Reasons Why Your Ball Python Won’t Eat, and How to Help

Reasons Why Your Ball Python Won’t Eat, and How to Help

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    When it comes to exotic pets, snakes are definitely out there on the list of choices! Most people regard snakes with fear, but they’re one of the most popular pets among reptile lovers. Ball pythons are great for beginners due to their docile nature.

    They also come in a wide variety of beautiful patterns and colors. Reptiles don’t eat as often as mammals, and meals are often spread out between a few days or weeks. However, it can be concerning if your ball python won’t eat after it’s been so long since its last meal.

    So, should you feel concerned, and what’s the problem? This article covers everything you need to know about why a ball python may refuse to eat. Read on to discover more!

    How Often Do Ball Pythons Need to Eat?

    If this is your first snake or reptile, understanding feeding habits can be confusing. Snakes are unlike dogs and cats that eat two to three meals a day with plenty of room for snacks. Like all cold-blooded creatures, ball pythons eat and digest food differently.

    Due to their slow metabolism, it takes them a long time to digest a single meal. A full meal for a ball python would consist of prey smaller than them, like rodents or small birds. Adults typically don’t need more than four meals in a month.

    However, did you know that ball pythons can slow their metabolic rate by up to 70%? This means they can survive up to six months or more without food. Of course, that doesn’t mean you should neglect your ball python’s diet.

    Even if they can survive that long, there’s no saying what kind of effects it can have on their health. As much as possible, your ball python should be on a strict feeding schedule.

    Why Won’t My Ball Python Eat?

    If it’s been weeks or months since your ball python’s last meal, it could be a huge red flag. Refusal to eat could occur due to changes in the body or season. In such cases, it’s totally normal for your ball python to have a lack of appetite.

    However, it could also be a sign of distress or sickness. Here are the most common reasons why a ball python won’t eat.

    Sick

    Lack of appetite in your ball python could be a sign of an illness. Some sicknesses have visible external symptoms. Other issues, like respiratory infections or parasites, can be harder to detect.

    Here are some common illnesses that affect ball pythons:

    Eye Infections

    Ball pythons, like most snakes, have an unusual eye anatomy. They lack eyelids and are unable to blink, which leaves them vulnerable to eye problems. Dehydration can cause a ball python’s eyes to dimple, so it’s essential to keep a freshwater source nearby.

    It can also result in issues with shedding, which can lead to retained spectacles. Snakes can also experience conjunctivitis, cataracts, and glaucoma, among other conditions.

    Look out for symptoms like cloudy eyes, swelling, or discharge. Some snakes may also become more aggressive.

    Respiratory Problems

    Snakes that come from tropical regions are susceptible to respiratory infections. Snakes are unable to cough, which causes them difficulty expelling fluid. Something as simple as a cold can be fatal to your ball python.

    Ball pythons can recover from mild respiratory infections on their own. However, it’s still best to contact your veterinarian if you suspect your pet is sick. Aside from a lack of appetite, your ball python may exhibit symptoms like drooling or blowing bubbles.

    Your snake may also stay closer to the heat source more often. Watch out for unusual or labored breathing noises.

    Mouth Rot

    Mouth rot refers to any infection that manifests inside a snake’s mouth. This can result in a slew of nasty symptoms, including loose teeth or a bleeding mouth. You may also notice a strange discharge like runny cheese.

    Fortunately, if caught soon enough, you’ll be able to stop the problem and nurse your ball python back to good health. Because mouth rot can result from various factors, it’s best to contact a vet. Mouth infections can progress quickly, so it’s best to get treatment as soon as possible.

    Mites

    As a snake owner, it’s true that you never have to worry about fleas or ticks like you would with a pet dog or cat. However, there is a snake equivalent, and that’s mites. Who knew?

    Snake mites are little parasites that feed on the snake’s blood. Unfortunately, like fleas and ticks, they’re pretty common. They can also proliferate pretty quickly if left alone.

    Mites are most often irritating, but it is possible for a snake to die from mites. You’ll need special medication to kill the mites and prevent the survival of their next spawn. It’s best to contact a veterinarian to get the proper treatment.

    Obesity

    Animals can look cute when they’re plump, but it’s bad for their health. Ball pythons are no exception. Obesity robs your pet of their mobility and their lifespan.

    Your snake should always be at an appropriate body weight. Ball pythons often store fat at the sides of the base of their tail and the back of their head. If these areas feel squishy and not firm, your ball python may be obese.

    Obesity occurs due to overfeeding or if your snake doesn’t get enough exercise. It may help to add more enrichment to your snake’s enclosure.

    Stress

    Stress is another common reason why a ball python may refuse to eat. These snakes are sensitive to their surroundings. Lack of privacy, chaotic or noisy surroundings, or excessive handling can result in an unhappy snake.

    Stress can cause your ball python to be more aggressive. Hissing and striking is their way of protecting themselves against predators. If your ball python does this to you, they may perceive you as a threat.

    Ball pythons also tend to coil and hide their heads when stressed. This is their attempt to hide and defend themselves from a potential attack. It’s crucial to remember that most snakes do not like being carried or handled.

