Obesity

Obesity is an alarmingly common problem in pet corn snakes. As with most pets, it happens unintentionally, and the weight gain either goes unnoticed or is praised as “cute.” However, what looks normal for a python is not normal for a corn snake. Corn snakes are supposed to be slender, while pythons are supposed to look a little chunky (or a lot, depending on species).

obese corn snake

Symptoms

  • scale wrinkling/folding
  • space between scales
  • “puddling” of weight toward belly
  • “squishy” belly, rather than firm
  • body may appear segmented
  • love handles forming in front of cloaca

Not sure if you have a fat corn? Compare with these photos from owners of obese snakes: (1) (2)

Cause

  • inactivity
  • fatty prey items
  • large prey items
  • being fed too frequently
  • feeding too much to prevent “aggressive” behavior

Treatment

If you have a fat snake, the first step to take is to evaluate what you’re feeding it. Could using rats rather than mice be the problem? Are you feeding too often for its age? Could the prey items be a little too large?

If that’s not the case, then the snake is probably not getting enough exercise:

  • Add additional enrichment items to the enclosure
  • Handle more often, encouraging movement (although not so much to cause stress)
  • Create “obstacle courses” for the snake to explore outside of the enclosure
  • Encourage climbing up/down stairs with supervision (I kid you not)
  • Let the snake swim in ~4 inches of water in the bathtub (supervised)

As you correct your corn snake’s diet and encourage him/her to exercise, use a kitchen scale and a bowl to weigh them weekly and after each shed. Chart the numbers in a spreadsheet or in a notebook. If the snake still isn’t losing weight after a couple months, consult your veterinarian.