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Thread: What happened to my Ball Python?

  1. #1
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    Default What happened to my Ball Python?

    Can someone who is rather knowledgeable with ball pythons try to help me figure out what happened to my little guy?
    He passed away a few months ago from something that I cannot find any info on.

    Any help would be much appreciated. (sorry this is so long)


    Ill start with some background on where I got him:
    I got him from a local reptile shop and he was my very first reptile to have and take care of myself. At the time I didnt know anything about that shops reputation but to my untrained eye, everything looked just fine. When I got him it was more of an impulse buy. I knew I wanted one and was prepared to get one but I didnt set out that day to buy a snake but when I went in there and the guy handed him to me I fell in love. He was fairly cheap ($40) and only about 6 months old. To me (and at that time my unexperienced self) I saw a deal.
    Well it turns out that that store has a really bad reputation and from what I hear, most of their animals are malnourished and poorly kept. It also turns out that the baby ball python I purchased there was wild caught.

    Now his health background:
    The day I got him I was told that he had eaten a pinky that day. So the following week I tried offering him a pinky and he wouldnt take it so I waited another week....he never took any food. So I ended up taking him to the snake specialist in my neighborhood who then helped me force feed him to finally get him to take something down. This snake specialist helped me feed him for literally one whole year with very little success. The only time he ever got any food down was when he was force fed. Other than that, he showed absolutely no interest in food.

    In the last few months of his life he completely rejected any food and the guy helping me said theres no use in going any further with him. Over a span of one year he only grew half an inch and gained no weight. The week the specialist stopped helping me this happened...the best way to describe it is with pictures and some videos I took. (sorry, theyre from my phone but you can still see whats going on).
    In short, he developed these blister like sores all over his body that filled with a red liquid. Not quite like blood but maybe the regular blister fluid with blood in it. They were all over his body, some about 3 to 4 inches in length.





    These are two short videos that show how the blisters are filled and how big they really are. It was much worse in person but this is the best I could get in a video:




    If youve ever seen this before please help me figure out what happened.
    It was so upsetting watching my first little love die.

  2. #2
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    What was your setup like? Temps, humidity, substrate, etc? Blistering can be a couple different things from scale rot caused by too wet a cage to burns from an unregulated heat source.

    Feeding issues in ball pythons is not uncommon, especially with wcs. However, if a variety of prey items are offered eventually the snake will usually feed on it's own. Did you try different rodent species? Different sizes? Live, freshly killed, and Frozen? There are quite a few tricks to try before resorting to force feeding.


    Did you ever take the snake to a qualified herp vet? On a wc animal a fecal exam should have been done at the very least to check for parasites.
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    Poor little guy. I was thinking maybe a bad burn, too...? But I am not experienced enough with snakes to know for sure.
    Currently working with R. ciliatus

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    His tank was around 90 on the hot side and about 75-80 on the cool side. He had the regular aspen substrate and I mixed in a little dry moss to keep humidity (because I was noticing it was hard to keep the humidity in there) and he did good with all of that for a long time.
    We tried offering live pinky mice, pinky rats and fuzzies. Then we tried some fresh killed and he never responded to anything. We tried offering him all of these things ever week before ending up force feeding.

    We didnt go to a vet in the beginning because at the time, the guy helping me said that it takes time to get ball pythons to start eating and that if we were patience he would try to start taking food on his own. Well that never happened. And then in the end, all hope was lost becuase his health just declined so quickly.

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    I would have suggested to try some African soft fur rats or, as a last resort, gerbils, to get him to eat.
    Did you ever take him to a herp VET? I'm not sure what you mean by specialist, if you meant a veterinary who specializes in herps, then my bad!

    Those are some odd looking blisters. I would guess from burns, or some type of skin infection.
    Did he ever shed properly?

    Sorry you lost the little guy, looks like he had a rough life
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    I'm sorry for your loss

    The red was most likely a septic (full body or blood) infection. I've never seen a burn display like that, but I'm also not a vet. I've rarely heard of animals surviving full body infections, and if so only with the help of a vet. By the time they present with these kinds of symptoms there is nothing that can be done.

