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Old 11-27-18, 10:37 PM   #1 (permalink)
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Boa Feeding Project (Need your help!)

Hello! I hope some of you will be able to help me out with a research project for my biology class on what effects obesity and overfeeding have on the lifespan of boa constrictors and I need some data from other keepers. Itís commonly said on these groups that overfeeding causes a shorter lifespan and I want to see if the data I get shows that. All subspecies of Boa constrictor are part of this. I also need data for healthy boas and how long they lived as a control. Please help me out, I think itíll be interesting.

1. Emaciated: Can see and feel ribs, spine, and points in the skull. Sunken in appearance in eyes and possibly in stomach.
2. Fair: Can sometimes feel the spine and ribs. Fair muscle tone. More pyramidal in shape.
3. Ideal: Square body shape with great muscle tone and strength.
4. Overweight: Normal square body shape is starting to round out and lose definition. Fat deposits starting near the tail. Some fat and skin rolls can be seen.
5. Obese: Very round body shape, fat deposits seen throughout the body including by the head and neck. Obvious fat rolls when not stretched out.

Where does/did your snake fall on the scale? If there was a significant change in body condition, when did it happen and for how long did it remain that way? (I.e. If it was obese when you got it, then you adjusted the diet for weight loss, please let me know the age that the diet was changed and when the body condition changed and stabilized.)

How old is it? Or at what age did it pass?

If it died, why did it die? Was the cause of death confirmed by a vet and, if so, what did they find?

Please give any additional information surrounding the health of your boa that you think might be helpful. Thank you!
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Old 11-28-18, 06:08 PM   #2 (permalink)
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Re: Boa Feeding Project (Need your help!)

I don't have any boas anywhere near an expected life expectancy. lol But the oldest snake I have that I've raised from a baby is 7 years old now, Cloud.

When I first got Cloud, I was feeding him home-raised rat pinks every 5-7 days. At about a year old, I was worried he was "stunted" because he was only 2.5' at the time. I made a post asking about it, and still not being convinced he was a good size, I started feeding him slightly bigger meals, and continued to feed him weekly until about 2.5 years old. Around the time he hit medium rats, his prey size did fall for a time, as that was about the time I stopped raising my own rats, and I wasn't always able to get the right-sized rats. But he was still eating weekly.

Then, when he was just shy of 6', I began to feed him jumbo-sized rats instead of his usual medium rats. He ate maybe 6-7 of these in a row, and I made a post asking why he had began to start refusing food. He started out eating weekly, then he would start refusing food and eat one every 2 weeks, and I got worried when he started to only want to eat every 3-4 weeks. However, I did not actually realize he was refusing to eat because I was power-feeding him until I gave him a rat that he literally couldn't physically swallow. After that, I dropped him back down to small rats, increasing prey size as necessary, and didn't have any problems getting him back onto a weekly feeding after that.

The bulges from these prey items would take nearly an entire week to completely disappear, and he would poop 2-3 times per feeding. During this time, my vet also expressed concern over his weight gain, as I was weighing him at the vet in lieu of my own scale. He was 6' at 3 years old, and reached 6.5' around 4 years old. He was also a decent bit overweight: his tail was splayed out and not muscled even after a defecation, you could see his side patterns looking down on him, and he wasn't very muscled.

In 2014, I drastically changed his diet. The reason I began his diet was that when I posted him elsewhere, I was told he was over-sized for his age and appeared overweight. This happened right after he took his second rabbit ever, so I quickly dropped him down to half pound rabbits from the 1 lb rabbits he was getting, and spaced out his average feedings from weekly to monthly. He also took his first fast that spring, which was 2 months long, and has been 3 months every winter since.

Before his diet, and after defecating (his tail - the "red tail" part of his body not the actual tail past his cloaca - is splayed out and circular, you can see his sides looking down, his widest part is wider than his head, you can't see any muscle definition):




After about a year of dieting (his tail is also rectangular, you can't see his sides looking down, his head is about the same width as his widest part, and you can see some muscle definition):




He has been eating a conservative diet for the past 4+ years. He eats a rat, rabbit, or chicken roughly equal to his girth monthly, and goes 3 months without food every winter since 2014/2015.

He did lose visible body tone in 2016, but continued to weigh in at his normal weight. In March 2017, he was at most 2-3 ounces less than his normal weight, which is pretty negligible for a snake just over 8.5 lbs.

