Ball Python Diseases and Parasites

Important: Most common health problems can be prevented if you perfect the husbandry in your ball python’s enclosure. Having the right set up and the right temperatures and humidity levels are essential to your ball python’s well-being. Do not overlook the importance of proper husbandry. 

Mites

If you notice little black spots on your ball python or in the water dish, you’ll want to check your snake for mites. If you do spot mites on your snake or in the enclosure, you’ll want to treat it as soon as possible. Treatment formites is fairlysimple, but must be done as soon as the mites are found. 

You’ll want to treat all of your reptiles, even if onlyone of them appears to have the mites. Mites spread fast and can quickly infect all of your reptiles, so it is best you treat all of them at once. One way to treat mites is to use a product called Provent-A-Mite, or Nix. You can find it at most reputable reptile stores, at your reptile vet’s office, or online. 

Burns

If your heat source is not regulated by a thermostat, your ball python might be at risk for getting burned. Treating a burn takes time. You’ll want to adjust your heat source immediately. You can use a topical antibiotic on the burns, such as Polysporin ointment or a povidone iodine ointment such as Betadine every day for 3-4 weeks. Depending on the degree of the burn, you might want to see your nearest reptile vet. In severe cases, your reptile vet may have to inject antibiotics to help your ball python recover. Burns heal slowly, and will improve over the course of several shed cycles.

Constipation

If the area near the vent (under the tail) is swollen and your snake hasn’t defecated in a long time, you might be looking at a case of constipation. Your ball python may become constipated if he/she is overfed or under-active. Low humidity levels may worsen constipation- so make sure you check your humidity levels often. The first thing you must do is correct the environment your ball python is living in. You may need to get a larger enclosure, regulate feedings better, adjust your heat source, or increase humidity levels. While your ball python is constipated, you’ll want to feed smaller prey times less frequently until the problem is resolved. The next thing you’ll want to do is give your ball python a few warm water soaks. You’ll want to place your ball python in a container with shallow water for fifteen minutes every day for 3-4 days. Warm water soaks usually entice snakes to have a bowel movement. 

Dysecdysis: Bad Shedding

If your humidity levels aren’t high enough, and your water dish isn’t large enough, your ball python might have a hard time shedding. To help your ball python finish shedding the left over skin, you can put him/her in a warm, wet pillow case for 30 minutes. You can also use a warm, wet towel, and gently let your ball python slither through your hands and through the towel to help pull the skin off. You’ll want to make sure your ball python has shed his/her eye caps. If the eye caps have failed to come off with the rest of the shed, you can use a wet cotton-tipped applicator (like a Q-tip), and use gentle circular motions on the eyes. You might need a friend to help you hold your snake in place (gently but firmly) so that you can work not the head. You also want to make sure there is no residual shed on the tail, paying particular attention to the tip of the tail. Left alone, the stuck shed on the tail can cut off blood circulation and you may end up with a dead tail.

Important: It is imperative that you fix what caused the bad shed in the first place. Most likely, you’ll have to adjust the humidity levels in your enclosure.

Scale Rot

If your ball python is being housed on bedding that is frequently kept wet to keep your humidity levels high, or if your enclosure is in unsanitary conditions, your ball python might develop scale rot. Scale rot will make your ball python’s scales appear with red or brown spots and areas, and sometimes blisters too. To treat scale rot you’ll have to make sure your temperature andhumidity levels are where they should be in the enclosure. Clean the tank thoroughly, and switch to a paper towel bedding to reduce the chance of irritating the scales even more. Use a triple-antibiotic WITHOUT painkiller on the affected area. You may opt togive your snake a bath in a betadine solution (10%). If you see signs of scale rot, you should consult your nearest reptile vet.

Respiratory Infection

If your ball python is breathing with its mouth open, if there are fluids coming out of its nose or mouth, and/or if you hear a wheezing sound when it breathes, you might be looking at a respiratory infection. This needs to be addressed as soon as possible, so you should see your reptile vet as soon as possible. You’ll want to increase the heat in your enclosure and check over your husbandry (including your humidity levels). If you have other reptiles in the same room, you might want to move your ball python into a different room by its own. Take your snake to a reptile vet, since a vet will be able to take cultures to figure out what kind of respiratory infection your snake is struggling with and administer any necessary treatments.

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