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Old 09-24-18, 09:15 PM   #1 (permalink)
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Jerkface is Trying to be a Vegan

We're still plugging along here and there's good news and bad news. The good news is that he hasn't regurged again. The bad news is that he has lost all feeding response. After regurg #4 I started over with pinkies. When I offered him the first, NutriBACdf dusted pinky he completely ignored it so I ended up force feeding it to him just to get the NutriBACdf into his system. He likewise ignored the second pinky; this time, however he only required an assist before he swallowed it on his own.

Then he went into shed and lost 3 grams during his shed cycle. I know that in a healthy animal that's negligible, but he was only 31 grams when he started his cycle so 3 grams is almost 10% of his body weight. That was also when I noticed the loose skin on his belly, the slightly concave shape of his underside and realized that he wasn't supposed to have a prominent, inverted v-shaped ridge running down his back. I'm not sure I've ever seen him in good body condition.

As of now, he still has zero feeding response and continues to try to be a vegan. His last two feeds since the shed have been assist feeds. Once I get it in his mouth, he's happy to swallow it. I put the fuzzy in with him and let him ignore it for about an hour but he just doesn't seem to recognize them as food until I manually put their heads in his mouth. (I've tried braining. It didn't work and it made it very difficult to do the assist.) When I weighed him before his last feed, he was up to 30 grams again.

I estimate his age to be 10-12 months based on the 2-4 month age I was given when I bought him. He's about 20-22 inches long. He was 27 grams when I brought him home and now he's 30. He's getting 5 gram fuzzies every 10 days and he's keeping them down.

I didn't make the decision to force/assist feed lightly. He simply does not have the reserves to skip meals anymore. Now that I've replenished his gut biome, and now that I'm strictly controlling his meal size, I'm cautiously optimistic that he's past his regurgitation problem. My goal right now is to get him up to 40 grams and then start trying to get him to feed on his own.

He's my special needs boy and I love him just the way he is. He's a very sweet little guy who tolerates being held very well. He doesn't hiss and has never tagged me. I think maybe he's just meant to be little.
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Last edited by phenyx; 09-24-18 at 09:21 PM..
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Old 09-26-18, 12:57 PM   #2 (permalink)
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Re: Jerkface is Trying to be a Vegan

I'm sorry to hear he's still being a difficult feeder Phenxy. I guess there's always one. I don't recommend assist or force feeding an animal unless it's a life or death situation but you know your snake better than I do. At least he's eating and keeping his food down. I'd try spacing his meals out a little further to see if that stimulates his appetite. Try offering every 3-4 weeks and see if that helps. I'm a firm believer that the hunger always wins eventually. Best wishes with Jerkface .
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Old 09-26-18, 06:19 PM   #3 (permalink)
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Re: Jerkface is Trying to be a Vegan

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Originally Posted by EL Ziggy View Post
I don't recommend assist or force feeding an animal unless it's a life or death situation but you know your snake better than I do...Try offering every 3-4 weeks and see if that helps. I'm a firm believer that the hunger always wins eventually. Best wishes with Jerkface .
Everything I've read says that force feeding is appropriate after significant weight loss and loss of body condition. I considered 10% of his body weight in 3 weeks, coupled with loose skin, a prominent spine and a belly starting to go concave, to be significant.

He lost 10% of his body weight after missing one feeding at the beginning of a shed cycle. He went into shed the day before a scheduled feed and didn't shed out until 11 days later for a total of 20 days between his last feed and his shed.

Are you suggesting that I should let him go 3 weeks without food, letting him lose 10% of his body weight each time? The fuzzies he can keep down are only 5 grams so he'd only be getting a net intake of 2 grams per feeding. That math just doesn't make sense to me and the constant gain/lose cycle can't be healthy for him. If he had had the reserves to safely go 3 weeks without food, he wouldn't have lost weight during the shed cycle.

