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How to Remove Retained Eye Caps on Ball Python

One of the fascinating things about snakes is that they don’t have eyelids. They have a special scale over their eyes known as eye caps that helps to protect their eyes. It is common for these eye caps to come off during a normal shedding cycle.

However, there are situations where the eye cap does not come off during shedding, which can lead to impaired vision and infection. The good news is that there are several ways to fix this problem, such as increasing humidity, soaking the snake, etc.

This article will help provide more insights into everything you need to know about ball python retained eye caps, from what can cause this to how you can solve them.

This article has been reviewed by Dr. Gospel. Read more about our knowledge control process here.

What Are Retained Eye Caps?

Ball python has retained eye caps
Ball python has retained eye caps | Credit: Ponte’s Pythons / YouTube.com

Retained eye caps are a health problem where the scales over the snake’s eyes do not fall off during shedding. This usually occurs when your ball python is dehydrated or malnourished, but it can also happen to any snake.

The most common cause of retained eye caps in ball python is due to the lack of humidity in the snake’s enclosure. However, other things that can cause retained eye caps are stated below.

  • Dehydration because of insufficient water sources or low humidity.
  • Malnutrition
  • Bacterial infections
  • Mites
  • Injury.

How to Remove Retained Eye Caps on Ball Python

As you can see from the section above, the main cause of retained eye caps in ball pythons is environmental or health problems. The good thing is that retained eye caps can be removed from your ball python if it occurs.

There are several ways to remove retained eye caps from your ball pythons, from removing them manually to consulting with a vet. However, the type of treatment you choose will depend on the specific state of your ball python.

Apart from removing the retained eye caps, you also need to determine how often this problem occurs. You will then evaluate the husbandry and how you care for your snakes. This is because you may need to consult with a reptile vet if you notice that your snake’s enclosure is set up properly.

Increasing the Humidity Level

Ball python lies in bowl water
Ball python lies in bowl water

One of the main causes of retained eye caps in ball pythons is the humidity level, which shows humidity level is essential when removing retained eye caps. A ball python’s retained eye caps can easily come loose by increasing the humidity level in your snake’s enclosure.

Some of the ways that you can increase the humidity level in a ball python’s enclosure are:

  • Invest in a reliable humidifier for your snake’s tank
  • Mist your snake’s enclosure with water once per day.
  • Place a humidity box in your snake’s enclosure.
  • Place an extra water dish in your snake’s enclosure or move the existing water dish to the warm part of the enclosure.
  • Soak your ball python in warm water

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Remove Retained Eye Caps Manually

You may need to manually help your ball python remove the retained eye caps. You can follow the steps below to remove the retained eye caps manually.

Materials needed: warm water and mineral oil.

  • Soak the ball python in a warm bath for 10-20 minutes.
  • Remove your ball python from the warm bath.
  • Use a cotton-tipped swab to dab mineral oil on your ball python’s eye.
  • Return the snake into its enclosure.
  • Observe the eye caps condition for 24 hours to see if it removes.
  • If this does not work after 24 hours, wrap your four fingers with scotch-type tape while leaving the sticky side out.
  • Gently use the tape to touch your snake’s eye while rocking the tape across the eye, from the nose to the neck.
  • You may need to wait until the next shed if you do not see any results.

Some of the other methods that you can use to remove retained eye caps from your ball pythons manually are

Moist Q-tip method: soak a Q-tip in warm water or dab it with petroleum jelly. Gently rub the Q-tip against your snake’s eye to remove the eye cap while you hold the snake.

Rubbing method: wear a disposable latex finger cot, and you will then use your finger to rub the old eye cap away from your snake.

Peeling method: carefully peel away the dead skin layer from your snake’s eye.

Note: It is best not to attempt any of the methods above if you are not comfortable or you are not sure if the retained eye caps are still there. You can consult with your vet to help out with the process.

Visit a Vet

It is best to consult with your vet if you cannot remove the shed easily at home. Visiting a reptile vet can help ensure you remove the retained eye caps without impairing your snake’s vision or causing infection. This is the best option if your ball python has retained its eye caps through multiple sheds.

It is also possible that your ball python experiences injuries due to forcible removal. Your vet can then determine the best cause of action to remove the retained eye caps.

What Happens If Retained Eye Caps Don’t Remove?

A ball python can have impaired vision if the retained eye caps are not removed. This is because the retained eye caps will form an opaque grainy look which can affect the snake’s vision. Retained eye caps can also cause infection if it persists after multiple sheds.

How to Prevent Retained Eye Caps

Ball pythons in cages with high humidity
Ball pythons in cages with high humidity

There are several ways to prevent retained eye caps in ball python, some of which are stated below.

  • Ensure the humidity levels in your snake’s enclosure is at optimal range to prevent incomplete shedding.
  • Mist your ball python’s enclosure regularly to help create the moisture needed for proper shedding.
  • Ensure your snake’s enclosure is clean and free from blunt objects to prevent harm to your snake’s eye and infection.
  • Feed your ball python with a balanced diet and provide fresh and clean water for hydration.
  • Place a shedding box in your snake’s enclosure to help provide a suitable environment for shedding.

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What does a retained eye cap look like?

The affected part of a retained eye cap usually has an opaque grainy look. It will then become more visible once it starts accumulating after multiple sheds. You can also find dried skink in the groove between the surrounding scales and the eye.

Why do snakes retain their eye caps?

The main reason for retained eye caps in snakes is the lack of humidity in the snake’s enclosure. Some of the other things that can cause retained eye caps in snakes are stated below:
– Dehydration
– Mites
– Malnutrition
– Injury
– Bacterial infections.

Why does my ball python have cloudy eyes?

A ball python usually has a cloudy blue eye when it gets closer to its shedding period. Cloudy eyes result from the buildup of the liquid between your snake’s eye and eye cap. The fluid helps separate the eye and eye cap to help release it during shedding.

How do you fix a stuck shed?

It is recommended not to soak your ball python when it has trouble shedding. This is because it is stressful for your snakes, and they may even drown if the water is too much. Here are steps that you can follow to fix the stuck shed in ball python:
– Create a homemade humidity chamber using a Tupperware
– Place a warm, wet hand towel inside the Tupperware and place the Tupperware on a heating pad set to 85oF if possible.
– Put your snake inside the chamber once it is warm enough.
– Cover the Tupperware with a cloth to help reduce stress, as it will make it dark.
– Keep the snake in the chamber for around 1 hour.
– Return the snake to its enclosure.
– The rest of the shed should come off within 24 hours. You may need to repeat the treatment if it does not come off.

Final Words

Retained eye cap can occur in a ball python if your snake is malnourished or there is a lack of humidity in its enclosure. Retained eye caps can lead to visual impairment and infection if it is not detected early. However, retained eye caps can easily be removed if detected early

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