Mouth rot is a very common disease experienced in reptiles, including ball pythons. Stomatitis is the name for inflammation of the mouth, with “stoma” being the opening of the mouth and “itis" being inflammation in Latin. Mouth rot is considered a UATD (Upper Alimentary Tract Disease), which includes infection in the oral cavity, esophagus, and pharynx of your pet. Being a ball python owner, you want to ensure you provide the best care for your pet. If you are concerned your ball python may have mouth rot, continue reading for detailed information, helping you identify if your pet needs urgent veterinary treatment.
Ball Python Mouth Rot Symptoms
Due to the fact that ball pythons are susceptible to mouth rot, it's recommended that you monitor your pet for symptoms on a regular basis. Mouth rot can be separated into early and later stages.
Symptoms of Early Stages of Mouth Rot in Ball Pythons
- Lack of appetite
- Discharge of pus from the mouth
- Excessive salivation
- Unable to close the mouth
- No or significantly less tongue flicking
Later Stages of Mouth Rot in Ball Python Symptoms
- Gum swelling
- Necrosis (cell death) making tissue look dark or black
- Mouth lining erosion taking on a “cottage cheese” appearance, yellow and gray
- Fluid draining from nose and mouth
- Severe cases the mouth may appear as though its decomposing
- Loose teeth due to swelling
- Head may appear swollen
- Eyes may become swollen and infected
Mouth Rot Causes
In order to identify if your ball python could potentially have mouth rot, you want to know the causes. Understanding the causes with careful and regular mouth monitoring can reduce the risk of mouth rot in the future.
There are numerous reasons why your ball python may be stressed. Maybe there isn't enough hiding space in the enclosure, making your pet feel exposed. If you have recently brought your new ball python home, then handling too soon or having the enclosure in a high traffic area can cause stress.
Of course, when you bring your pet home, the first thing you want to do is handle them, but this can be a serious problem. Frequent handling can result in a stressed snake. Even the most friendly and calm adult ball python can become stressed if you handle them too often.
Feeding poor quality foods or feeding too often or not often enough can cause problems for your pet. A reduced immune system makes them susceptible to bacteria, which can cause mouth rot. Ensure you follow a healthy diet guideline for your pet to ensure that they get the vitamins and minerals they need to remain happy and healthy.
Wrong Habitat Setup
There are some ball pythons that tend to spend their day running their nose against the side of the glass of the enclosure. If your ball python is doing this often, it can cause damage to the nose, leading to an infection that can cause mouth rot. This can be caused by incorrect tank setup.
Wrong habitat setup is one of the most common problems that ball python owners encounter. Too small and your pet will start rubbing its snout on the side of the enclosure. Another serious problem is incorrect humidity levels, humidity that is too high can result in a number of diseases.
In addition to this, the temperature is also an important element to keeping your pet happy and healthy. Incorrect temperatures can result in a number of illnesses, lowered immune system, and increasing the risk of mouth rot.
The treatment provided will be based on the severity of the mouth rot in your ball python. In most cases, the vet will diagnose mouth rot and prescribe antibiotics. This is often combined with an oral antiseptic that is used for regular mouth cleaning.
In the event your snake has severe or advanced stages of mouth rot, the vet may need to carry out surgery on your pet to remove any dead tissues.
If mouth rot is diagnosed early, then make some changes to the habitat and diet as a first step. You may find your temperatures too low and you need to warm the enclosure or your humidity levels may be too low.
There are a number of preventative measures you can take to reduce the risk of your ball python getting infected with stomatitis.
Providing a comfortable, safe and warm habitat is essential to your pet’s happiness and overall health, which can reduce environmental stresses and in turn prevent the risk of mouth rot.
Humidity levels should range between 50% and 65%. It's recommended to use two digital hygrometers to ensure that you can accurately monitor the warm and cool side of the enclosure in real-time, making any necessary adjustments quickly to ensure optimum humidity levels are maintained.
You want to create a warm and cool side to the enclosure, enabling your python to regulate its body temperature as it would in its wild and natural environment. This includes providing a basking area.
- Basking area – 88ºF to 92ºF
- Warm side – 80ºF to 85ºF
- Cool side – 75ºF to 80ºF
Provide your pet with a clean environment, which reduces the risk of mites, mold, and bacteria growth. Daily management should include the removal of any poop and any other dirt or debris with a monthly deep clean, which involves the disinfecting of the enclosure, accessories and providing a clean and new substrate.
Your pet’s stress levels will skyrocket if it doesn't have anywhere to hide and feels exposed. You may notice your pet getting stressed when you move the enclosure to a high-traffic area. Provide plenty of hides, where your pet can go and enjoy its privacy, feeling safe and secure.
Living in captivity, means you need to ensure the diet you provide your pet offers all the essential vitamins and minerals it needs to remain healthy. Following a healthy diet plan combined with vitamin supplements, can help your python remain healthy. The most common vitamin deficiencies experienced in ball pythons in Vitamin C and Calcium.
It is your job to ensure your python’s mouth is clean, as is its teeth to reduce the risk of mouth rot. Food getting caught in the teeth and gums can result in mouth rot, which is why if you see food stuck, ensure you contact your vet for instructions on careful removal to reduce the risk of you causing injury to your pet’s jaw.
While it is comforting to know that mouth rot is common in ball pythons and other reptiles, you still want to prevent the risk of your snake getting sick, as if it goes untreated, it can be a serious problem, that can in the long-term results in death. Providing a comfortable habitat with accurate humidity and temperature levels, along with limited handling and a well-balanced diet, you can help keep your pet’s immune system strong, to fight off any bacteria quickly.