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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
Hello,

It's my first time posting on this forum, so I apologise if there's anything wrong with this post.

I'm getting progressively worried with my pet California King Snake, 10 years of age, 5ft 5inch. He has a long standing issue of eating himself (roughly two years), with no known cause.

My question is, are there any other reasons for a snake eating themselves aside from thinking they are attacking a potential threat? Vet's have said his home environment is completely fine and that the temp, humidity, viv size and decor is spot on. With many visits to the vets, blood tests, thyroid tests, hormone tests and medication, no exotic vet has been able to figure out why he does this. He does lose weight faster than normal, but vets have ruled out parasites. The only way I've managed to stop him doing this to himself is by feeding him every 5 days, instead of every 2 weeks. Even by feeding him every 5 days, he doesn't gain weight and continues to pass bowel movement without trouble. I'm hoping someone in the reptile community has some ideas as it's not fair on him to go through whatever this is. Before feeding him every 5 days, he would begin eating himself without fail twice a week. Sometimes I would return from work with most of him inside him, and it's resulted in lots of injections and additional medication.

The only thing vets have suggested is something progressive, such as cancer or a tumour. A blockage could be a cause, but with him continuing to lose weight and pass poo, they think it's extremely unlikely.

Has anyone here had this before or know of what could be the cause?

I have a photo of him below, he's such a gentle snake, and even whilst going through this, he's always remained active, calm, and has never struck me.

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I've not had this issue with our California king snakes so I can't help but I certainly hope your kind Snake is okay!

Would more hides help? Does he think his bottom half of another snake maybe?
 

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Does he do this all the time or just this time of year? Male kings can go mad, biting their own tails in a frenzy when it is mating season.
 

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I remember watching a video once in regards to this, it was linked to neurological issues - I'll try find the video for you but can't for the life of me remember where it was.

How often do you change his substrate? I'd be tempted to wipe his enclosure down and change his substrate more than usual to try limit the smell of rodents/himself. No idea if it will help, just an idea that popped into my head.

Sounds really stressful for you both, hope you can find a solution.
 

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That link I posted mentioned something about it occurring if the viv is too small


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I do remember reading about this behaviour.
I might be imagining things (if you know me, you'll know this isn't impossible!) but I think the solution was a complete environment change. Take out the substrate and decor, new substrate, scrub the decor clean, and start again.
Like I say, this might not be correct, but, I have definitely read about this behaviour and it can be corrected.
 

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Discussion Starter · #9 ·
Thank you to everyone who commented on this. To provide more context, I've placed a photo of his viv below. It's 138cm in width, 56cm in height, and 48cm in depth. He's got plenty of hiding space to burrow, he has a large tray to bathe in, climbing stuff and a caged ceramic heat bulb.

Thank you Zincubus for sharing that other link. The information I gathered is that they have a fast metabolism, which could definitely be the cause, along with him smelling rats if not washed after each meal. I do worry that because he's not gaining weight, it could be something more sinister. Will certainly going forward wash him after each feed (once he's gone past the stage of potentially chucking it back up if disturbed!)

He has done this for an entire year, so it wasn't seasonal.

Thank you again all!
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I wouldn't wash him, that's likely to lead to regurgitation.
Added to which, kings are ophiopagous, so IF scent was an issue, it's more likely that he sees himself as prey, rather than smelling mouse on him. Lets be honest, if that was the case, all captive snakes would be trying to eat themselves.
I would suggest a visit to a reptile vet.
 

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Discussion Starter · #11 ·
I wouldn't wash him, that's likely to lead to regurgitation.
Added to which, kings are ophiopagous, so IF scent was an issue, it's more likely that he sees himself as prey, rather than smelling mouse on him. Lets be honest, if that was the case, all captive snakes would be trying to eat themselves.
I would suggest a visit to a reptile vet.
Hi Ian,

Thank you for the message. Unfortunately vets have ruled out everything they thought was the case. He's had blood tests, thyroid tests, and hormone tests, all coming back with no joy.
 

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I had one feeding session where a rainbow boa had dropped its meal, and somehow mistook its tail. I saw one of the hides being knocked, and there was thrashing. I moved the hide and found it death rolling, with its mouth clamped over its tail. Was really quite disconcerting. I threw water over it, I dabbed alcohol gel onto the mouth parts, but eventually prised its mouth off with forceps.
It was so odd, I thought there was something serious, underlying.

Couldn’t tell whether it’s teeth had stuck into its scales, preventing it from unlocking, or whether it was holding on to subdue the ‘prey’; but I figured it must have hurt.

Seemed like this event took ages, but possibly was not more than 30-60 seconds to resolve?
Apparently no long term damage. No wound evident.

That same evening, I had 2 or 3 other boas eat their meals in aberrant fashion ( bum first etc).

I came to the conclusion that it was probably down to dehydration, contributing to somewhat disorientated, and less coordinated Behaviour.

The husbandry had lapsed at the time, and I had allowed the containers to dry out a bit more than usual, and not rotated and although there was access to water, it was not refreshed for a number of days.
Some animals just don’t seem to drink without the correct stimulus, even with fresh water available.

Could your King be getting dehydrated; leading to disorientated behaviour?

If so, how about trying a weekly bathe to observe for any change in behaviour.

Could be irrelevant to the underlying cause, but thought it worth sharing.

Andy
 

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Hello,

It's my first time posting on this forum, so I apologise if there's anything wrong with this post.

I'm getting progressively worried with my pet California King Snake, 10 years of age, 5ft 5inch. He has a long standing issue of eating himself (roughly two years), with no known cause.

My question is, are there any other reasons for a snake eating themselves aside from thinking they are attacking a potential threat? Vet's have said his home environment is completely fine and that the temp, humidity, viv size and decor is spot on. With many visits to the vets, blood tests, thyroid tests, hormone tests and medication, no exotic vet has been able to figure out why he does this. He does lose weight faster than normal, but vets have ruled out parasites. The only way I've managed to stop him doing this to himself is by feeding him every 5 days, instead of every 2 weeks. Even by feeding him every 5 days, he doesn't gain weight and continues to pass bowel movement without trouble. I'm hoping someone in the reptile community has some ideas as it's not fair on him to go through whatever this is. Before feeding him every 5 days, he would begin eating himself without fail twice a week. Sometimes I would return from work with most of him inside him, and it's resulted in lots of injections and additional medication.

The only thing vets have suggested is something progressive, such as cancer or a tumour. A blockage could be a cause, but with him continuing to lose weight and pass poo, they think it's extremely unlikely.

Has anyone here had this before or know of what could be the cause?

I have a photo of him below, he's such a gentle snake, and even whilst going through this, he's always remained active, calm, and has never struck me.

View attachment 351529
I have heard of this before. In the wild king snakes eat other snakes, its their favoured prey. It is possible that he sees a tail disappearing in front of him and grabs it. Try a bath regularly, maybe brighter lighting ( not convinced that will help ), change the substrate to something as plain as possible to see if that helps. Is he aggressive? I know kings can be a bit feisty. Any other behaviour or environment changes you've made? Position of Viv? Brand of cleaner etc could be something simple, let's hope it's not become a habit. Good luck and let us know if he stops doing it.
 
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