Ball pythons make fascinating and unusual pets. Unlike many other species of pythons, ball pythons (Python regius) grow to be less than 6 feet long. This makes the snake easier to house and kept fed. But you can make your snake owing experience even better by selecting a healthy snake as a pet. Since ball pythons have been known to live up to be 45 years old, you want to make sure you pick out the healthiest snake you can.
Inspecting the Python’s Head
If you are unfamiliar with handling snakes, get someone who is to lift the snake up so you can inspect the head and mouth. Ball pythons generally have a gentle temperament but can be nervous and may try to hide. These actions may be misinterpreted as trying to strike. Hold the snake behind the head in order to inspect it.
Healthy ball pythons have clear dark eyes. Clouded eyes can indicate illness or that the snake will soon shed. The teeth should not be showing when the mouth is closed. No mucus should be present. Open the snake’s mouth by pulling on the fold of skin on the lower jaw. Snakes with broken teeth can soon become sick. The gums should not smell, be a bright red color or be covered inn a substance that resembles cottage cheese. Healthy ball pythons often flick out their tongues when handled.
Checking the Python’s Body
Healthy ball python bodies should feel smooth. The scales should not stick up and the body should not feel rough or have strange lumps. The body should be rounded, which indicates that the snake is eating normally. If you can feel bones, the snake is too thin, which may indicate illness or a finicky appetite.
Lift the snake over your head to see the belly. This is better than trying to flip the snake over. Stained or missing scales can indicate illness. The vent should be clean and not covered with fecal matter or crusty material.
Checking for Parasites
Mites are one of the most common health problems for pet snakes. Mites are very difficult to spot, but the mites’ feces are much easier to spot. Check the snake’s body for white flecks or streaks. Those white areas are mite droppings. Since mites are contagious, any other snake kept with the snake you are inspected should be considered infected.
When you finish handling your potential pet snake, check your hands. Are there tiny dark or reddish spots on them? Those are snake mites. They are harmless – unless you are a snake. They are treatable.