Respiratory infections can be exceptionally serious and can be a fatal condition if you don't treat it quickly. Ball pythons are prone to respiratory factors due to numerous causes. Knowing the signs, causes, and how to prevent and treat this infection can help you ensure you provide the best care for your pet.
Bear in mind that when you bring a ball python home, you are looking at taking care of them for up to thirty years, which means understanding what can go wrong and how to treat it can be beneficial in the long run.
Symptoms of Respiratory Infection in Ball Pythons
There are numerous symptoms which could be a result of respiratory infection, these include:
- Breathing difficulty
- Holding mouth open when breathing
- Wheezing, crackles, or other sounds when breathing
- Discharge from the nose and mouth
- Loss of appetite
- Weight Loss
When left untreated, the bacteria causing the respiratory infection can make their way into the bloodstream and become septicemia, which is potentially fatal.
Symptoms that appear similar to a respiratory infection
It's important to note that there are times when the symptoms may appear the same as a respiratory infection, but maybe something else, such as toxicity in ball pythons, which is a body disease, which requires veterinary treatment.
If your pet gags or chokes on food or a foreign object, it's not uncommon for them to be excess salivation, which may look like a discharge. It’s not uncommon for pythons to regurgitate their food if you handle them too soon after eating, which also increases salivation. If there are no other signs of respiratory infection, the excess salivation could be a result of choking or gagging. The good news is you can tell the two apart.
There are some ball python owners that have noticed their pets start to salivate excessively when they have had enough of being handled and are ready to return to their enclosure. As you get to know your pet better, you will easily be able to tell that she or he has had enough handling, or whether it’s a more serious problem.
Causes of Respiratory Infection in Ball Pythons
It's essential that you get to know and understand what may cause a respiratory infection in order to take precautionary measures to reduce the risk of infection moving forward.
Ball pythons tend to be prone to respiratory infections when they are housed in an enclosure where the temperatures are too low.
Incorrect Humidity Levels
Poor hygiene is a major cause of respiratory infection by subjecting your pet to mold, mildew, and mites caused by poor hygiene. Regular cleaning is essential to your python’s overall health.
Diet with supplementation is essential for your pet to ensure that it gets all the vitamins and minerals it needs to keep its immune system strong and reduce the risk of respiratory infection and other infections.
Ball Python Respiratory Infection Treatment
Treatment can be carried out at home and with your vet. The first step is ensuring your temperature and humidity levels are at optimum, that you provide ample hiding spaces and that your pet is on a well-balanced diet.
The next step is to make an appointment with the vet. In most cases, antibiotics will be prescribed. Antibiotics can be administered orally, injection, or via inhalation, which helps treat the bacterial infection. In the event parasites or mites are the cause of the infection, then different medications will be prescribed, along with a thorough enclosure clean using disinfectant to remove mites.
In the event that good hygiene, optimum humidity and temperature, and antibiotics are not effective, then the vet will take a sample using a choanal swab or in some cases, a lung wash. Some rare cases of respiratory infection are a result of fungal infection, which requires different medications to combat it.
Ball Python Respiratory Infection Prevention
The good news is that respiratory infections can be avoided if you follow some of the basic care rules.
Prevention starts with the basics, the habitat. The habitat should be the right size of an adult ball python. The recommended size enclosure for an adult ball python is 36” long x 18” deep x 12” tall. Provide plenty of hiding spaces, ensuring you reduce stress. Stress can increase the risk of infection.
You need to keep the habitat clean. Cleaning should be done as follows:
- Daily – remove any dirt, debris, and poop from the enclosure. Provide fresh clean water.
- Monthly – disinfect habitat and accessories, replace the substrate.
Remember that even though your ball python is nocturnal and will be most active at dusk and dawn, you still need to create a day and night cycle. Keeping the daytime lights on for twelve hours a day and turning them off for twelve is the easiest solution. You can use a timer switch set for twelve hours, so you can rest assured your lights will turn on and off whether you are at home or not.
Monitor Temperature and Humidity Levels
When you have a ball python in captivity you want to provide it with the same comforts it has in the wild. This means paying very close attention to humidity and temperature levels.
Provide a warm and cool side to the enclosure, which will enable your pet to regulate its body temperature.
It's essential you keep the temperatures within the limits your ball python is comfortable with. The easiest way to do this is to use digital thermometers with a remote probe, so you can easily monitor the temperatures as you pass the enclosure.
- Basking area – 88ºF to 92ºF
- Warm side – 80ºF to 85ºF
- Cool side – 75ºF to 80ºF
Ball pythons do best when the humidity levels inside their enclosure range from 50% to 65%. It's recommended you purchase two digital hygrometers, one for the cool side and one on the warm side, so you can ensure humidity levels remain within optimum.
If your pet isn't getting adequate food or not enough vitamins and minerals, its immune system can take a knock, making it susceptible to infections. Ensure you stick to a set feeding schedule, providing your pet with food that is no wider than the widest part of its body. A healthy diet combined with the supplementation of Vitamin D and Calcium will ensure your pet remains happy and healthy, helping it fight off infection.