Another issue I had was a weird bone-popping thing that started happening maybe in 2015 or 2016? I forgot to record when I started noticing it happening unfortunately, as I thought I had made a post somewhere about it, but haven't been able to turn up anything. When I took him to the vet, the vet took x-rays and said he appeared to be healthy. Nice fat stores, a normal-sized feces (which I didn't even think he'd have any feces as he had recently defecated and hadn't eaten anything since then!), etc. The vet did comment that it's possible his power feeding early in life could have contributed, but wasn't sure. His only recommendation was to take him out and exercise him more. He was kept in a 6'x3'x2' (LxHxW) enclosure with a climbing tree at the time, but I wasn't taking him out to climb around as often as I used to. I unfortunately still don't have the time or space to take him out like I used to, and this issue persists today.

For the time when he appeared to have lost body mass, I have no idea if it was due to his diet, or the living conditions of the house I was living in. I experienced weight issues in 2 other snakes, one of which was a garter snake eating 2 mouse pinks every 10 days, and a retic that was eating rats and rabbits every 2-3 weeks. I also noticed fur loss in the 2 cats we had, and 2 rainbow boas died during that time (one necropsy showed septicemia, the other coccidiosis), and a third died this year while staying with SerpentineDream. We weren't able to get necropsy done due to the state of the specimen, but he showed similar symptoms as the other 2 rainbows. With all these factors in mind, and considering my growing baby snakes show no issues, I feel like it was potentially an illness or stress issue that caused him to lose body mass rather than my feeding. Especially considering little has changed about his feeding regimen, and he appears to be on the rebound. I have drastically changed the retic's feeding regimen, but a short brumation period for the garter is what seems to have fixed his issues.

I was trying to feed him weekly for a time, but I was not able to reliably get to him and feed him every single week, and now I'm pretty much feeding him on his normal schedule. Despite this, he still appears to be gaining body mass, and currently maxes out the scale, so he has to be at least over 7lbs 10oz considering the scale measures up to 11 lbs 3oz and the tub I was trying to weigh him in was 3 lb 10oz. So at least it's still very likely he's his normal weight.


Now, for the 2 boas I've raised since they were under a year old, and the boa I received at 1 year old, I have noticed nothing but upward growth in length and weight. I have not noticed stalled or plateaued growth. They have not shown signs of being underweight, though the yearling I received has always had low muscle mass and strength, even when she first arrived. The older two boas are only 3.5 years old, and the youngest will be 3 years old in Feb. So they have a long way to go. As for body mass, I have only gotten compliments from the vets that have seen them, saying they normally receive obese animals, and congratulating me on feeding them so healthily.

Now, I did also receive 2 adult boas. One was a small 2010 male I felt was a bit thin, he was 4'2" and 917 grams after he ate 3 meals for me. He was 6.5 years when he arrived, and is now just over 8. He's been getting a small rat every 2-3 weeks since I got him back in Oct 2016. He has gained a decent amount of weight on this schedule while in my care. His heaviest has been 1,177 grams, and he fluctuates around that by a few grams. He doesn't seem to have grown any length, though.

The other adult was a 2008 female that I felt was overweight when she arrived. She was about 8-8.5 years old when she arrived, and is now 10.5 years old (she'll be 11 in July. )She had some scale separation going on, and her ribs were splayed out further than her belly scales were wide. Her breeder was feeding her multiple xl and colossal rats per feeding, I assume to get her up to weight after giving birth. According to his records, she lost maybe half a pound in weight between the time she was first paired and then actually giving birth, so not sure why he was so worried about getting weight on her. I've been feeding her similarly to Cloud for the past 2 years, and though she hasn't lost any noticeable girth, she has gained some muscle mass, looks less round, and doesn't have the same amount of scale separation she used to.

I believe both of Dominika's parents died at 10-11 years old, but the breeder seems to breed his females every season once they breed for the first time, and idk if he feeds all his females the same way he did Dominika after she gave birth. Most of the other conservative feeders I've talked to give their females at minimum 1-2 seasons off between litters, and don't feed them a bunch to get them up to weight after giving birth. He used to have detailed records of all his boas up on the website, but it seems that all that data was lost when the website went down temporarily...and he doesn't have any other records. I screen shotted Dominika's birth info and saved all her pics, but now I wish I would have saved her feeding/weight records, and her parents records, too...

It was about 1-1.5 years after I got Dominika I felt she had attained the body tone I felt was ideal for her, and she's continued to maintain that. It took about 1.5+ years for Howl to get up to a body mass I felt was ideal for him, and he continued to gain mass for the following several months, and has since been maintaining a fairly consistent weight the past 2-4 months.

