So before this gets read as a panic post, this is only half panic post. I bought a 3 year old male Banana ( and other genes ) ball python last March at the time he was slightly over 900 grams. He ate 1 small live rat in May and one small frozen rat in October. Since October he has not eaten (going on 6 months ). Now I know males can go on significant fasts especially in winter due to breeding season, I also know that the 1000g wall might be in play here, also we moved around a month ago. However at this point what concerns me is his weight loss. My scale is broken but I’d say he’s noticably lost about a third of his body weight.
He’s recently moved enclosures ( about a month ago ) his new enclosure is a 110qt tub with a little side door on it. I cluttered it up good for him so he’s plenty hidden. I changed his enclosure because I thought husbandry was the problem. I mist all of the snakes enclosures along the sides and the top since it’s still the very dry winter season here and keep the room at 75-80 ( his hot side is kept at 87-90). He has water , he has shed 3 times in this period.
I have tried live rats , pre-killed rats , frozen thawed rats ( in small medium and large varieties ) , rat pups hidden for “nest raid scenarios” , live and pre-killed mice , live ASF , and now have a turkey chick ( the only avian prey item I could get ahold of ) thawing in the fridge with hope that he will take it and atleast get some nutrition. I have tried different times of feeding. I’ve tried completely in the dark feeding ( which when he does take prey he’s a fast and hard striker so I was really just waiting to get bit while sitting in the dark there ) I’ve tried braining. I’ve tried breaking his feeding schedule so that there is no schedule. He just doesn’t seem to have an appetite anymore at all. Most of the time he looks at the prey item like he’s hungry and recognizes that it’s food and then willfully decides to ignore it.
As far as his physical health goes he outwardly seems healthy , is generally curious and alert esspetially when he’s out though not as active as he was before, his scales are all smooth and bright colored ( not ragged , no injuries) no mites , and he’s just getting at the point where he seems a bit thinner than I’d like … No ribs showing and not close to emaciated but with a slight concave to his belly and a noticable topline. He got alittle wrinklier than usual during his last shed but seems to be drinking regularly. Because he’s not eating he isnt getting handled regularly. But a 1/3 weight drop seems like alot.
My question is what more can I/should I try , and when should I start to really worry and try to find an exotics vet? My general research ranges from worry at 10% of there body weight lost ,to they can fast for over a year and can loose a substantial amount of weight and be fine. It ranges from they will absolutely eat before starving , to they will and can starve themselves to death.
I’m at kind of a loss with this big sweet boy and have been restraining myself from panic because of many reasons ( breeding season , moving , sometimes they just fast ect. … Plus he was overweight when I got him and males do tend to vary in build alittle. I’ve got one other male that’s healthy and an ultra slim build and another that’s just really wide and stocky. So point is … I don’t know what he looks like healthy. I know he’s underweight but I don’t know how much under weight) … At the moment my only ideas are to try this turkey chick once it thaws and just continue to leave him alone and offer food. I just don’t want to fix something to late or have a vet intervene to late. So any ideas are greatly appreciated.
The first thing you could do is order a scale off of Amazon. I’m sure you can get something under $20. At least that way you can accurately guage his weight. I know when they are not eating, they aren’t making much of a mess either but keep his cage clean, especially after sheds and before any feeding attempts. If you are trying to feed him every week, it may be too often. Just try every other week. Also, until he takes something, I would keep it to live prey that is undersized for a typical meal, like a mouse or rat weanling. If he is shedding, and passing urates, that is a good sign everything is still working. Also, you say he acts like he is going to eat but doesn’t. That is a good sign too. Have you tried pre-scenting his space? You may try putting the live prey item in a small shoebox size tote. Have plenty of holes drilled in the top, at least 3/8 diameter and perhaps 15 or 20 of them. Put the tote in the proximity of the enclosure and have a fan running to push air over the tote and towards the enclosure. If you can get some dirty bedding from the source that will be scented like the prey item, even better. It doesn’t have to be blasting. BPs are naturally nocturnal so I would try this in the evening so that after two hours or so of pre-scenting you are trying to feed late, like 8 or 9 PM. I have found that pre-scenting gets them into hunting mode, and that can trigger a better feeding response. I have had a male off for 9 months before, and while it is frustrating and stressful, it isn’t out of the realm of ordinary. Best of luck.
Thank you this is definitely something worth trying that I didn’t think of (I’ve tried pre scenting with f/t but I didn’t think to use a live rat in a shoe box, I generally as a rule won’t leave them alone with live prey, however separated , that’s pretty genius actually ) I’ve actually got a buddy that breeds rats ( from a different source than I was originally getting them from , there’s always the possibility that he really didn’t like something about my first live source ) I plan on getting a scale but this time I’m thinking an old pressure plate manual because I’ve shot through 3 cheap digitals so I’m just over those lmao. And thats good to know that him passing urates and shedding is a good sign. He is doing both of those things. Like I said usually fasts don’t get to me , it’s just that he’s never been a good feeder so I’ve never had anything to go off of with him ( he’s never had a “normal” ). I offer everyone a meal biweekly, he gets offered food once every 2.5/3 weeks … Usually on different days so he doesn’t know when.
If you don’t mind what are some bad signs to look out for. I’m all good with just waiting for him to eat but I don’t want to get professional veterinary intervention to late.
Well maybe try feeding every four weeks until he takes something. As far as bad things to watch out for, there are a lot of things that can go wrong, some of which you wouldn’t know without some testing. Intestinal parasites for example, are one that you probably wouldn’t identify without doing a fecal culture.
If your husbandry is all good, and there are no outward signs of issues, such as mouth or scale rot, mites, drooling (which can be a sign of an respiratory infection), bulges or swelling in non typical places, then all you can really do is look to see he is still having bodily functions such as urates, etc., and watch to see that his body tone and locomotion continues to appear normal. If he’s not shedding, passing urates, or becomes lethargic to the point that he is not moving or gripping normally, that would be cause for concern. Also, you can monitor his water intake. Since he is not eating, and a lot of fluids come from their diet, jus make sure you keep his water clean and monitor that he is actually drinking it. Best of luck
I’ve had a couple ball pythons over the years fast for very long periods. One was exactly 12 months and another just shy of that. Both lost weight, both ‘recovered’ just fine. Generally we keep adults well overweight anyway.