Juvenile Ball Python Belly Burst: All I Know!

No hate! This is a learning experience for everyone! Squeamish? Don’t look at the pictures!

History: I bought this baby from a very reputable breeder at a show on October 3rd. She was one of 6 total that I came home with, one other from the same breeder as her.

As it was my normal feeding day I offered to everyone, including new arrivals (was live so no waste if they chose not to). She and two others are that night. Five days later (Oct. 8) she regurgitated. No big deal, I guess she just wasn’t ready I’ll offer again in 10 days (normal day was Oct. 17 so a day early). She refused, no biggie. Oct 24, refused again; a little concerned but she looked fine so leave her be.

October 25 as I was checking on everyone before bed like usual, I found her laying on her side with maggots pouring out of her belly button and vent. Immediately put her in a tub of warm water (~100°) to flush them out. Called her breeder to see if he knew anything, he mentioned parasite loaded rodents can cause it but to get her to a vet because he didn’t know what to do. Called local reptile vet, left message. Changed water for snake. Swish her in water to flush some more. Change water. Disinfect her tub, water bowl, everything she can get to. Replace with paper towels. Dry snake. Go to bed since vet hadn’t called back (mobile so it was a cell number).

Next morning she was still alive, tongue flicking, even got a hiss. See open body cavity better. Know she will die but still want vet to see. Vet calls after I get to work but plan to meet that afternoon.

Vet recommends as many baths a day as possible (I’m doing 3x: morning, after work, before bed), reptile safe antibiotics for 4 days, and spray to kill any maggots that are still inside or could hatch. No food until wound closes. Vet isn’t sure of cause. Could be a bite from the rodent that went unnoticed, could be parasite filled prey, could be totally random. BUT!!! Expects a full recovery!!

I gave her the antibiotics myself tonight along with her baths. She is very squirmy, strong, and loud about her disapproval lol. I love when an animal is in an iffy place and is being a little sassy! Means they still have fight!

When it first happened I was terrified because I couldn’t find any information! Nothing about them splitting open oozing maggots overnight (well, day). So I decided to post her in case it happens to someone else!!

Warning! Gross photos below!!!

Her and the maggots that came out in the first bath, didn’t bother counting.

Belly button wound. Big enough to put a standard pencil eraser in without touching skin, I could put my pinky finger tip in touching all sides.

Hard to see but the vent is open as well. Cotton swab size. She did pee on the vet but had a bath shortly after.

When looking at her belly wound I can see two parallel “tendons” going head to tail. They do flex when she moves, she has really good grip all along her body. If you didn’t see her belly, just looking from above she looks totally normal (maybe like she just pooped because that area is a hair thinner) and even acts like a totally normal snake! I will try to keep this updated on how she’s doing and healing! If I fall behind don’t be afraid to say something!


Bizarre story Blue! Hope she makes a full recovery!


Wow, that’s insane! I too hope she recovers quickly and makes a full recovery!

If I can share some of my thoughts:
I wonder how the maggots got inside of her.
My only guess is that she ate something that either already had maggots in it or had eggs, and they hatched and/or started eating their way out of her from the inside.

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If she ingested something with fly eggs or anything of the sort, then they would just be digested. My guess is that whoever produced her let flies get in with her when she was still absorbing her yolk and they laid eggs then. Either way it would be from something the breeder did. Be it letting flies get to a baby with a belly that didn’t close up right away, or having a rat/mouse bite her, or feeding her something that was infected. If they are actually maggots (fly larvae) then they wouldn’t eat anything other than dead/decaying tissue. If she did ingest something with fly eggs then it would have had to be a live mouse and she wouldn’t have been able to digest the mouse, thus leading to the maggots eating the mouse in her. Only way I could see it being maggots and not parasites.

@bluefeathurs Did you have the vet test to see if they are maggots or actually parasites? I doubt this could have been from anything you did.


That would actually make more sense.
I’d definitely agree that it likely had something to do with the umbilical cord and yolk, if they are indeed maggots.

Ive never seen or heard of such a thing. I am curious to see the updates and am hoping for a full recovery.
thank you for sharing, its very brave and it will help if anyone else experiences this

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This is horrible and I’m sorry it is happening to you of all people. I wish the best of luck along the way :crossed_fingers:.

I don’t believe they are maggots but rather a strain of nematodes.
I’m not 100% without them being under a microscope.

