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Welcome to our Ball Python Emergency Room


From time to time your ball may get sick or injured. Here we will detail the most common ailments that your balls may suffer from, and also how best to treat them.

IMPORTANT

The information provided below are guidelines only. You should always have your sick ball python looked at by a qualified vet. Iron Balls cannot be held responsible for any care given to your ball python based on the information provided below

Here is a list of the most common problems your ball may suffer from, we have included pictures to assist in identifying health issues.

Retained Eye Caps

Mites

Ticks

Incomplete Sheds

Rodent Bites

Mouth Rot

Scale Rot

Burns

Respiratory Infection

Retained eye caps occur when the eye caps do not come off your ball when it sheds, They appear as a cracked, rippled or creased covering over the eye, very often you will also see a white line round the eye.


Cause - Retained eye caps occur when the humidity in the snakes’s enclosure is too low. Very often if a ball sheds very poorly then they eye caps do not come off.

Action - We recommend leaving the eye caps until the snake sheds again. Ensure that humidity is kept high when the snake begins its next shed cycle (70%). Once the snake sheds check the shed and look out for the eye caps.

If the eye caps do not come off or if there are multiple retained eye caps then what you can do is to soak the snake in a container for 24 hours.

There must be air holes in the container lid and the water should be halfway up the snakes body, also ensure that the water remains luke warm, around 24-28degC


Once soaked you can gently peel off the eye caps or use an ear bud or tweezers to remove the eye caps. Be very careful if you attempt to remove the eye caps, if you do not feel comfortable doing then this seek out the assistance of someone who knows how to do it, or else take your snake to a vet.

Mites are nasty ecto-parasites that suck blood from you ball python, they appear as small black dots that often congregate around the snake’s eyes, you may also notice them moving about on the snakes body. If you suspect that your snake has mites you should check in the water bowl as a snakes will often soak to relieve itself. Check the bottom of the bowl for small black dots.


Cause - Most often a mite infestation is caused by bringing an animal in to your collection that has mites. Mites breed and spread very quickly so it is important to act fast as soon as you notice them.


Action - The best way to start dealing with mites is to soak your snake overnight. Mites cannot swim and they drown. Again, soak carefully ensuring the water is up to half the snakes body at at lukewarm temperatures.

You can also rinse your ball with warm water to wash away as many mites as possible.


Remember that if there are mites on your snake then there are mites in its enclosure, and you will have to deal with this.

The enclosure and hides, water bowl etc must be cleaned out with a solution of hot water and bleach, take care to clean out the corners carefully and also the top of the enclosure, mites head up when they lay their eggs. Also ensure that you rinse everything thoroughly to remove any bleach residue.


You must ensure that you do a very thorough job when dealing with mites as their eggs can lie dormant for ages and suddenly hatch.


The best way to deal with mites is to ensure that you do not bring them into your collection. Any new snakes must be quarantined for at least 3 months, this will allow you time to check for any pests or diseases.

Ticks are closely related to mites. They also suck blood but are much larger and easier to control than mites. Ticks appear as dark spots and are often found under the snakes scales or lodged between scales, another place to check for ticks is under the chin of your snake in the fold of skin.


Cause - Ticks are not seen often and really only appear of wild caught snakes.


Action - Seeing as ticks are much larger than mites they are much easier to remove. You can remove them using tweezers, by gently grasping the tick and twisting them off.

TOP. TOP. TOP. TOP. #eyecaps #mites #ticks #poorshed

Incomplete sheds are very easy to identify because the snake will be covered in bits of stuck skin, and your enclosure will have bits of shed all over it. The way your ball sheds is a good indicator of the environment it is kept in.

Cause - Stuck sheds are caused by low humidity in your snakes enclosure.


Action - Very easy to fix. To prevent incomplete sheds you must ensure that your humidity is kept around the 60% mark, and when your ball goes into the shed cycle you should up the humidity to around 70%.

To up the humidity you can place the water bowl over where the heating pad is, this will cause the water to evaporate quicker thus increasing humidity. At Iron Balls we use small water sprayers and spray the enclosure of our balls that are in the shed cycle on a daily basis



If your ball has had a poor shed then the best way to remove the skin is to soak your snake for a few hours. Most often than not this will loosen and remove the stuck shed. You can also place a small towel in the soaking container to provide a rough surface which will aid in the snake removing the stuck shed.

A good shed

Snakes that shed in one piece are an indicator that your enclosure and husbandry are in good shape.  Remember to check for the eye caps on a shed.

