Ball Python Snake Underbelly Redness

Q: I have noticed recently that the underside of my ball python at about halfway down (from the middle of her body to her tail) has a reddish tint to it. At first, I thought it might be due to the under tank heating pad being too hot and burning her. I use a reptile carpet for a substrate and have never had a problem in the past. Her skin does not appear blistered or scratched. She is active at night and is drinking and feeding. Could this be due to bowel obstruction or an internal parasite? Please advise.

A: Boy, this is a good question! I hesitate to say that you should ignore this since your python is still eating and drinking, but because you are noticing a difference in the color of the skin, I would suggest that you have it evaluated by your herp veterinarian.

You could have your ball evaluated and tested by your vet to ease your mind (and mine). Obviously, this color change is new and not normal, or you wouldn’t be asking me about it. I don’t have an explanation for it, as burns usually start as redness, then it turns into blisters. Other skin diseases also result in blisters and redness. Contact dermatitis also may cause redness. Septicemia (a blood-borne infection) also can cause redness, but this does not usually occur in just half the snake.

I would recommend a veterinary examination, blood tests, possibly radiographs (X-rays), cultures, skin biopsies or other tests as recommended by your herp vet. If a problem is uncovered, then you will be able to treat your python before it gets symptomatic and becomes very ill. If the tests don’t show any problems, well then, at least you will have peace of mind!

Margaret A. Wissman, DVM, DABVP has been an avian/exotic/herp animal veterinarian since 1981. She is a regular contributor to REPTILES magazine.

Need a Herp Vet?

If you are looking for a herp-knowledgeable veterinarian in your area, a good place to start is by checking the list of members on the Association of Reptilian and Amphibian Veterinarian (ARAV) web site at www.arav.com. Look for DVMs who appear to maintain actual veterinary offices that you could contact.

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