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  1. #1
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    Not eating, underweight ball python

    I have an enchi ivory het clown male ball python that I picked up on December 6th, 2020. On the Certificate of Origin, it states his birthday is July 8, 2020 however, when I contacted the seller again regarding a different snake, he told me the birthday for this boy was actually August 11, 2020. I mentioned the discrepancy but he didn't really address it in a clear way and said "it's not that important" so I dropped it. Anyway, that means that he (his name is Platano) is at least 7 months old, maybe 8.

    When I received him, I weighed him and he was only 72 grams. I fed him every 5 days for a few months until he got a bit over 150 grams, then I switched to every 7 days, like my other snakes. He was eating really well for me until recently, striking almost immediately when I'd offer him food. I should mention, he was on live mice before I got him and I feed f/t rats. Didn't really have a problem switching him over to f/t rats either.

    Recently he's not being eating as consistently. Like 6 weeks ago, since he was starting to get bigger, I tried to feed him two 10g rats. He ate both just fine. The next week I tried to feed him a bigger rat (~15g) and then another small baby rat (10g) after but he only ate the first one. The next week I tried to feed him just one 23g rat and he wouldn't eat. If I remember correctly, that was the first time I offered him a rat with fur on it. So, since I was still concerned about his weight, I opted to go back to a 5 day feeding schedule. After 5 days, I tried his "usual" smaller one with no fur of about 18g. If I remember correctly, I don't think he ate again.

    Then, when I was feeding my other five snakes four days later, my other boy didn't eat his because he was in shed. So just to see basically, I tried offering the rat to Platano since he was due to eat the following day anyway. I planned to stop if he didn't immediately take it, so as not to stress him out but to my surprise, he actually ate it! This was a 38g rat btw, and Platano had was 190g at the time so the rat was 20% of his bodyweight. I considered myself lucky to get so much food in him and I left him alone and everything was fine, he didn't regurge or anything. Since I thought he was fine again I decided to go back to a 7 day feeding schedule.

    The next time, I offered around a 25g rat. He didn't eat but he was in shed so I figured that's why. I waited a week, offered a 23g rat. He didn't eat again. Waited 5 days (didn't wait a week because I'm concerned he's still underweight) and that brings us to today. Offered a similar size rat (with fur) again, and he still wouldn't eat. I have 5 other snakes all in the same room, same temps, same humidity and they eat just fine. After he didn't eat 5 days ago, I added 2 paper towel rolls to his enclosure to give him more clutter and hopefully make him feel more secure. I also added a scrunched up paper towel in each hide to make them feel smaller and more secure. He is in a clear bin but three out of the four sides of the shelf he's on are enclosed. So also five days ago, I cut a piece of cardboard and placed it in the front so now he's enclosed on all four sides.

    I don't handle him at all anymore except to clean his enclosure/weigh him. I feed inside the enclosure. I have a temp gun that I use to make sure the rats are the right temp. I thaw overnight in the fridge, warm up in a ziploc bag in warm water and then blast the head of the rat with the hair dryer. I'm not sure why he's not eating and I'm worried because like I said, I think he's underweight. I will add a picture so you can see. He has a hide on both the cool and warm side. I have a thermometer for the heat pad on the warm side set to 92 degrees Fahrenheit. I haven't changed the temps or humidity of his enclosure since I got him. I know it's normal for ball pythons to not want to eat every once in a while but I'm so concerned because he looks underweight to me. Please let me know of any advice you have and also, if you think he is underweight too in the picture.

