What do good pet owners have in common?
They pay attention to their pets and notice when something is wrong.
That is why it is important to be aware of possible ball python skin problems.
You want to know how to recognize them, what to do about them, and how to prevent them in the first place.
And that is exactly what we will cover below. Keep reading to learn everything you need to know about common skin issues in ball pythons.
Table of Contents
- 1 Ball Python Skin Problems
- 1.1 Dermatitis (Skin Lesions)
- 1.2 Scale Rot (Blister Disease)
- 1.3 Dysecdysis (Improper or Stuck Shedding)
- 1.4 Thermal Burns (Heat Injuries)
- 1.5 Ophionyssus Natricis/Mites
- 1.6 Ticks
- 1.7 Skin Wounds Or Trauma (Escape Injuries Or Prey Bites)
- 2 Ball Python Skin Infections And Other Issues: Final Thoughts
Ball Python Skin Problems
There are a number of common skin problems in ball pythons. We’re going to take a closer look at each one and help you recognize them, treat them, and prevent them from happening in the future.
Dermatitis (Skin Lesions)
Dermatitis in ball pythons is a secondary ball python skin infection that typically results in skin lesions.
It is caused by bacteria that takes hold as a result of parasites (mites/ticks), viruses, fungi, skin tumors, improper or stuck shedding, thermal burns, excessive moisture in the substrate, high humidity, or filthy cages.
- Blister-like lesions in one or more areas
- These can deepen and open up into deep wounds, often exposing the bones and muscles.
- If left untreated, the bacteria can enter the ball python’s blood stream resulting in cellulitis, mouth rot, pneumonia, septicemia, abscesses and death.
- The treatment for dermatitis is antibiotics injected directly into the snake’s skin. Your vet will take a culture and sensitivity test to identify the extract bacterium and prescribe the antibiotic accordingly.
- It is also important to treat the underlying health issue resulting in the dermatitis/skin lesions. This may include surgical removal of tumors, bathing the snake to remove stuck shed skin, and administering the right antiparasitic agents to treat mites, etc.
Scale Rot (Blister Disease)
Scale rot is a general term used for all kinds of scale/skin related issues in snakes. It is also known as ulcerative dermatitis or blister disease.
- Vitamin A or C deficiency
- Unhygienic environment
- Improper habitat regulation (too hot/cold, improper humidity, etc.).
- Cracked, crusty scales
- Swollen or raised scales
- Loss of appetite
- Discoloration on parts of the tail, belly, or mouth.
If left untreated, your ball python could develop skin lesions or pus-filled blisters.
- Bathe your pet in betadine solution.
- Spray affected areas on the skin with antimicrobial sprays several times a day.
- If your ball python has pus-filled skin lesions and blisters, please take it to the vet for the right treatment.
- Clean, sanitize, and disinfect everything. Dry the enclosure.
- Adjust the humidity and temperature.
- Repeat daily and weekly cage cleaning and maintain an optimal environment at all times.
Dysecdysis (Improper or Stuck Shedding)
Ball pythons shed once every 4 to 6 weeks as they grow. Healthy snakes can shed their skin in one piece. However, in some snakes, the shedding process can get stuck or difficult. Improper or stuck shed in ball pythons is known as dysecdysis.
- Improper/low humidity
- Overly dry substrate
- Pre-existing skin issues like parasites or wounds
- A lack of rough surface for your snake to rub itself upon during shedding
- The shed skin comes off in several pieces instead of in a single piece.
- It may get stuck around the snake’s head or eyes.
Most shedding problems in ball pythons can be solved by adjusting the environment.
- Increase the enclosure’s humidity by spraying the substrate with water.
- Alternatively, place your snake inside a pre-moistened pillowcase and tie its top off. Place the pillowcase in a closet and let your snake remain in it for 30-60 minutes.
- Bathe/soak your snake in warm water for 30 minutes, three or four times a day to help remove the stuck skin.
- Use reptile shedding assist sprays to moisturize the snake’s dry skin and help it come off easily.
- Remove the snake’s stuck eye caps by massaging them gently in circular motion using Q-tips.
If these methods do not help, please see your vet.