    Unless you have a snake that likes physical touch, it’s best to keep handling at a minimum.

    Poor Living Conditions

    An unsanitary enclosure can cause your ball python to become stressed and refuse to eat. You don’t need to clean your snake’s enclosure every day. However, it is essential to have some maintenance routine.

    As mentioned, ball pythons are sensitive to their surroundings. Remove any obvious spills, feces, or shed skin. Remove any decaying plants and replace the substrate once every week.

    You also want to deep clean your ball python’s enclosure at least once a month. You will need to place your ball python in a temporary environment until you’re done cleaning their primary enclosure.

    Incorrect Humidity or Temperature Levels

    Though snakes don’t need to eat as often as most pets, they’re far from low-maintenance. Ball pythons are tropical snakes, so you need to take great care in meeting their needs for them to thrive. Snakes require heat ranging from 88-92 degrees Fahrenheit.

    Their enclosures should have between 50-60% humidity. If it’s too hot, your snake will become unable to digest food. If it’s too cold, they won’t be able to digest their food, causing it to rot in the digestive tract.

    Seasonal Changes

    A lack of appetite is not always a cause for concern. If you’re entering the winter months, your ball python is simply entering brumation. This is similar to hibernation in mammals.

    Ball pythons also tend to fast during dry seasons and breeding season. This behavior is most common in males and ball pythons caught in the wild. Your snake may also experience a lack of appetite once they hit sexual maturity, which is around two years old.

    Picky Eater

    If your ball python is happy and healthy, they may just not like what you’re feeding them. Ball pythons are notorious for being picky eaters. Wild-caught snakes tend not to like domestic mice or rats.

    If your pet snake is being picky about their food, don’t force-feed them. Instead, make sure that the rodent you’re feeding is the right size. A snake’s food should not be bigger than the widest part of their body.

    If you’re using frozen mice or rats, thaw and heat them properly. Ball pythons are sensitive to temperature and may not like a cold meal.

    Shedding

    When a ball python is shedding, it’s normal for them not to eat. For snakes, shedding is a long and arduous process. It can sometimes even be painful.

    Rest assured, your ball python will eat again when they’re ready. Snakes shed every four to six weeks, and the process usually takes ten to fourteen days.

    Signs that your ball python is about to shed include cloudy eyes and dull skin. Your ball python may also become restless and rub against objects or soak more often. The best thing you can do is to ensure that your snake has enough water and humidity in their enclosure.

    What to Do if Your Ball Python Won’t Eat

    If your ball python refuses to eat, don’t panic. Don’t try to force-feed it either. Here’s what you can do to entice your ball python to eat again.

    Adjust Your Ball Python’s Habitat

    If your ball python is suddenly refusing their favorite meals, check your setup. Ball pythons need a good thermal gradient in order to feed. Provide your snake with a well-heated basking area to ensure it can digest properly.

    Some ball pythons are shy and prefer to eat in private. Make sure your snake has enough hiding places to enjoy its meals. If your ball python prefers to eat alone, respect their space and step away from the enclosure.

    Give Your Ball Python Different Food

    If your pet snake is picky with food, try switching it up a bit. White rodents and mice because they’re rare in the wild, so ball pythons may find them unusual or unappetizing. You can instead offer them a rodent with a more common color.

    If your ball python still refuses its meal, try giving it a different type of rodent. Your ball python may also enjoy eating different types of prey. Try giving your ball python a duckling, chick, or finch.

    Change the Presentation

    Reptile enthusiasts with long-time experience think it best to feed their snakes frozen-thawed prey. This allows them to prevent situations in which the prey may fight back and injure the snake. Rodents and birds carry various parasites and diseases, so it’s safer to feed snakes frozen meals.

    Ball pythons also need some stimulation before eating. Some snake owners like to “tease” their pets with their meals to entice them to eat. It may help to simulate movement by moving their meal around the enclosure.

    However, some snakes can get intimidated if you move their food around too much. Try different movements and use a pair of tongs to avoid getting bitten.

    Of course, some snakes don’t like frozen meals at all. Check out this article on feeding your pet snake live mice.

    Visit Your Vet

    If your ball python still refuses to eat after trying these things, consult a vet. Your vet is the best chance you have at finding what’s wrong. This can help you identify and address any health problems before they get worse.

    They can also tube-feed your ball python if they think it is at risk of malnourishment. If you don’t have a vet yet, talk to other reptile enthusiasts in your circle or area.

    Here’s Why Your Ball Python Won’t Eat

    If your ball python won’t eat, don’t panic. They might be preparing to shed or brumate or may simply not like the food you’re offering them. Ball pythons are sensitive creatures with complex digestive systems, so it’s crucial to ensure that you’re meeting all their needs.

    The best thing you can do is visit a vet, especially if you notice any symptoms like cloudy eyes or unusual aggression. Caring for pets of any species is a challenge, but that’s why we’re here. Check out our other pet care guides to learn more about your favorite exotic pets.

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