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Live rodents that are used to feed ball pythons pose a risk and can cause severe injury or death to your ball python

Cause - Rodent bites occur when live rodents are left unsupervised in the snakes enclosure. Ball pythons are not an outwardly aggressive species and will not attempt to kill a live rodent unless they are looking for food. Ball pythons will tend to shy away from live prey but having nowhere to go they can then become the victim to a scared and stressed rodent.

Action - The best way to prevent bites from occurring is to not feed live prey to your ball. If you are feeding live then you must supervise at all times and intervene if the rodent attacks the ball. Likewise you should remove the live prey if the snake is not interested in feeding.


If your ball receives a minor bite from a rodent then you should clean the wound with a diluted anti-bacterial solution like betadine.  The wound should be cleaned twice daily for 10 -14 days.

For serious wounds you should seek out a qualified reptile vet as such wounds can quite easily become infected and can prove fatal.

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Technically known as Infective Stomatitis, mouth rot is a condition that causes tissue in the snake’s mouth to become necrotic. It is a bacterial infection and can be identified almost as a ‘cottage cheese’ substance in the snakes mouth. Healthy gums are light pink in colour and owners should keep an eye out for red or white areas starting to form in the mouth as these may be a prelude to mouth rot. Signs are also an open mouth or mouth not closing properly

Cause - Generally caused by an injury to a snakes mouth and gums which them becomes infected. This injury can be caused by a multitude of factors such as rodent bites, scratching on cage furniture etc. Bacteria then infect the wound and a gradual spread causes more tissue to be damaged and teeth lost. If left untreated it can result in the snake dying from septicaemia

Action - If you discover signs of mouth rot then you must take your ball to a vet. They will advise on the course of action to take. For mild cases this will generally involve cleaning out the snakes mouth with a betadine solution twice a day to clear away and bacteria and heal any wounds. For more sever cases you may need to remove dead tissue from the snakes mouth and then rinse regularly with the vet prescribed solution.

#rodentbites #mouthrot

Scale rot is a condition that causes the belly scales in your ball to rot and potentially become infected. Belly scales will appear pink initially, this may continue resulting in the affected scales rotting and falling away, as a result infection may set in.

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Cause - Scale rot can be caused by thermal burns and unsanitary enclosure conditions.

Direct exposure to heating pads, hot rocks, or heat lamps can quite quickly burn your ball. This heat kills the affected scales and leaves the door open to an infection.

A dirty moist enclosure allows the buildup of harmful bacteria which can attack exposed parts of your snake. These conditions promotes the rotting of scale tissue and allows infection to set in.

Action - First try to prevent scale rot from occurring in the first place. Do not place any heat sources inside the enclosure where your ball can come into contact with them. Also ensure that your enclosure is kept clean, warm and correctly humid to prevent bacteria from growing. Keep the floor of your enclosure dry at all times and remember to clean up urine and faeces as soon as you see them.


If your ball has scale rot you will need to take it to a vet. They will supply cleaning solutions and antibiotics to care for your snake.  Light scale rot can be treated by applying an disinfecting antibiotic solution twice a day for 10 -14 days. Heavy scale rot will require the same cleaning but also a course of antibiotics to prevent any infections.

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Burns and scale rot are linked together, with burns be a large cause of scale rot cases. Burns will appear as pink areas on the belly of your snake and as areas of skin deformation on the upper body parts of your snake.

Image courtesy - M.Snyder

Cause - As implied, burns are the result of contact with a hot surface or object in an enclosure. Examples are heat pads/mats, heat rocks, heat lamps etc.

Balls have primitive brains and they will not notice a warm surface being too hot if its instincts are telling it to ‘find heat’. Only once the damage is done will the ball move away as it realises that it is warming up to much.

Action - Best is to prevent burns from occurring in the first place. Do not place heat sources within an enclosure where your ball can come into direct contact with them.

If burnt then follow the instructions above for scale rot, detailed above.

TOP. #scalerot #burns #respinf

Respiratory infection, or RI, is basically snake flu, but much more serious than what humans get. If your ball appears to have foamy saliva, bubbles being blown, is making gargling or popping sounds it may have RI. Signs to look for are also the snake tilting its head back, yawning excessively, or has a swollen chin. RI is very serious and immediate action must be taken.


Cause - RI is caused by inconsistent environmental conditions. Temperatures that are too low as well as too low or too high humidity can lead to this condition.


Action - Best is to prevent RI from setting in in the first place. Keep the temperatures and humidity at the right levels (see our Care section) and avoid taking your ball out if ambient temps are too low.

If your ball has signs of RI then you must seek out a qualified vet for assistance as a course of antibiotics may be required. Your infected ball should also be placed in quarantine away from any other reptiles as the condition can spread.

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