Overweight and obese ball pythons is very common in the captive environment. Often this happens without intention with many python owners believing it's just natural weight gain and growth.
Being overweight or obese isn't healthy for your ball python. It can negatively impact the snake’s mobility, health, and life span.
What Does An Overweight Ball Python Look Like
When a ball python becomes overweight, you will note that the back and the neck become thicker, while the head looks smaller.
The spine is barely visible and the snake shows visible wrinkles when it coils up. There are obvious signs of fat at the tail vent.
Often you will notice some visible skin between the scales and your snake may even feel a little squishy to the touch.
What Does A Obesity Ball Python Look Like
As with humans, obesity is seriously dangerous to your pet snake. An obese ball python will have an obvious fat neck and back with the spine not being visible at all.
You will see large fat rolls when your pet coils itself. There is also a very large collection of fat that builds up in the tail just before the vent.
You will notice visible skin between the scales and your pet will take on a rounded shape. The body may appear segmented and your pet will be squishy during handling.
What Causes Obesity
Overfeeding is one of the most common causes of overweight and obesity in ball pythons. Juveniles should be fed once a week, while adults should be fed every ten to fourteen days.
Younger snakes will enjoy a diet of large crickets and they move onto fuzzies and pinkies when they get a little bigger. Adults enjoy a diet of mice and rats.
Ball python owners who purchased their python as an adult from a breeder may find they have an obese pet on their hands.
Power feeding is carried out by non-reputable breeders as a way to get the reptile to size so they can breed it. This shortens the lifespan of the snake.
Small enclosures reduce how much your snake can move around. The ideal enclosure size for an adult ball python is 36” x 18” x 12”. The bigger the better. Your snake is less likely to be obese if it can move around with ease.
Lack of Exercise
It's always a good idea to encourage exercise. Lack of exercise is one of the many causes of overweight and obese ball pythons.
Getting your pet to exercise in a non-stressful way is to provide an exciting and fun enclosure with plenty of hiding places, areas to burrow and climb.
You can also change decorations around to add excitement and encourage your pet to explore.
How To Help An Overweight or Obese Ball Python
If you have found you have an overweight or obese ball python on your hands, then you are going to want to get to work right away to get your python’s weight down and manageable.
Start by adding some decorations to the enclosure, items that will enrich your python’s life and make it more likely to explore its surroundings, rather than hiding curled up at the back of the enclosure.
Think of handling your pet python as the same as taking a dog for a walk. The more you handle, the more you encourage your pet to move. Ensure you only increase handling once your pet is used to you, ensuring you don't cause any stress.
Letting your pet roam free around your room can be dangerous to your pet. But you can create an obstacle course in a safe location for your pet to explore. This will get your python out of its enclosure and moving without any dangers.
Another great way to exercise your pet and help it shed some of that unwanted fat is to encourage it to climb up and down the stairs. You will need to supervise your pet at all times, but this is a fantastic exercise for your python pet.
If you are seeing your pet grow in circumference as it becomes overweight, you may want to revisit the enclosure you have.
If you can provide the largest enclosure you can fit in your home, this gives your snake space to climb, stretch and move around. Add plenty of climbing and hiding areas with decorations for your pet to explore.
Ensure you are feeding correctly based on your ball python’s weight. You can weigh your pet using a kitchen scale.
- Ball python < 200g – 1 small mouse every seven days
- Ball Python 200 – 350g – Adult mouse every seven to ten days
- Ball Python 350 – 500g – Weaned rat or jumbo mouse every ten to fourteen days
- Ball Python 500 – 1500g – two to three mice or a small rate every fourteen days
- Ball Python 1500g + - Medium rat, 2 small rats, or four adult mice every twenty-eight days.
With regular handling, an amended diet, and plenty of exercises, you can get your overweight or obese python to lose unwanted fat and get to a healthy weight.
Overweight or obesity can lead to many unwelcome health risks.
Remember to ensure you provide plenty of places for your pet to explore within its own enclosure, only letting it exercise outside the enclosure under close supervision and in a safe and controlled area.