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How To Treat & Prevent Ball Python Scale Rot

Ball python scale rot is a big concern for snake owners.

In this article, we’re going to look at how to treat and prevent ball python scale rot in your snake.

You’ll learn:

  • What causes scale rot?
  • Why your snake’s enclosure could be a big part of the problem.
  • The importance of cleaning your pet’s cage.
  • Answers to your frequently asked questions about scale rot.

Scale rot is a general term used to describe any problem snakes have on their skin. This includes vesicular dermatitis, bacterial abscesses, small fluid-filled sacs, and any bacterial infection.

Ready to solve your pet snake’s scale rot? Let’s dive in!

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What Causes Ball Python Scale Rot?

First, let’s briefly discuss what causes ball python scale rot in snakes.

There are various pathogens that can lead to scale rot. Certain types of bacteria and fungi can cause skin abrasions and issues with your snake’s scales.

As a snake owner, it’s important to maintain your snake’s habitat. Snakes can’t escape their enclosure, so it’s up to you to ensure the cage they have to live in is healthy, clean, and calming for your snake.

Key Takeaway:

One of the biggest causes of scale rot in snakes is an environment that is too wet or cold. The substrate, also known as bedding, is essential to the health of your snake. Ball python scale rot may result from a substrate that never dries completely.

An insufficient habitat with poor hygiene can put your pet snake on a one-way path to scale rot.

How to Identify Scale Rot in Your Pet Snake

Your snake’s body is unique, but it does share one thing with every other snake—scales!

To identify a potentially deadly illness in your pet snake, look for the following signs of scale rot:

  • Discolored Scales–Be careful not to confuse this with the red coloration change when an animal sheds its skin.
  • Blisters–Blisters tend to pop up without infection first. Look for them as one of the earliest signs of scale rot.
  • Raised Scales–Healthy snakes do not have raised scales. Run your hand across your snake’s skin; if you notice raised scales, it could signal that your animal is sick.
  • Abnormal Scale Coloration–Ventral scales are typically the first scales to denote a problem. This is because they have direct contact with the substrate. Scale rot turns your snake’s scales greenish-black, yellow, or brown.
  • Open Sores–Open wounds on snakes easily become infected because they are in constant contact with the ground. All open wounds should be treated as they can become infected.
  • Loss of Appetite–Remember that a reduced appetite could signal it’s time for your snake to shed, so don’t be too alarmed by this symptom. Nevertheless, if the other symptoms accompany it on this list, it should be a sign of scale rot.
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Steps to Treat Scale Rot in Snakes

If you’re confident that your snake has scale rot issues, it’s time to take steps to treat it. We highly recommend seeing a reptile vet to get confirmation that your snake has the illness before you treat it, but if your vet confirms the diagnosis, here are a few steps to help your snake.

Step 1. Quarantine Your Snake

The first step is to quarantine your ball python if you have other snakes. Take your python out of its enclosure and place it in a cage by itself and line the floor with paper towels.

The paper towels will serve as the substrate for the temporary cage. This also ensures that your snake doesn’t become sicker.

Your snake’s enclosure is a big part of the reason they have the scale rot. Get them out of that toxic environment first.

Step 2. Clean Your Snake’s Scales

Now that you have your snake safely tucked away in a new enclosure alone, the next step is to clean your snake’s scales. The only time you should clean your snake’s scales is when you are absolutely sure they have a MILD case of scale rot.

If its case is mild, the next step is to clean your snake’s scales. Cleaning your snake regularly isn’t necessary, but it is important if you want to keep your snake healthy after an infection.

Disinfect your hands before cleaning your snake. Give your snake’s body a betadine bath after that. In particular, the blisters are helped by this procedure.

Ensure adequate airflow and fill a large container with water. Get the water at the proper temperature; to treat the affected scales, it should not be significantly warmer than 85 degrees. Also make sure there isn’t too much water that could lead to drowning.

For each ten parts of water, add one part of betadine. After that, give your snake up to 30 minutes to soak in the bath. Use paper towels to pat them dry. The paper towel should be discarded right away.

Step 3. Apply Antibiotic Treatment To the Infected Scales

Next, after bathing your snake, it’s time to apply antibiotic ointment to its ventral scales.

Double-check to ensure that the treatment doesn’t contain any pain-relieving agents. Spray the antibiotic ointment on the snake 2-3 times per day for the best results.

Avoid spraying the ointment into the snake’s eyes, mouth, or vents of the reptile. This could be very dangerous for your snake.

Step 4. Clean the Snake’s Enclosure & Humidity Levels

Scale rot comes from your pet’s enclosure and can spread quickly. That’s why you must clean your snake’s enclosure regularly.

Remove and throw out all substrate and any porous furnishings in your snake’s enclosure. Use a F10 or similar disinfectant to clean the snake’s enclosure.

Alternatively, you can use half a cup of bleach and 4 liters of water.

