Is your ball python wheezing?
If so, you’re probably a bit concerned and wondering, “why is my ball python wheezing?”
Today, we’re going to share with you the three most common reasons why ball pythons develop a wheeze, plus give you some tips on what to do if your ball python is wheezing.
The three most common reasons Ball Pythons develop a wheeze are respiratory, parasitic, and incomplete sheds.
Respiratory Infections (RI) are among the most common reasons Ball Pythons develop a wheeze.
RI affects a snake’s throat, lungs, and nose (respiratory system), often causing symptoms like runny nose, mucus blocking the nose, mucus around the mouth, heavy breathing, wheezing, refusal to eat, and lack of energy.
When a snake’s nose is blocked by mucus, it hinders its breathing, often causing a wheezing sound.
If your ball python has an RI, you may also notice it breathing much more through its mouth than it usually does.
Respiratory infections can be bacterial, viral, or fungal, all of which can lead to severe illness or even death if left untreated.
What Causes Respiratory Infections in Ball Pythons?
One of the most common causes of respiratory infections in ball pythons is cold temperatures.
Since snakes are cold-blooded, they need plenty of heat in their enclosure to maintain their body’s temperature and fight off bacterial respiratory infections.
Ball pythons require basking temps of between 88° and 94° degrees Fahrenheit (31° – 34° C) and ambient temps of 78° to 80° degrees Fahrenheit (25° – 27° C) (never below 75° degrees Fahrenheit or 24° Celcius).
If you’ve had problems keeping your snake’s enclosure warm enough, it may help to invest in a temperature gauge and purchase a high-quality heat lamp.
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Another cause of RI in ball pythons is substandard living conditions.
Things like dirty and damp substrate are a breeding ground for bacteria to accumulate, causing respiratory infections, mouth rot (often cooccurs with RI), and scale rot.
Stress will weaken a ball python’s immune system, making them more vulnerable to infections like RI.
Stress is caused by overhandling, transportation, and poor husbandry or setup issues.
Common signs of stress include not eating, hiding its head when being handled, and being overly active during the day.
Snakes can pass on illnesses like RI to other snakes, so if you keep your snake in an enclosure with other snakes, you may consider separating them.
If you recently purchased your ball python and it shows signs of a respiratory infection, you may want to contact the breeder/pet store to find out if their other snakes are sick.
How to Treat Respiratory Infections in Ball Pythons
The best thing to do for your ball python is to immediately take it to a reptile vet if it shows signs of a respiratory infection.
Respiratory infections are serious illnesses caused by multiple bacteria and viruses, meaning they require vet-prescribed antibiotics, as some antibiotics will work to treat RI, while some will not.
Your vet will be able to identify which virus/bacteria caused the infection by taking a sample and then will prescribe appropriate antibiotics to eliminate the RI.
If you have a baby or juvenile ball python, it’s even more important to quickly identify, treat, and eliminate RI since RI is extremely dangerous for young ball pythons.
Addressing Respiratory Infections in Ball Pythons at Home
Once you’ve taken your ball python to the vet and treated it with vet-prescribed antibiotics to eliminate the RI, you’ll want to figure out what may have caused the RI in the first place and then work to address those issues, so your ball python doesn’t develop another respiratory infection in the future.
Ensure your basking and ambient temps are correct (between 88° and 94° degrees Fahrenheit (31° – 34° C) for basking and 78° to 80° degrees Fahrenheit (25° – 27° C) for ambient temps).
Refrain from handling more than 3-4 times a week, always wait for at least 48 to 72 hours after feeding to handle, keep your ball python’s enclosure clean (make sure the substrate is fresh and dry), ensure its humidity levels are adequate and include a hide on each side of its enclosure so it can burrow.
Another reason ball pythons may develop a wheeze is because of a parasitic infestation. Some of the most common parasites in snakes include protozoans, trematodes, and nematodes.
Some parasites infect and live in snakes’ breathing passages and lungs, causing wheezing and other breathing difficulties.
For example, parasitic worms of the genus Rhabdias inhabit the lungs of snakes while Pentastomids live in a snake’s respiratory tracts.
Other signs of parasitic infestations include loss of appetite, diarrhea, and weight loss.
Ball Pythons sometimes regurgitate their undigested prey and develop swelling in their stomach when suffering from parasites.
If your Ball Python is wheezing, look for these other signs of parasite infestation to better determine if parasites might be the problem.
What Causes Parasites in Ball Pythons
While internal parasites are much more common in wild snakes, they can infest captive snakes for several reasons.
Some of the most common causes of parasites in Ball Pythons include improper husbandry, housing a snake with other snakes (they can pass parasites to each other through exposure to poop or the water bowl), and stress.
Though uncommon, some parasites are passed from an infected feeder to the snake.
The best way to prevent this is to ensure you only feed frozen/thawed feeders to your snake or, if feeding live, always make sure the feeders are sourced well and are healthy.
How to Treat Parasites in Ball Pythons
Parasitic infestations can lead to severe problems and even death if left untreated, so it’s extremely important to take your ball python to a reptile vet if it shows signs of parasitic infection.
The vet will require a fresh stool sample for testing, and from the sample test, should be able to identify the specific parasites infecting your snake.
Treatment varies depending on the parasite but often includes treating the snake with a dewormer, antiprotozoals, or antibiotics.
In addition to drug treatment to get rid of the parasites, you will need to thoroughly clean out your snake’s enclosure (including substrate and water bowl) to ensure no fecal matter or contaminated water remain.
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Another common cause of wheezing in Ball Pythons is shedding.
Some snakes will start making slight wheezing noises before and during the shedding process, while others may develop wheezing if they shed incompletely around the nose and mouth area.
What To Do If Your Snake Wheezes While Shedding
Don’t be alarmed if you notice your snake wheezing or making clicking noises during its shedding process.
Keep an eye on it and see if the wheezing continues.
The wheezing should go away once the skin is shed.
On the other hand, if your snake experiences difficulty shedding or sheds incompletely, you may need to soak it in shallow, lukewarm water for a few hours to help the leftover skin come off.
If your snake continues to experience wheezing after shedding or continues to have shedding problems after you’ve soaked it in water, you may need to take it to the vet to make sure no other issues are going on.
If you’ve been wondering, “Why is my Ball Python wheezing?” we hope this article gave you the answers you’re looking for and helps you determine why your Ball Python is experiencing breathing problems.
The three most common causes of Ball Python wheezing are respiratory infections, parasitic infestations, shedding, and incomplete sheds.