Captive ball pythons are prone to numerous diseases and infections, including eye infections. As a ball python owner, you want to provide your pet with the best health and wellbeing. Knowing the symptoms and causes of eye infection in a ball python can help you take preventative measures to reduce the risk of your pet having to be uncomfortable and needing veterinary treatment.
There are a number of signs and symptoms to help you identify if your pet ball python has an eye infection. If your pet has one or more of these symptoms, then it’s recommended to take them to the vet to identify the cause and ensure prompt treatment:
- One or both eyes not opening
- Your ball python is rubbing its face and eyes on the sides of the enclosure, substrate, and accessories
- Eye twitching in one or both eyes
- The eye has a crust around it or mucus coming out of it
- Pus can be seen around or in the eye
- Swollen eyelids
- Hazy cornea
What causes eye infections in ball pythons? Here are six possible causes as to why your ball python has an eye infection.
Trauma can be a result of your pet accidentally pushing against something sharp that scratches the eye to live prey fighting back against your snake. Trauma can quickly turn into an eye infection.
We all get something in our eyes from time to time, including your pet. Foreign bodies in the eye can be a tiny piece of substrate to dust or general debris in the enclosure that gets into the eye.
A dirty enclosure is dangerous for your pet, putting its health at risk. Poor living conditions are a breeding ground for parasites and dangerous bacteria. Bacteria can cause eye infections in your pet.
It is not uncommon to see malnourished ball pythons with eye infections. Without a proper diet, your pet is unable to fight off diseases and infections. They need a healthy diet, based on their size and weight in order to keep their immunity high.
Shedding is completely natural for your ball python, but there may be times where it doesn't get rid of its shed properly. Retained eye shedding is very common in captive ball pythons, which is why you want to check your pet after it's shed to ensure it has shed the eyelid lining properly. The eye lining can stick to the eyelid and stay behind after the shed, which can result in an eye infection.
Incorrect Temperatures and Humidity
Temperatures and humidity are essential to your ball python’s overall health and wellness. Temperatures that are too low can result in infections, while low humidity levels can cause a shed to be retained. It's imperative to ensure you monitor your temperature and humidity levels to ensure you keep them at optimum.
If you think your ball python has an eye infection, it is best to get it to the vet as quickly as possible for a full assessment, diagnosis, and treatment plan, to get your pet back to health. It's common for vets to prescribe antibiotics, often topical, which you apply to the infected eye. This may include you having to flush or clean the eye or eyes, following the vet’s recommendations.
Clean the Habitat
Remove your python from its enclosure and carry out a thorough deep clean, ensuring that you remove any bacteria from the habitat. Wash and disinfect everything from the enclosure to the accessories, water bowls, hides, and more. Rinse thoroughly and allow to dry before returning to the enclosure.
Ensure you provide your pet with a healthy diet based on their size and weight, ensuring that they have all the vitamins and minerals to help their bodies remain at optimum, being able to fight infection.
If you see your pet has a retained eye shed, then you can prepare them a warm bath to soak in for a while to see if the humidity and warmth helps the eyelid that has retained to come loose. Do not remove it yourself if you are not confident or you risk injuring your pet further.
Monitor Temperature and Humidity
Using a digital thermometer and hygrometer, you should check that your temperatures and humidity levels are at optimum for your pet. Make any necessary adjustments to ensure you help to provide the best condition to keep your pet healthy moving forward.
Choose the substrate you use in the enclosure with care to reduce the risk of any foreign bodies getting into the eye. Cypress mulch, coconut husk, and reptile bark are all highly recommended for ball pythons. Avoid any substrates that are dry and can get into your pet’s eye, such as sand, paper products, and pine shavings. Always stay away from cedar as this is toxic to your pet.
Keep the Habitat Clean
It is very important that you keep your ball pythons enclosure clean. Due to the fact your pet will only go to the bathroom up to twice a week, if that, spot cleaning is easy. Do a spot clean of the enclosure daily, removing any dirt and debris and providing fresh, clean water.
Every one to two months or if the enclosure starts to smell, do a thorough clean. A thorough clean means removing everything before you wash, disinfect and rinse the enclosure, hides, and accessories. Everything should be allowed to air dry before you return it to the enclosure.
To ensure you are feeding your ball python enough, you can keep a close eye on their physical condition, adjusting meal size and frequency accordingly.
< 200 grams
Fuzzy rat / Small Mouse
Every 7 days
200 – 350 grams
Rat pup / Adult Mouse
7 – 10 days
350 – 500 grams
Weaned Rat / Jumbo Mouse
10 – 14 days
500 – 1500 grams
Small rat / 2 - 3 adult mice
14 – 21 days
> 1500 grams
Medium rat/ 4 - 5 ddult mice
28 – 56 days
Maintain Optimum Temperature and Humidity
It is important to provide your pet python with the optimum temperature and humidity levels inside the enclosure. Your pet relies on the temperature of the enclosure to regulate its own body temperature. Low temperatures and poor humidity levels can result in an eye infection. In order to prevent the risk of eye infection in your python, you want to keep humidity levels between 50% and 60%. Monitor this with a digital hygrometer for easy and accurate measurements.
Your temperatures should be maintained as follows:
80ºF - 85ºF
75ºF - 80ºF
88ºF - 92ºF
Using a digital thermometer with remote probe, you will be able to easily monitor the temperature levels, ensuring that they don't drop too low or get too high.
Eye infections can be prevented with the right habit cleanliness, temperatures, humidity, and diet. Prevention is always better than cure, but if you suspect your pet has an eye infection, it is always best to seek veterinary treatment and advice, reducing the risk of further damage and possible blindness in one or both eyes.