    Here's links to photos of him.

    https://ball-pythons.net/gallery/sho...hp?i=60224&c=3

    https://ball-pythons.net/gallery/sho...hp?i=60225&c=3
    Last edited by Bogertophis; 03-19-2021 at 08:21 PM. Reason: Added spacing to improve readability

  2. #2
    Bogertophis's Avatar
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    Sounds like you can use some references? ^ ^ ^
    Last edited by Bogertophis; 03-20-2021 at 12:59 AM.
    Rudeness is the weak man's imitation of strength.
    Eric Hoffer (1902 - 1983)

  3. #3
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    Re: Not eating, underweight ball python

    Hi, thank you for your response. I've actually seen both of those images before. I have been feeding him based on the range given in the first photo (except for that one random 38g rat) and also taking the girth around his body into account. I've seen the second picture regarding normal/overweight/obese ball pythons as well, but based on my other 5 ball pythons (4 girls and 1 male and I know females tend to grow larger than males) he is the smallest and weighs the least. He is also the oldest out of all of them as well. That's why I'm so worried. I know each and every snake grows at their own pace though.

    Based on the second photo regarding ideal physique, I'm not sure if he's in the good category or the slim category. Again, I'm probably a bit biased due to the size of my other 5 snakes. That's why I included pics of him and was hoping to get others' opinions who are more experienced than me. Maybe I'm just used to holding the others and he feels so slim and tiny in my hands in comparison, I'm not sure. But even if he is currently a healthy weight, it won't stay that way forever if he continues not to eat. :/

  4. #4
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    He looks okay to me, though I'm not currently keeping BPs- I have in the past. As you said, snakes do all grow at their own pace. Sometimes pushing a little too much food just backfires.

    But wait for others to give input too- BTW, I added spaces to your post, as I feared it would get ignored otherwise- it was very hard to read that "wall of text".
    Rudeness is the weak man's imitation of strength.
    Eric Hoffer (1902 - 1983)

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    Re: Not eating, underweight ball python

    Lol yes thank you, I appreciate it, it looks way better with the proper spacing! And thanks for responding, any tips on getting him to eat again? I should wait until he's lost 20% of his bodyweight before taking him to the vet, right? And I should definitely not assist feed him since he's not a hatchling and has eaten multiple times before on his own?

    Btw, I forgot to mention this, when I tried to feed him 5 days ago, he did strike and coil but then dropped it and seemed uninterested. I tried warming it up again in case it had cooled off too much but he didn't strike again. He seems interested at first every time I offer but then does nothing about it. Today, he seemed interested again but this time he didn't strike.

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    As I tried to hint, BPs are not my specialty, nor do I ever weigh the prey that I feed my snakes, but until others chime in, I'll offer some thoughts.

    It's good that you switched him onto f/t rats, but I get the impression that you're pushing a little too much food on him. It takes time to digest, & not all snakes are created equal- some actually do have better digestion than others. I know the chart above says 5-7 days, but personally, I think that's excessive- and when a snake is refusing a weekly meal, maybe it's time to just offer every other week to see if that doesn't inspire his appetite. (Have you ever been to some relative's house for dinner & they keep trying to pile more food on you until you just want to scream? LOL)

    You mention covering the 4th side of his tub? So he's basically in the dark then? Shorter days = winter & time to fast for many animals...just saying.

    I'm not convinced he's underweight from those pics- & it's very possible your other snakes are a bit on the hefty side, & he doesn't feel like eating as much. Over-feeding snakes is no better than over-eating is for us, so maybe your snake has a point? Also, of the BPs I've known, the females tend to eat more than males, & need the greater body weight for breeding- it's natural.

    I think you meant you have a thermostat (not a thermometer) controlling your heat pad? At least I hope so. And 92* is pushing it some, if that's the actual temperature inside the tub, over the UTH with substrate pushed back? What's the "cool side" kept at? Where does he spend most of his time?
    Rudeness is the weak man's imitation of strength.
    Eric Hoffer (1902 - 1983)

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    Re: Not eating, underweight ball python

    Okay, that makes sense about trying to feed too often. I thought he was hungry because he did seem interested every time I offered, struck and coiled once, and he comes out to "hunt" at night time which he usually doesn't do and that was before I began covering the fourth/front side. I usually give them all a day/night cycle and I know that's important, the only reason I covered the front is because I was thinking maybe he's not eating due to stress and seeing us walking by every once in a while could be stressing him out? Unfortunately I live in an apartment and there's only the one room large enough to fit the snakes, so I can't move them to an area with "less traffic" because there is no such area in our apartment.

