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Ball Pythons (continued)

(Python Regius)


Ball Python Snake

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Feeding

Allow your snake to acclimate to its new home for a couple of weeks. Start your hatchling (about 15" in length) off with a single pre-killed one week to 10-day old "fuzzy" mouse. A smaller sized hatchling may require a smaller mouse; try a pre-killed 5-day old. Older Balls may be fed larger pre-killed mice or pinkie rats. If you have not had any experience force feeding a snake, you may not want to try it yourself until you have seen someone do it. Force feeding, whether of a mouse or with a formula inserted by catheter and syringe, is very stressful for the snake (and it isn't much fun for the owner!). If your new Ball has gone several months without eating and is beginning to noticeably lose weight, take it to a reptile vet or contact your local herpetology society and ask to speak to someone who is knowledgeable about Ball pythons and feeding problems. A good inexpensive book that covers some of the tricks to enticing reluctant Balls to feed is The Care and Maintenance of Ball Pythons by Philippe de Vosjoli, or the new edition, The Ball Python Manual, by de Vosjoli, Dave and Tracy Barker and Roger Klingenberg.

Dealing with Ball Feeding Problems

Most ball pythons in the pet trade are imported from Africa. In Africa, they do not eat mice. They do not recognize mice as being food. They are crated up and shipped off around the world, the hatchlings sent off before they've even had a meal. They get dumped into pet stores who know little about them and will cheerfully sell them saying "Hey, it's a great eater!" when in fact the animal has never eaten. Of late there also seems to be a disturbing tendency for some reptile breeders to buy imported balls and pass them off as captive bred...either that or they are doing a lousy job quarantining new stock as I've been seeing a number of "captive bred" balls who are loaded with ticks.

Compound this with the fact that the animals are stressed and heavily parasitized and dehydrated, and you have an animal that may well die unless it gets into the hands of someone who knows what is going on.

Force Feed

Never force-feed a dehydrated animal. If the skin is bunchy and wrinkly, soak the snake in water a couple of times a day, and leave a humidity box (plastic container 3/4 filled with damp sphagnum moss, with an access hole cut in lid or side) in the tank for it to use. Check with your vet on the degree of dehydration; fluids may need to be administered by injection or by mouth.

When the snake is ready to be force fed, mix and dilute with Pedialyte or 50:50 Gatorade/water Hill's a/d for dogs and cats. Put into a syringe with a steel feeding tube and gavage, ideally 2% of body weight q 24-48 hours.

If you try to force feed whole prey, you will stress the animal out and it will burn more calories fighting the feeding than it could possibly hope to net, so the gavaged slurry is preferred.

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More Snake Information
Snake Species Directory
Snake Care Directory
Snake Anatomy and Skin
Snake Feeding and Accommodations
Snake Disease and Reproduction
Traveling With Your Snake
Snakes For Dummies

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