Normal Ball Python
Though daily handling of your ball python isn't recommended, daily observation is important. Observe your snake's posture; most often, a healthy ball python will lie in a flat coil. Note abnormalities, like the snake stretching out for prolonged periods or holding its head in an elevated position, termed stargazing behavior. Strange postures can signal a respiratory infection; your snake may be uncomfortable because of fluid in its lungs. Serious health concerns like paramyxovirus, inclusion body disease or neurological diseases can also be indicated by stargazing.
Some snakes, like anacondas (Eunectes sp.), are known to soak often, but this isn't typical behavior for healthy ball pythons. A snake that spends a lot of time in its water dish may have mites, be too warm or be trying to "hide" in the water. While an occasional soak, particularly during shed cycles, is no cause for concern, you should investigate further if a snake spends excessive time in the drink.
Improper husbandry, chronic stress or exposure to pathogens can cause respiratory illnesses in ball pythons. Respiratory infections can cause wheezing, labored breathing or mucus to bubble from the nose. If caught early, respiratory illnesses can be treated by correcting the underlying problem and seeking veterinary care. Most often, the prescribed care will involve a combination of heat and humidity changes and, when appropriate, antibiotics. Respiratory conditions that aren't addressed swiftly can quickly turn lethal.
Skin problems can be traumatic, such as rodent bites, or infectious, as when caused by bacteria. Minor skin injuries will heal within a shed or two, so require no special treatment, but rodent bites and other significant wounds should be evaluated by veterinarian. Ball pythons kept in poor, cool and damp conditions can develop sepsis, sometimes characterized by blisters filled with clear fluid. Immediate veterinary care is necessary if the snake is to have any chance of survival. Poor sheds can occur in stressed or dehydrated snakes but, while they require attention, they're not imminently dangerous. Soaking a snake in an inch of lukewarm water for a few hours will generally allow the shed to be removed.
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