Leave whatever solution you’re using on the cage for at least 10 minutes before removing it. This is the best way to properly disinfect the enclosure.

Ensure the cage is completely dry before you put anything back in it. Throw away furnishings or wash them thoroughly in the solution for 30 minutes if you want to use them again.

Preventing scale rot in snakes requires completely cleansing the space they live in.

Change all your clothes and wash your hands before handling any other reptiles.

Next, be sure to check to make sure that your snake’s cage doesn’t have high humidity. Ball pythons thrive in humidity levels of 50-60%. If the humidity in your snake’s cage is higher than that, it could lead to bacterial growth.

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How to Prevent Scale Rot

Preventing severe cases of scale rot is important. Any fungal infection like scale rot can lead to death in snakes. So to help you prevent scale rot, consider the following tips:

Clean Your Snake’s Enclosure Frequently

As a pet owner, it is your responsibility to make sure your snake’s cage is clean and healthy. As you clean the cage, be sure to remove feces, urates, and soiled substrates.

Additionally, it’s a good idea to daily clean your snake’s bowl. We advise deep cleaning the vivarium once a week. Before cleaning and sanitizing the tank and all of its fittings, throw away the substrate and replace it.

Your snake will become healthier and be protected from scale rot if you do this on a regular basis. Your reptile will have major problems if its enclosure is dirty. Keep it clean to protect your reptile from serious infections.

Provide Adequate Ventilation

Next, make sure that your snake’s cage is properly ventilated. This is a very important element in preventing scale rot.

Adequate ventilation helps your snake stay healthy and clean. Fungi and bacteria thrive in hot, humid climates. Place your cage under a vent and ensure there are plenty of holes to keep the cage ventilated.

Do a Deep Cleaning Every Four to Six Weeks

Another pro tip is to do a deep clean of your snake’s cage every four to six weeks. A deep cleaning involves cleaning all walls, furnishings, water dishes, and discarding old substrate. Santize all space inside the enclosure with a snake-safe disinfectant and allow it to dry in the sun, if possible.

Inspect Your Snake’s Body Regularly

Inspecting your snake’s body regularly for signs of scale rot is important. If the snake’s scales are crusted and cracked, swollen and red, or otherwise discolored, it could indicate the snake has the early signs of scale rot.

Frequently Asked Questions About Scale Rot in Ball Pythons

What Is Mild Scale Rot?

Mild cases of scale rot are common with reptiles, but they typically clear up within a few days. Experts use the term ‘scale rot’ to describe any infections caused by skin abrasions that aren’t treated properly.

They’ll have patches and spots that feel dry and crumbly. If it’s caught early, you can avoid more serious cases of scale rot.

What is advanced scale rot?

When scale rot advances, it can be deadly if left untreated. This disease eventually progresses where the scales begin to rot off, as the name imples, leading to death.

Scale rot also causes the blood to pool, which is when they begin to leak fluid and fall off.

Does Too Much Humidity Cause Snake’s Scale Rot?

Yes. Your snake requires a very specific humidity to be healthy and thriving. This blister disease can be caused by unbalanced humidity. If your snake doesn’t have enough humidity it can prevent them from being able to shed their skin.

High humidity can cause your snake to stay in a state of dampness. This is very problematic especially if your snake wants to take a dip in their water bowl. They end up splashing the water around in their substrate causing serious issues that can lead to scale rot.

Do Discolored Scales Indicate Scale Rot?

Ventral scales are typically the first scales to present with scale rot. These scales stay in constant contact with the substrate.

If scale rot is present on your snake it will pop up with discoloration. Scale rot typically turns your snake’s scales yellow, red, brown, or greenish black.

However, disocloration can also happen when your snake sheds its skin. Just keep an eye on it and ensure that you can properly treat your pet if they have scale rot.

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What Should I Do If I Have More Than One Snake?

If you have more than one snake, you might want to keep them separated as you treat them. Sometimes all it takes to prevent scale rot is to place your snake in its own enclosure, away from other snakes.

Make sure none of your other snakes have any signs of scale rot or other ailments by checking them. Keep in mind that if your snake has scale rot, the skin will begin to exhibit signs of discoloration, etc.

What Happens if Scale Rot is Left Untreated?

Bacteria can enter a snake’s bloodstream and cause septicemia if the scales on your pet are left untreated and unchecked.

Your snake can die in a few days if you don’t treat the scale rot. Treating the issue right away will help you stay ahead of it.

Will reptile Carpet Help?

Reptile carpet can help with preventing scale rot. Be sure to look for carpet that works with your particular reptile.


Keep your snake happy with the measures we’ve outlined above.

Scale rot is a deadly reptile disease.

Keep your snake’s enclosure clean by regularly removing everything from the cage and cleaning it then replacing it inside the cage.

Take your snake to the vet, also, if you notice any sign of scale rot. A happy pet is a happy pet owner, so use these tips to improve the quality of life for your pet and yourself!

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