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Complete 16 Signs Of A Ball Python Is Dying

Ball pythons are among the most popular pets that are kept by reptile lovers. However, you need to have specialized knowledge before you can be a responsible ball python owner. 

One of the important things you need to keep your snake healthy and happy is by taking good care of them and knowing the signs of illness.

Ball pythons are usually quiet and slow-moving animals. They don’t usually show signs of sickness like dogs or cats. 

Several reasons can make a ball python die suddenly such as infection, dehydration, low or high cage temperature, and so on.

In this article, we are going to highlight the various signs of a ball python is dying, how you can treat sick ball pythons at home, and the proper way to care for your ball python.

16 Signs Of A Ball Python Is Dying

16 Signs Of A Ball Python Is Dying

Generally, ball pythons are hardy animals but can also be subjected to several health problems if you do not care for them properly.

Furthermore, ball python does not usually show signs of illness and it is important that you are on the lookout for signs of illness to help you address the illness immediately.

Some of the ball python dying signs that you can watch out for are:

  • Bubbling from the mouth or nose
  • Open-mouth breathing
  • Redbelly and sides
  • Gaping
  • Swollen red gums, frothy saliva, or pus from the mouth
  • Lethargy
  • Runny stool
  • Clicking or popping noises
  • Bumps and wounds
  • Limpness
  • Poor coordination
  • Weight loss
  • Wrinkles on the skin
  • Lack of response
  • Stiffness
  • Your python is not flicking its tongue, etc.

You should ensure you take your ball python to the vet once you suspect it has a disorder that needs a professional diagnosis and treatment.

How To Tell If Your Ball Python Is Sick?

Pythons usually do everything slowly from how they eat to getting sick.

Furthermore, it can take a long time before they start to show signs of illness whenever they do get sick. This makes it hard for snake owners to even detect that their snake is sick until the sickness is at an advanced stage.

You might also like: common mistakes new pet snake owners usually make.

This is why it is important that you look for signs or symptoms of illness in your snake. You can do this by spending time with your ball python to help determine its normal behavior. With this, you will quickly notice if there are any changes in your ball python’s behavior.

Sick Ball Python Symptoms

There are several ways that help you detect whether your ball python is sick. Some of them are:

  • Posture
  • Breathing Difficulties
  • Soaking
  • Lack of Appetite and Weight Loss
  • Cloudy Or Sunken Eyes
  • Scales
  • Lethargy

Let’s walk you through the signs of the sickness we stated above.


A healthy ball python usually lies in a flat coil. However, your snake is sick if you notice that it is stretching out for a prolonged period or it holds its head in an elevated position also called stargazing behavior. Ball pythons usually exhibit strange postures when they have a respiratory infection.

However, ball pythons can also stargaze it has serious health concerns such as inclusion body disease, paramyxovirus, or neurological diseases.

Breathing Difficulties

Difficult breathing is a sign that your snake is suffering from respiratory disease. 

Ball pythons can have respiratory illness due to chronic stress, improper husbandry, or exposure to pathogens. 

However, you can treat respiratory illness by seeking veterinary care and correcting the underlying issues.


Although some snakes love soaking, this is not typical behavior for healthy ball pythons. 

When a ball python spends lots of time soaking, it may have mites, trying to hide in the water, or it is too warm.

However, ball python can take an occasional soak, especially during the shedding cycle.

Lack of Appetite and Weight Loss

Although snakes can refuse food from time to time, your snake can be very ill if your snake does not eat for weeks. 

Furthermore, your snake will also lose weight if it does not eat. Snakes suffering from weight loss usually have a visible spine along the front half of the snake’s length.

Cloudy Or Sunken Eyes

You can detect if your snake is dehydrated if it has a cloudy or sunken eye. Dehydration is usually associated with numerous serious illnesses in ball python. 

Furthermore, a dehydrated snake may also have a stuck shed or unusual saliva that is stringy.


A healthy ball python usually has smooth and shiny scales. 

You can determine if your ball python is sick if it has lesions, swelling, scabs, and lumps on its scale. 

Additionally, your snake may have mites if you find small, red, or brown dots on its skin.

Mites are usually a sign of poor diet or living conditions but it is a treatable condition.


A healthy ball python is usually alert and responsive to sounds and motion around them. However, if your snake is just resting listlessly in its enclosure, then it could be sick.

Can You Treat A Sick Ball Python?

You can treat some illnesses in ball python

You can treat a sick ball python if the sickness has not reached a point where it is not reversible. You can easily keep your ball python healthy by ensuring the living condition in your ball python enclosure is at an optimal level.

You need to make sure that it is clean and the temperature and humidity of the enclosure are at an optimal level. By doing this, you can easily prevent the spread of the virus and bacteria that can make your python sick.

Furthermore, you should also remove old food matter, dirty bedding, and fecal waste daily while cleaning the whole enclosure with a disinfectant every week. Another thing is that you should offer clean and fresh water to your python regularly.

This is because dehydration can lead to numerous health conditions in python and you can simply reverse it by rehydration. You also need to have your python checked by a vet regularly. The vets will help to carry out a medical check-up on your ball python to determine the exact cause of its sickness.

