringe. Another concern for lizards is their bodies should be held with the head elevated while feeding, as otherwise the food may actually "back up" and go back out violently through the nose and mouth. This is uncomfortable for both lizard and handler. Be sure to read all the tips in the assist feeding series carefully before proceding, as you can easily kill or injure a reptile during this difficult activity.
The last resort for picky eaters is assisted or forced feeding. You will need a plastic syringe with a ball tipped stainless steel medicating tip, which is sold by www.tongs.com and www.valleyvet.com. It is called a livestock oral medicating syringe tip, and it has a rounded end so that it does not injure a reptile's delicate mouth. The jaws are opened carefully, usually by your assistant, and the syringe full of the mixture is introduced down the throat. Be careful not to put the tip down the windpipe, which is the smaller opening in front. The tip should go at least a half inch down the throat in lizards (to avoid their pushing the food back out) and several inches in snakes. Don't let any air stay in the syringe, and give only the amount of formula by volume that the animal would get in a large normal feeding.
Be sure to read the precautions and preparations outlined in the other assisted feeding tips before trying this at home. A botched attempt can injure or kill your pet. The human food supplement Ensure is easier for a weakened system to digest than vegetable matter, so a good formula is to mix Ensure with about 25% to 50% strained baby food such as bananna, carrot, sweet potato or peas. A spoonful of acidophilous yogurt or a small dab of a probiotic product such as Foal Starter can have a beneficial effect on bacteria in the gut. For more information, see Melissa Kaplan's excellent article on emaciation protocol in the Picky Eaters links section.
Snake not eating? Try reducing the amount of stress on the animal by offering a good "hide box", an opaque box with a hole cut in one side for the snake to hide in. You can half fill the box with sphagnum moss or vermiculite. You can also throw a towel over the cage to keep out more light and movement, making the snake feel a lot safer.
Your picky snake won't eat a mouse or a rat? Try scenting.
If you rub the mouse or rat with the scent of another animal that the snake might prefer as food (but that you don't want to have to supply all the time), it will take on the scent of the other animal and may become more appealing. Some preferred items of prey include frogs, gerbils, chipmunks, lizards, snakes and birds. A quick dip in chicken broth can make a mouse more tasty for many species, such as arboreal snakes.
|Sheri Ann Richerson|