Because his situation is so unique (even Dave Colling at Rainbows R Us is stumped), I've had to make a lot of this up as I go along. The learning curve has been absolutely unreal. Jerkface has never, since the day I got him, exhibited a normal feeding response. His name is "Jerkface" because he ignored live fuzzies long enough that they starved to death. He's a Brazilian Rainbow Boa, a species well known to voraciously strike at absolutely everything when they're neonates, and I've never once seen him strike at prey. I had to stop judging him by normal snake behavior a long time ago.

As I previously stated, it was not a decision I came to without a great deal of thought and data mining. I didn't want to force/assist feed but if I hadn't force fed him the first two pinkies, I'd never have gotten the NutriBACdf into his system and he'd still be regurging.

If he continues to keep his feeds down, gains a bit of weight and doesn't lose any weight during his next shed cycle, then I will work on his feeding response. I'm also planning to get another fecal sample in to the vet for testing.
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Old 09-26-18, 06:32 PM   #4 (permalink)
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Re: Jerkface is Trying to be a Vegan

His situation definitely doesn't sound promising, fingers crossed he starts to gain weight for you soon. I agree, force feeding is likely very important here. What I'd be worried about is scarring to his digestive tract after so many regurges, or from any potential parasites. If he begins to gain weight, that will be very promising. If he begins to lose weight, even if he eats regularly, I would encourage euthanization, just because I regret not doing so sooner for my chronic regurger. I waited until he was emaciated, and later found out there was no way he could physically bounce back from the damage done to his body.
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Old 09-27-18, 10:04 AM   #5 (permalink)
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Re: Jerkface is Trying to be a Vegan

I really do hope he gets on track for you and I commend your commitment to caring for him. I am concerned about his quality of life though. Is he thriving, surviving or suffering? I'm sure this is tough on both of you and wish y'all the best.
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Old 09-27-18, 12:10 PM   #6 (permalink)
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Re: Jerkface is Trying to be a Vegan

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Originally Posted by EL Ziggy View Post
Is he thriving, surviving or suffering?
That is a very valid question that I ask myself a lot. I know he's not thriving so that leaves surviving or suffering. What does a suffering snake look like?

His behavior, other than the feeding issues, resembles that of my BP in that they both sleep during the day and are active at night. He slithers over and around his branches, moves between warm and cool hides as needed and climbs the walls of his viv to sniff the air coming through the screen. When I handle him, he casually explores my hands and up my arms and readily wraps his body around my fingers or wrist for stability. His movements are smooth and fluid and don't strike me as abnormal. In other words, he's not struggling to move. If I turn him over, he rights himself so that reflex is intact. His poops are coming more regularly now than they were before the NutriBACdf; they're neither runny nor hard and I find urates in between his poops so I know he's drinking water as needed.

All in all, based on observation, I'd have to say he's surviving at this point. I weighed him again last night after a poop; he's gained another gram and, between his last two feedings, is now back to his pre-shed weight of 31 grams. I consider ever gram he gains to be a minor win and if I have to continue to do this gram by gram I'm committed to that.
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Old 09-28-18, 11:19 PM   #7 (permalink)
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Re: Jerkface is Trying to be a Vegan

I am very happy to report that the assist feed issue is now a moot point. A few hours after my last post I went to feed Jerkface again. As has been my habit since I began assist feeding, I left the fuzzy in with him for an hour to give him a chance to eat it on his own. I've done this with the previous assist feeds but he's always ignored it.

Thursday night however, I went back after the hour and he'd eaten it by himself! This is another win and I am hopeful that he's finally turning the corner.
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Old 10-03-18, 08:18 PM   #8 (permalink)
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Re: Jerkface is Trying to be a Vegan

That's GREAT news phenyx! I'm really rooting for young Jerkface. I hope he grows big and strong.
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Old 10-04-18, 09:23 AM   #9 (permalink)
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Re: Jerkface is Trying to be a Vegan

Oh my gosh, so much stress with this boy. The latest news is very hopeful. Crossing fingers that keeps up.

Sometimes we don't get what we expected. The more pets we have, the more likely we'll end up with a "special" one. All we can do is provide them the best life possible. Whatever the final outcome, you'll at least know you did your best.
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