Ball pythons have a docile temperament and are non-venomous and caring for them is quite easy. However, feeding them can be challenging for some people, and many owners usually wonder how long it takes to digest food.
Ball pythons swallow their prey whole, and they need the help of their stomach acid to digest their food and bones. It usually takes between 4-5 days for the ball python to digest its meal.
However, how long a ball python digests its food will depend on its size, the type, and size of food, temperature, and lots more.
This article describes everything you need to know about how long a ball python digests their food and how to determine that your ball python is ready for another food.
This article has been reviewed by Dr. Gospel. Read more about our knowledge control process here.
How Long Does It Take a Ball Python to Digest?
A ball python usually takes 4-5 days to digest their meal if you feed them with appropriately sized prey.
How long a ball python digests their food usually depends on the snake’s size, feeding frequency, and the amount of food they eat in a sitting.
Note: it is recommended that you avoid handling your python for at least 24 hours after feeding to help prevent regurgitation and stress.
Factors Affect to Digest of Ball Pythons
Like other snakes, ball pythons have a slow metabolism, and it usually takes some time for them to digest their food. There are several reasons for ball pythons to take a long time to digest their food. Some of the reasons are stated below.
Size Of The Prey Offered
One of the common things that affect how long a ball python digests their food is the size of the prey offered.
Generally, ball pythons swallow their prey whole. The process of swallowing their prey affects the time they will digest the food.
Therefore, the bigger the prey you offer your ball python, the longer it will take for them to swallow and digest the food and vice versa.
The Size Of The Snake
The size of the snake will determine how long it will take to digest food. For instance, a young snake feeds on small prey, which does not take long to digest.
Furthermore, they are in a growth phase and will need nutrients to undergo the shedding process frequently.
On the other hand, a full-grown adult ball python will be fed with large prey, which requires an adequate amount of time to digest. Furthermore, a full-grown adult snake has a slow metabolic rate, affecting how long they will digest their food.
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Like other snake species, ball pythons are cold-blooded creatures. Therefore, they need adequate heat energy to perform bodily functions like respiration, digestion, and so on.
This is why you need to provide an external heat source to help ensure they can carry out these bodily functions.
A ball python requires a temperature range between 82.4-89.6oF to help accelerate its digestion process. Exposing your ball python to a temperature range below 82.4oF will affect how long your ball python will digest the food.
Furthermore, keeping your ball python in an enclosure with a low temperature for a long time can even lead to a loss of appetite in a ball python.
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Frequency Of Feedings
How long a ball python will digest food depends on how often you feed them. For instance, it will take a long time for your ball python to digest its food if you overfeed it and vice versa.
It is recommended to feed small or young ball pythons twice each week and a full-grown adult once every week or two. This is because small or young ball pythons have a faster metabolic rate than full-grown ball pythons.
How Do Ball Pythons Digest Food?
Ball pythons are constrictors and usually swallow their prey whole due to evolutionary advantages. Ball pythons have an expandable jaw as their upper jaws are fused to the base of their skulls as it is attached only by muscles and ligaments.
This helps them to expand their jaws when swallowing their prey. The snake will then use its lower jaw to walk over the prey to move the snake into its mouth to help swallow it.
The snake will then drench the prey in its saliva after pushing it into its mouth. This will help to ensure the prey moves down their esophagus smoothly as the snake uses its powerful muscles to crush the bone of the prey.
Ball pythons will then use their stomach acid and enzymes to break down the prey and then move to the gut for the snake to extract the nutrients needed.
Why Do Snakes Digestion Too Slow?
There are several reasons why the digestion of food is slow in the snake. Some of them are stated below.
They swallow their food whole. The teeth in snakes are used for striking their prey, while some snakes use their teeth to inject venom into their prey.
Therefore, it usually takes a long time for food to digest if swallowed, unlike when food is chewed into pieces.
Another thing is that snakes have long and horizontal necks, and it takes a lot of time and energy to swallow their prey. Furthermore, snakes have a very slow metabolism, and it takes a long time to digest food and needs to wait between meals.
Since snakes are carnivorous creatures, which means their prey will have some bones. It usually takes a long time for a bone to dissolve, affecting how fast a snake can digest their food.
Digesting food usually takes a lot of a snake’s energy, and it takes time. This shows why most snakes seek shelter when swallowing and digesting their food to help protect them from predators.
How to Know if Your Ball Python Is Done Digesting?
The best way to determine that your ball python is done with digesting its meal is once you see the poop. Ball pythons usually defecate between 5-7 days after they have digested their last meal.
The good thing is to keep a calendar of your feeding schedule to help know when you feed your snake and when it defecates.
This will help determine if your ball python is having a problem digesting its food.
You can also determine that your ball python is done digesting its food if it shows signs of hunger. Some signs to help determine that a snake is hungry are stated below.
- Your snake is prowling more often around the front of their enclosure
- Your snake is more active
- It focuses on you once you are close to its enclosure.
- Your snake flicks its tongue more than usual.
- Your snake will start to hunt for food at the same time that you feed them.
How to Help Ball Pythons Digest Food
There are situations where you will not notice any of the above signs. This may indicate that your ball python is having difficulty digesting its food or is constipated. Ball pythons usually require a certain amount of heat to digest their food.
You can then help your ball python to digest their food by keeping the ambient temperature in their enclosure to mid 80oF. Some of the other tips to help a ball python suffering from constipation are stated below:
- If constipated, give your ball python a warm water bath for about 10-20 minutes.
- Offer enough fresh drinking water to your python.
- Increase the humidity level in your python’s enclosure.
- Add mineral oil to your ball python’s food in a situation where your snake is eating but is not pooping.
- You can also consult a vet if your ball python is hungry and not pooping, indicating it needs help.
How Often Do You Need to Feed Your Ball Python?
It is recommended that you feed the baby or juvenile ball python weekly to stay healthy. However, you will need to feed an adult ball python (three years or older) once or twice monthly.
You should avoid power feeding your ball python as this can cause obesity and will shorten your snake’s lifespan.
As you can see, it takes a lot of time for ball pythons to digest their food, usually between 4-5 days. This is due to several reasons like slow metabolism, the feeding frequency, the amount of food they eat, the size of the snake, and the type and size of the food you offer.