Ball Python Mouth Rot

By Snaketracks / January 5, 2021

Ball Python Mouth Rot

Ball pythons can develop mouth rot (Stomatitis) quite easily. It usually develops from a cut in its mouth.

Ball pythons also known as royal pythons are one of the most popular snakes kept as pets. These snakes are easy to care for, easy to acquire and come in a ton of different morphs.

It is also well-loved by snake enthusiasts all over the world. Regardless of the resilient and low maintenance nature of the royal python, they can be afflicted by health issues such as mouth rot.

When left untreated, mouth rot will cause the reptile to stop eating and drinking which can have serious consequences. When caught early, treatment is simple and straightforward.

What is Ball python mouth rot?

All reptiles can develop mouth rot, however ball pythons, and snakes in general, are more likely to develop it. So what is mouth rot? The technical name for mouth rot is Stomatitis.

This is caused by bacterial infections in the mouth. Mouth rot occurs when a cut in the reptile’s mouth becomes infected or when pieces of small pieces of food are left between teeth in the mouth.

Mouth rot can develop into pneumonia when left untreated. To prevent this, it is advisable to keep infected individuals in an enclosure.

However, mouth rot on its own isn’t contagious. Since it is caused by lack of care, several pythons within the same enclosure can develop it.

Prevention

If the reptile is healthy and the enclosure is clean, cuts and abrasions won’t get infected, similarly, the probability of any sort of infection developing is very low. Here are some things you can do to help prevent the occurrence of mouth rot. 

Keep the enclosure clean

A clean enclosure drastically reduces the likelihood of your snake developing mouth rot, and even scale rot. Clean the enclosure regularly. I recommend sticking to a schedule/timetable.

Spot clean as often as possible. This involves removing urates and fecal matter as soon as you spot them. Fluker’s Eco Clean Reptile Waste Remover is a great way to get rid of urates and fecal matter.

Every month, remove the substrate and disinfect the enclosure and all accessories with a 5% bleach solution. Also, replace the substrate with a fresh batch.

Get annual vet check ups

Yearly vet check-ups also help prevent mouth rot. This also helps prevent a wide range of health issues. Vet checkups can be expensive but they can help ensure that your snake lives a long and healthy life.

Provide a large enclosure that is well regulated

The temperature needs to be optimal. An enclosure with dimensions of 36 inches x18 inches x12 inches should be large enough for the ball python. 

Provide the reptile with a nutritious well-balanced diet

Check the mouths of the snake regularly. Do so gently to avoid harming the snake. The python’s jaw is rather fragile.

Remove food stuck in the teeth using a cotton swab.

Symptoms

Mouth rot is easy to spot. When spotted, start treatment right away. One of the easiest ways to spot signs early is to inspect the snake’s mouth regularly.

  • The first symptom you will notice is a refusal to drink and eat. The loss of appetite and refusal to drink water is down to the pain the snake experiences when it opens its mouth. If your snake shows disinterest in water and food, mouth rot may be the cause.
  • Mouth rot can cause the snake to also drool a lot. 
  • You may also notice yellow pus (of cheese-like consistency)/plaques in soft tissues in and around the mouth. 
  • In advanced stages, the gyms may swell up. The entire face may also swell. 
  • The snake may also rest with its mouth open.

If you notice these symptoms, it is vital to get in touch with your vet. When left untreated mouth rot can lead to serious complications, however, this affliction is easy to treat.

When you decide to inspect the snake’s mouth, do so gently. You don’t want to injure the snake by rough handling it.

Treatment

I strongly advise against treating mouth rot yourself. Treatment should be left to professionals such as vets. If you attempt to treat mouth rot yourself, you do so at your own peril (or rather at the snake’s peril).

When caught early, the prognosis is easy and very good. When not caught early, the snake can lose teeth and even its jaw. Additionally, mouth rot can also lead to pneumonia when not caught early or treated early.

If however, you are determined to treat mouth rot at home, you can do so by keeping the snake’s mouth clean

This should only be attempted if the infection is at an early stage. Clean the yellow pus off the snake’s mouth using a cotton swab (or damp cotton swap).

Then use a 10% betadine solution to disinfect the affected areas. Even with this, it is advisable to contact your vet before proceeding. If the snake’s head is swollen, then you must seek professional help.

In severe cases, the vet will have to remove dead tissues from the python’s mouth. Mouth rot is treated with antibiotic therapy.

The bacteria causing the infection must be identified and treated to prevent any further health problems. Puss pockets are removed with tweezers and the mouth is cleaned out using an antiseptic.

If the snake is unable to eat due to mouth rot, it may be put on fluid therapy and nutritional support.

After treatment, it is necessary to keep the snake hydrated. Additionally, add supplements to the snake’s food. The vet may also advise you to keep the snake warmer than usual through the day and night.

Conclusion

Mouth rot is preventable and easy to treat. However, when left untreated, it can lead to serious complications. The main cause of mouth rot includes bits of food left in the gums or infected cuts.

Initial signs of mouth rot include refusal to eat or drink and excessive drooling. Later, you will notice chess-like pus around the mouth.

While vets can be expensive, they are the best solution when it comes to mouth rot treatment. Even if you can’t afford a vet, you should still seek professional help.

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