Thermal Burns (Heat Injuries)
Thermal burns are one of the most common skin issues in captive ball pythons that occur due to human mistakes. Needless to say, they can be an extremely painful and prolonged experience for your python.
Burns in ball pythons usually occur when the temperature is too hot typically due to the improper use of heating mats, faulty heat lamps, rocks, heat tapes, and other devices.
- Use antibiotic ointment (1% Silvadene, Polysporin, or betadine) on the skin lesions for at least 3-4 weeks or as recommended by your vet.
- You can also soak your pet in povidone-betadine solution for 30 minutes.
- Make sure your ball python cannot come in direct contact with any heating devices. Place all heat devices outside the snake enclosure.
- It is best not to heat the entire enclosure but provide warm, cool, and basking areas. This way, your pet can select the area according to its natural thermoregulation.
- Never place the snake’s cage in direct sunlight. This can end up overheating it.
- Ensure there is adequate ventilation for the enclosure to prevent overheating.
- Check heating devices regularly to see they are working properly. Replace heating devices periodically.
- Use a reliable thermometer to monitor the enclosure’s temperature.
This is a blood-sucking mite that multiplies rapidly and, if left untreated, can cause severe anemia in your pet.
- You might see mites as red or black moving spots around the snake’s mouth, eyes, grooves of its lower jaw, and in the folds of its skin.
- You can also tell if your ball python has mites through the presence of white flecks (mite feces) all around the enclosure and on the snake’s body.
- Thoroughly bathe the snake in warm water. This will eliminate most mites.
- Clean the enclosure to remove remaining mite eggs and larvae.
- Sprinkle 5% Sevin® dust all around the enclosure to prevent new mites.
- Spray medicines containing pyrethroids all over your snake.
- For heavy infestations, your vet may recommend ivermectin injections.
Ticks aren’t as common in ball pythons as they are on dogs. However, imported ball pythons often bring ticks with them. This is why quarantining new snakes is important.
- Ticks attach themselves to the snake’s body with their piercing mouth parts.
- You can see them as black dots usually 5 mm in length. They can be seen around the snake’s mouth, tail, and belly.
- Do not try to pull the tick out with your hands, because it could leave its embedded mouth parts inside the snake’s skin, resulting in an infection.
- Instead, spray or pour a drop of rubbing alcohol or rum on the tick and wait for a few minutes before pulling it out with tweezers.
- Use tick preventive remedies as advised by your vet.
- Clean the cage thoroughly to remove tick eggs and larvae.
Skin Wounds Or Trauma (Escape Injuries Or Prey Bites)
Wounds suffered from bites by prey (this is why you should not feed live mice or rats) or other causes can also lead to skin problems.
- Bite wounds: a live rodent can bite your snake when left inside the enclosure
- Injuries from escaping: typically, scratches, splinters, abrasions or, crushing injuries which occur when the ball python gets out of its enclosure or the cage lid falls on it
- Willful injuries: these are inflicted by humans who are scared of snakes
All three types can be severe, and often fatal.
- Treatment depends on the severity of the wound/injury. In some cases, your pet may need antibiotic (oral medicines or injections).
- For crushing injuries where the snake has been run over by a car or a heavy cage lid has fallen on it, injecting fluids in the injured area can help restore the shape and improve circulation.
- Never leave a live rodent in your python’s enclosure. Always feed thawed, frozen or pre-killed rodent.
- Use secure, escape-proof cages. Look for molded, one-piece cages with tight doors. Avoid cages with sharp corners.
Ball Python Skin Infections And Other Issues: Final Thoughts
It is important to be aware of the various ball python skin problems that can affect your pet and to take proactive measures to prevent and treat these issues.
Dermatitis, scale rot, dysecdysis, thermal burns, mites, ticks, and skin wounds or trauma are all potential concerns that can impact the health and well-being of ball pythons.
By understanding the causes, symptoms, and appropriate treatments for these conditions, you can provide the necessary care to ensure the overall health and comfort of your beloved reptile companion.
Additionally, implementing preventive measures can help minimize the risk of these skin problems occurring in the first place. Regular monitoring, prompt veterinary care, and responsible husbandry practices are essential for promoting the skin health of ball pythons and ensuring their longevity in captivity.