The Ill Symptoms That You Can Treat At Home

There are some ball python ailments that you can treat at home to make your python feel healthy and happy. Those are burns, obesity, respiratory infection and dehydration.

However, it is best if you consult a herp vet for guidance on how to go about it. Some of the ball python illnesses that you can treat at home are stated below.


Ball python can get burnt if you place heat mats with malfunctioning thermostats, heat rocks in their enclosure. They can also get burnt if they come in direct contact with a ceramic heat emitter, heat lamp, or glass over a heat mat.

Some of the symptoms of burns in ball python are the presence of blisters, reddening of light-colored areas, and open wounds without any cause on the body of your python.

Read more: ball python body languages.

You can treat blisters and open wounds by soaking your snake in povidone-iodine and water solution for 30 minutes daily until it heals.

You will then apply a topical antibiotic such as Silvadene cream, Flamazine cream, Polysporin, or Betadine ointment on the burned area after soaking. Furthermore, you should also ensure there is plenty of freshwater for your snake to drink because burns can dehydrate your snake.

Note: if a burn injury is large or deep, you will need veterinary care. It can also take time before a ball python burn can heal. Although your snake can heal after several shedding cycles, it is likely for your snake to have permanent scars.


This is a common problem of the ball python and most reptile owners don’t usually take notice of this. Obesity usually happens unintentionally in pets and many pet owners have usually mistaken it for healthy growth. However, obesity can reduce the health, mobility, and lifespan of a snake.

Some of the causes of obesity in ball python are overfeeding, lack of exercise, keeping your snake in a small enclosure, and power feeding. Your snake is obese if it has a round shape, scale wrinkling, visible skin between scales, the body appears segmented, feels squishy during handling, or has fat rolls close to the head or cloaca.

When it comes to treating an obese ball python, you need to check what you feed your snake. If it is not its diet then it means your snake is not getting enough exercise. You can make your snake exercise by adding additional enrichment items to the enclosure.

Furthermore, you should ensure that your ball python’s enclosure is big enough for it to exercise and stretch out.

Respiratory Infection

Respiratory infection is any ailments that affect your ball python airways, nasal cavity, or lungs. Respiratory infection usually ranges from a stuffy nose to pneumonia. Some of the causes of respiratory infections are cold temperatures, poor hygiene, and incorrect hygiene.

Symptoms of respiratory infection in ball python are loss of appetite, lethargy, stringy saliva, and whistling noise when breathing.

Once you notice that your ball python has a respiratory illness, the first thing to do is to ensure that its enclosure is warm enough and it has the right humidity levels. You can then contact a reptile vet for the best treatment for your snake.


One of the major health problems of a ball python is dehydration. The major cause of dehydration in ball python is when the humidity in your snake enclosure is too low if a dehydrated ball python tries to shed, a snake is not drinking enough water, or you offer your snake softened or distilled water.

Some of the symptoms of ball python are wrinkled skin, shedding problems, dented or cracked eye caps, or your snakeskin stays in place when you gently pinch it. You can rehydrate a dehydrated ball python by offering your snake a warm electrolyte bath.

However, you should keep in mind that ball pythons are usually stressed by traditional bathing and you should try to make a few accommodations for it. After the electrolyte bath, you should also rinse the electrolyte residue off your snake with a warm damp cloth and return it to its enclosure.

When You Need A VET?

Poor living conditions are the major cause of most illnesses that affect reptiles. Furthermore, ball python can get sick if you do not provide it with optimum heat, light, food, humidity, and the tank is dirty.

You can easily identify when your ball python is sick if you notice changes in behavior like lethargy, loss of appetite, forced breathing, loss of weight, and so on. Once you notice these signs, you can then take your ball python to the vet immediately to help determine the real sickness.

Note: it is not all vets that treat reptiles and you should try to research thoroughly to find the best herp vets that are close to you.

How To Help Prevent Sickness In Ball Python?

Some of the ways that you can prevent sickness in ball python are stated below.

  • Ensure you clean your ball python enclosure regularly.
  • Cultivate good hygiene when handling or petting your python
  • Always buy your ball python food from a trusted source
  • Provide your ball python with proper nutrition.
  • Provide your python with proper humidity and shedding care
  • Quarantine your sick python to avoid the spread of disease.

Wrapping Up

Ball pythons are unlike other conventional pets as they don’t display emotions or show signs of pain. 

This is why it is important to be on the lookout for any change in the behavior of your ball python.

Once you discover any dying signs in your ball python, such as:

  • Bubbling from the mouth or nose
  • Open-mouth breathing
  • Redbelly and sides
  • Gaping
  • Swollen red gums, frothy saliva, or pus from the mouth
  • Lethargy
  • Runny stool
  • Clicking or popping noises
  • Bumps and wounds
  • Limpness
  • Poor coordination
  • Weight loss
  • Wrinkles on the skin
  • Lack of response
  • Stiffness
  • Your python is not flicking its tongue, etc.

You should take it to the vet immediately.

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