I notice my 3 adults seem to get increased appetites around this time, when the weather starts to change from summer to winter, and again when it's changing from winter to spring. I have tried increasing food intake, but that doesn't change their appetite in the slightest, and their appetites stabilize once the weather stays consistently cold or warm. I also don't really want to increase the female's food intake much during this time, as it may trigger her body to make follicles when I don't plan on breeding her, and I don't want to unnecessarily tax her body or risk slugs or babies when I'm not ready (females have a higher chance of partho births after being previously bred with males, and can also hold onto sperm for a few years at a time). Outside of breeding season adults, none of my boas show any signs of needing more food. They don't strike unless food is in front of them, and maintain good weights and growth rates. Right now I have both my males slinging sperm and striking at the glass, and my female is also striking at the glass, but the weather is crazy right now. I'm hoping that once the weather stays cold for good, they'll calm back down like in the past. If it ever does anyways, it's almost Dec and we're still getting 60-70F days and 30F nights. They don't strike all the time, however. Even if I'm thawing out food in the snake room, they don't normally strike, it's only during this turbulent weather time I notice them more keen on food. I have yet to notice similar behavior in my younger boas.
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Old 11-29-18, 12:35 AM   #3 (permalink)
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Re: Boa Feeding Project (Need your help!)

Thank you for the input! You're the first on any platforms O have tried that gave me anything to work with. I'm really not sure how well this project is going to end up since this is the only participation so far. Going to have to talk to my professor tomorrow in case I dont get the data I'm looking for. Thanks again!
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Old 11-30-18, 06:42 PM   #4 (permalink)
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Re: Boa Feeding Project (Need your help!)

Your best bet is to contact old time breeders directly instead of in just a forum setting. A lot of them no longer participate in forums such as these or Facebook because of the attitude anymore (at least that’s what they tend to say haha). They are the ones that learned first hand why overfeeding them is a bad idea. I mean sure people still find that out today but they probably have more data /experiences they could share with you than most of the average keepers out there.

Russo could probably help out if you contacted him or point you to other people if he doesn’t have time.

Spine and ribs can be felt or even visible on an ideal body shape too. Like I have some if they move the right way the spine with pop out near the neck.
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Old 11-30-18, 09:39 PM   #5 (permalink)
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Re: Boa Feeding Project (Need your help!)

Yeah making my chart was a little hard because apparently vets use 1-9 scale and I found what the extremes were but couldn't find any definitions for the middle areas. Since it was mostly people's opinions anyway, I figured it would be okay the way I had it haha.

Since I haven't found the data I needed and I'm running out of time I've actually decided to change my project. I'll be finding pictures on different groups and assessing them with my scale (I'll try to modify it more clearly and the presentation will have example pictures). Then I'll take the data and see if I find anything interesting in terms of breeders/large scale keepers vs small time keepers, male vs female, species, ect and see if groups tend to sway to one area or another on the scale. I present next Thursday and I have to number crunch with my teacher and the data on Tuesday so it's really last minute unfortunately. Life has really made this semester difficult. Thanks so much for the help!!
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Old 11-30-18, 09:53 PM   #6 (permalink)
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Re: Boa Feeding Project (Need your help!)

Quote:
Originally Posted by Lefitte View Post
Yeah making my chart was a little hard because apparently vets use 1-9 scale and I found what the extremes were but couldn't find any definitions for the middle areas. Since it was mostly people's opinions anyway, I figured it would be okay the way I had it haha.

Since I haven't found the data I needed and I'm running out of time I've actually decided to change my project. I'll be finding pictures on different groups and assessing them with my scale (I'll try to modify it more clearly and the presentation will have example pictures). Then I'll take the data and see if I find anything interesting in terms of breeders/large scale keepers vs small time keepers, male vs female, species, ect and see if groups tend to sway to one area or another on the scale. I present next Thursday and I have to number crunch with my teacher and the data on Tuesday so it's really last minute unfortunately. Life has really made this semester difficult. Thanks so much for the help!!
Just the boas still? Do you need more pictures I can give you some of all of my guys if you need more.
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Old 11-30-18, 10:10 PM   #7 (permalink)
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Re: Boa Feeding Project (Need your help!)

Answered in the PM but, yes still just boas because other species would need a different scale. And I'll take pictures and sex, species, and age info from anyone who wants to help!
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