The necessity to prevent and manage pain in reptiles is becoming increasingly important, as their use in scientific research and popularity as exotic pets continues to rise. It was hypothesized that feeding behavior would provide an adequate indicator of pain perception in the ball python (Python regius). Normal feeding was defined the previous week, where a dead rodent was struck within 12 sec (n = 10). Eighteen pythons were randomly assigned to one of three treatments: anesthesia only (AO), chemical noxious stimulus (CS; capsaicin injection), or surgical noxious stimulus (SS; surgical incision). The time to strike was recorded 4 hr after the procedure and weekly during the subsequent 3 wk. Delayed feeding was observed in animals in the CS and SS groups, and normal feeding resumed after 1 and 3 wk, respectively. Spontaneous feeding remained uninterrupted for the AO group. These findings demonstrate feeding behavior as a potential model to assess pain in snakes.
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