I believe @t_h_wyman has dealt with these in his WC egg eaters and @mblaney will likely be able to give you some information as they are pretty identical to round worm in dogs.

Thank you for sharing this Blue :+1:.


I am not sure what manner of parasite it most resembles- that sort of thing can be deceptive. Roundworms often resemble spaghetti, but tapes can come in segments like that, and flukes can also kinda look like that. There are definitely some species of insect larvae that look like that as well. I’m honestly shocked that your vet didn’t request a sample to slap under the scope- though perhaps it was very obvious to them that they were fly larvae. I’ve had it happen plenty of times where I instantly recognized various parasites upon discovering them.

I have a theory (I’ve already had my evening pain med, so it might be totally zany):

Mammals of various species can have issues with improper closure of umbilicus/belly wall/liver/even bladder. I’m most familiar with this in horses, so I’m rusty, as I haven’t worked with equine med since 2015. If you google “patent urachus” (be prepared for medical images and descriptions), it will explain some of it better than I could.

Now, I know reptiles have a coelom instead of a separate chest and abdomen; their development and anatomy are way different. So I don’t know if this could possibly be an analogous condition, as there’s a yolk instead of a placenta… They did not teach much about reptiles at my vet school, unfortunately. :face_with_symbols_over_mouth:

Another thought would be as mentioned, that there wasn’t full closure of the belly wall- that might be the more likely of the two.

Though, and this is a totally wild guess (and I am out of my depth in terms of reptile medicine), mammals can contract tapeworms from ingesting rodents that are infested with fleas. It’s why indoor cats that are on flea preventative, but are rodent hunters, will still constantly get tapeworms. But that strikes me as way less likely than an external parasite infesting vulnerable tissues.

Whether my thoughts were on target or way off base, I wish your baby a smooth recovery! I’d very much like to have updates as well, if you have time.


Thank you all so much for your kind words!

I did pour the “maggots” into a separate container, but I didn’t put them in a fridge or freezer to preserve them since the vet didn’t seem to want them. I can ask or look myself (I work in a lab and can use a microscope) if they are still in decent condition.

Some of these things I had no idea about but make perfect sense as possibilities! The yolk, I can definitely see that happening in young individuals. I’m not sure how long they can hold it for like that, she was 87g when I brought her home. Some of the others I can definitely see happening. I’m trying to figure out what to use to deworm my rodents just in case that was the cause (vet said not to worry about them unless it happens again, but I’d rather do something before it happens again).

I’m not sure how clear this is but the white string is one of the “tendons” that’s visible. The darkness is hollow body cavity and what I think is bruising around the edges. I never see blood from her, only two watery drops during the first and second bath.

She is still very aware of her surroundings, inquisitive when I pick her up, happy to slither away from me when I put her back in her tub. I’m very optimistic that she will heal! I just hope it closes soon so she can start eating again and doesn’t get any more larvae in her (fruit flies are swarming if I don’t use the spray).

I do plan on keeping this thread up to date on her, but probably not daily pics as they are all so similar so far.


Thank you for sharing, I had no idea something like this could happen. I hope your girl heals well and quickly.

This is not accurate. While there certainly are flies that are necrophagic (eat only dead tissue), there are also a large number that are just sarcophagic (eat live flesh). This is why they can only use very specific species for medical wound debridement

So, pretty sure I can tell you what is going on in loose terms. I do not think you are going to like what I have to say however.

I had pretty much this same thing happen with one exception, my animal did not develop any kind of external wound.

The worms are not nematodes. The flies you are seeing are not fruit flies.

Five or so years ago, I had an animal that went off feeding on rat weans and would only take hopper mice. He had been a picky feeder so I was not unduly alarmed. Around the same time, I had a sudden explosion of what I thought were fungus gnats. Turns out, the two were related.

It took me a while to figure this out

I never bothered to key them out or anything but I am fairly certain that these flies/maggots are the same ones that can sometimes be found feeding on the feces of our animals if you are not quick enough with clean up. I still do not know how my animal was initially colonized but once he was, they continued to grow and multiply within his body. I discovered this more by accident. I had noticed that every time I cleaned this animal’s tub, there were always flies and maggots in there. Then, one day right after I cleaned his tub and put him back in it, he defecated as I was sliding the tub in and it was full of maggots and even adult flies. I immediately took the animal an put him in a clean tub and added warm water to see if I could induce another movement. That worked, all too well, and a torrent of maggots/flies came out. I repeated the warm bath process a few times, each time resulting in expulsions. When the bath was no longer producing results, I gently palpated down the stomach of the animal and that ended up pushing out even more of them. I put him back in a clean tub for the day

The next day I repeated the warm bath and palpation.