    Yes, I did mean thermostat, I'm using an exoterra one with the probe placed underneath the tub but on top of the heat mat. As of right now, I'm still just using paper towels as a substrate (I sometimes find him hiding underneath the paper towels) although I did purchase and have exoterra cocohusk. He usually spends his time about evenly between the cool and warm hides but it seems recently he's more often on the warm side. I just checked right now and the cool side is 75 degrees Fahrenheit, and the warm side is 89 degrees Fahrenheit. He was actually hiding in one of the paper towel rolls on the warm side. I know ideally the cool side should be a bit warmer, and I tried to do so by using insulation on three of the four sides surrounding his enclosure but it seems I can't get warmer than 75. The heat mat is 1/3 the size of the enclosure. He is on the bottom shelf though.

    According to a digital thermometer and hygrometer I have, the humidity is 66% and the ambient temp is 74 degrees Fahrenheit. Again, a little low but I don't know how to get it any warmer. I even have the entire thermostat for our apartment set to 24 degrees Celsius (75.2 degrees Fahrenheit) all the time to try and help. But all of these have been the temps ever since I've had him, they haven't changed and he used to eat just fine. The other snakes all eat just fine as well with the same temps (only slightly different due to shelf placement, like top shelf is slightly warmer than bottom).

    So maybe like you said, after eating that huge 38g rat he was just really stuffed and doesn't want anything for a while. If I do switch to offering every other week, what size do you think I should offer? Just the same size as his girth? Or should it be a little bigger than usual since he'll be eating less often?

    Btw I do increase the humidity when I see that they are going into shed. I put the water bowl on the warm side and spray with a misting spray bottle.

  9. #8
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    I would avoid trying to stuff him with a bigger meal, especially if you want him to eat more regularly for you. Let him feel a little hungry...it's natural. Most of our pet snakes eat way more often than they would in the wild, & that's what evolution has designed them for- getting by on sporadic meals, not attending regular banquets.

    For all you know, maybe that 38 g. rat gave him a stomach ache? It's not as if he can tell you, but I've heard of BPs refusing to eat certain color rodents after being nipped by one of the same color, so who knows whether he's hesitating because of the size now? I have a geriatric (22 year old) corn snake that's plenty big enough to eat adult mice but he seems to know his digestion is now weaker & will only eat small mice (large hoppers at the most) & he actually prefers fuzzies. Snakes are never "one size fits all"- they make us pay attention to their idiosyncrasies & it certainly keeps it interesting.

    And by the way, you do NOT want to offer him food that's "the same size as his girth" but always smaller than that. And definitely not larger than... (I'm not saying they don't do this in the wild when they have no other choice, but many things are different in the wild, including their longevity & the amount of exercise they get.)
    Rudeness is the weak man's imitation of strength.
    Eric Hoffer (1902 - 1983)

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    Re: Not eating, underweight ball python

    Okay, I think what I will do then is leave him alone as much as possible for the next 9 days and then try to feed him next Sunday since that is feeding day for everyone else. I'll offer something smaller than his girth, either a baby rat of 10g or a slightly bigger 17g one that doesn't have any fur on it. Hopefully he will eat then.

    I'm surprised about not feeding him something equal to or even larger than his girth, as far as I was aware, for ball pythons, equal to their girth is just right or even up to 1.25 times. But maybe that's what causes so many ball pythons to become overweight.

    Thank you so much for your advice, I really appreciate it. Hearing someone with more experience than me, even if you don't specialize in ball pythons, say that he doesn't seem underweight makes me feel much better. I think I'll post on here again next time I attempt to feed him on the 28th and let you know how it goes.

  11. #10
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    Yes, please keep us posted either way. There's quite a few experienced members here w/ BPs- they may have more suggestions too- it's just been rather quiet around here so far this weekend- I suspect everyone has "spring fever". But don't be a stranger around here- it helps to both get and share other opinions & ideas. None of our "read the manuals", much less follow them precisely.
    Rudeness is the weak man's imitation of strength.
    Eric Hoffer (1902 - 1983)

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