    Pinkies are also not an acceptable food source for ball pythons, they're too small to trigger a feeding response. A hopper or fuzzy mouse will usually do it. Pet stores make the mistake of force feeding pinkies because they're cheap. He was also most likely captive hatched and had never been feeding or wild caught and had a heavy parasite load. The redness would indicate there was also something else seriously wrong.

    If you're looking for another ball in the future, breeders often have normal males and females that are captive bred and very affordable, even with shipping.

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    Sounds like some different types of rodents could have helped. I never fed pinkies of any type of rodent. Most of the time live hopper mice will do the trick right out of the egg. A lot of people think anything smaller isn't enough.

    There's the possibility that he had been eating ASFR where ever he was caught, and BPs will very easily imprint on those rodents. If you never tried feeding these, we'd never know.

    I don't know about those blisters, the only thing I could think of would be a burn or parasites. I don't have much knowledge about parasites though, I can't say for sure if there's a parasite that would cause a blister like that.
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    While it is true that balls can take time to get eating, those blisters are not related to lack of food. A vet should have been consulted as soon as those showed up. And as the animal was a wild caught, it was pretty much guaranteed to have parasites and need treatment. Your "specialist" should have made you aware of these things.

    I have an adult female ball who had similar blisters. Her previous owner had a hot rock in with her and it burned her severely. She was also claimed to "not be eating" and was severely underweight. She took a FT rat within 15 mins of being in my care. If the snake could come in direct contact with a heating element it could have burned itself. My girl responded well to treatment with antibiotics and being kept on newspaper until her wounds healed. She also had damage to one eye from an unknown source(I suspect it was an untreated infection) and despite her trial she is now one of my best eaters and is a healthy happy snake, albeit with some permanent scarring and one blind eye. Balls can take quite a bit of abuse and still bounce back, and they can go a very long time without eating before it really starts to affect them if in good condition from the start. I suspect there was an underlying problem with your snake; either infection, internal damage from burns, or a heavy parasite load and it succumbed to either one of a combination of those factors. Without a vet exam there's really no way to say for sure what killed the snake, but I personally doubt it starved to death as the body condition isn't that bad from the pics.

    I'm sorry you lost the animal, but think of this as a learning experience. The next snake you get you now know to look for a captive bred animal, preferably from a reputable breeder. And with reptiles, at the first sign of a health problem a vet who is familiar with herps should be consulted.
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    Going to have to agree with Cinderbird. Mainly because I've seen something that looked almost identical and it turned out to be a systemic bacterial infection.

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    I am sorry for your loss, I worked for Exotic Vets for about 20 yrs and I raised Balls for about 10 yrs without seeing the snake in person its a bit harder to diagnosis and I am not a Vet but that looks like a septic blood infection( caused by bacteria), starting from some type of skin infection like cellulitis, a wound, whether it was from force feeding if he used hemostats or from another source, a burn or a severe parasite infection on the skin. Its basically starts as a skin infection(cellulitis) and it goes into the blood, killing the animal within hours or days whether cold blood or warm blood, I have seen this in animals and reptiles and my own brother died from it. That would be my guess and my daughter had cellulitis once on top of her ear( it has a blister just like those). I know that burns do look similar but your snake has those blisters in places you dont usually see from say a hot rocks or a heating pad on too high. Again I am terribly sorry for your loss its hard to try for a yr to feed a Ball and it never eats on it own. Been down that road and I was experienced so do not blame yourself. I think this snake was a problem snake from day one, yes I would of tried other kinds of rodents, gerbils are one of their faves! And always treat wc or balls new to you with a mite spray and take it to a vet for a well check and fecal and treat for internal parasites as needed. Dont give up if you do want another snake but get it from a breeder who only has cb balls and if a baby has at least eating say 4 meals and or get a older snake. I hope this helped and cellulitis( the fluid in the blisters is highly contagious) so do not ever open them and a antibiotic does help for it if you catch it in time but rarely if its in the blood. Good luck next time, Hugs Deb
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