On the third day, when I palpated, a huge amount of blood and gore came out. The animal expired shortly there after.

At no point during this whole process did the animal appear to be in distress other than changing his feeder preference (hindsight, I am guessing larger meals were too uncomfortable for him to pass through his digestive tract but hoppers were not).

Unfortunately, based on that sort of squishy, full water balloon-look your animal has on the back half of his body, my guess is that it is fairly full of maggots. If you were to palpate down toward its vent I suspect you would get a large discharge of them. I am not sure there is any way to “cure” this. An antihelminthic could work, but at that size, getting dosage correct could be tricky. And even if you did kill them all of, then you would have an animal with dead maggots filling its body cavity which would inevitably lead to sepsis


The full spot near the vent isn’t squishy, it’s a little more firm. I will definitely be catching some of those flies for ID purposes.

Thank you for your story! I will definitely brace myself for the worst.

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After seeing her this afternoon, I’m afraid you are right. The vent area was more squishy although it has been more firm. With a little massaging (she was straining a little) I got urates, a little poop, and a little blood to come out. Looking in the vent (because something isn’t coming out easily) I can definitely see much more gore and blood. I have no idea what it is and I’m not going to try to make it come out by force in case it’s still attached or could cause harm. She’s also pretty listless, her antibiotic shot was too easy. She never fought, hissed, or anything. I now believe that she will pass, but I am going to give her a couple days to see if this is just getting worse before getting better.


I’m so sorry you’re going through this. I’d try to be prepared to put her down sooner rather than later. I don’t know if you could afford to do a necropsy on her if she does pass, to maybe see how long the parasites have been in her. If you can’t afford one I would be willing to donate to a GoFundMe if you put one up. I do hope she gets better, but I doubt it will happen. If you need someone to talk to my DMs are open! Good luck


If I were you I would personally put her down, since it is unlikely she will get better and will just suffer before dying. If you don’t have the money to go to a vet to put her down, then you can use a firm blow to the head with a brick, or something similar to put her down quickly. It sucks, but it is better than leaving her to pass on her own.


It’s Blues decision.

Sorry Blue that sucks. And pretty bizarre situation overall.


I might can meet the vet again tomorrow to see what they think. I definitely don’t want her to suffer but I also know that I can’t put her down myself. I could probably get my dad or brother to though.

She was still tongue flicking and moving, just not as much as I’d like. I’m not giving up on her until she gives up on herself. I have collected the old maggots and a couple flies to be looked at. Flies are really hard to definitively ID but an entomologist has offered to try. The maggots I plan to show a vet (maybe not the reptile vet but still a vet) to see if they are a parasite or maggot.


I’m so sorry, there’s nothing quite as heartbreaking as thinking an animal is recovering only to lose them later.

And thank you so much for the pictures, weirdly it was super comforting to see they weren’t nearly as bad as what my parasitic-worm-phobic brain was conjuring up for me!


I’m very sorry to hear that. While I am a (hopefully not permanently) retired veterinarian, I am not too proud to acknowledge that I am rusty and not an exotics vet. An entomologist should be able to guide you in the right direction re:type of parasite, then you can share that info with your vet, and that can inform treatment. There is sometimes an issue in mammals with treating patients that have a heavy parasite burden, whereby the sudden death of all the parasites causes a chain reaction that can make treatment difficult. However, I have seen animals in those situations pull through, when one goes in anticipating it. I’m not trying to argue either way, just offering what I know that might help.

Whatever you do, do not forcefully massage. I have seen snakes pass away after exactly this, even in an (exotics) veterinary situation. In the case that comes to mind, the lump was related to a food item becoming impacted in the GI tract, with lower temps a suspect for the cause of the inadequate passage of the prey. Perhaps that happened, causing damage to the GI tract, and the infestation is secondary to that somehow? Not what I would expect, just throwing out some ideas.

Should you decide to cull, there was a recent thread discussing the culling of snakes.

Thank you again for sharing her story.


Omg this is my nightmare. Im so sorry you are going through this and hope you find a solution that puts you and the noodle at peace. <3

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