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  1. #1
    BPnet Veteran Luvyna's Avatar
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    Ball python body condition and feeding trouble

    I'm worried about my almost six year old BP who has been eating sporadically for close to a year now. He'll accept 2-3 meals, then refuse around 3-4 meals and has visibly lost weight. I would say in the past 12 months, he's eaten around 7-10 times.

    He has been through some stressful changes in the past 1-2 years, with me moving and leaving him with my family, where there was also a lot of change happening with different people living there at different times and he had different people taking care of him and coming and going.

    I moved him to my new home in January this year and was able to get him to eat 3 times between Feb - March, but he has now refused 4 meals in a row and I'm started to get worried about his body condition because I can see he's lost a pretty significant amount of weight. He may have been a bit overweight when he first stopped eating regularly, but now I'm worried about him getting any skinnier.

    I am going to be trying all the recommendations from the Psychology of Problem Feeders thread on this forum, but wanted to get some input on his body condition to know if I should try something more drastic sooner. If anyone has recommendations on how to get ball pythons to eat, please share them as well! I'm also wondering how often I should be attempting to offer him food - the current intervals are ~14-18 days.

    Photos of my BP are below:




    Last edited by Luvyna; 04-25-2024 at 01:11 AM.

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  3. #2
    BPnet Veteran Homebody's Avatar
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    Re: Ball python body condition and feeding trouble

    Quote Originally Posted by Luvyna View Post
    If anyone has recommendations on how to get ball pythons to eat, please share them as well!
    Reptilinks has a series of instructional videos on their site: https://reptilinks.com/pages/videos. While the goal of the whole series is to help its customers transition their snakes to reptilinks, segments #3, 4, 5 teach feeding techniques that are broadly applicable to snakes that aren't feeding for any reason. I think they are useful arrows any snake keeper should have in their quiver.
    1.0 Normal Children's Python (2022 - present)
    1.0 Normal Ball Python (2019 - 2021)

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  5. #3
    BPnet Veteran Malum Argenteum's Avatar
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    Have you had a vet visit and testing to rule out any medical issues?

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  7. #4
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    Re: Ball python body condition and feeding trouble

    Quote Originally Posted by Malum Argenteum View Post
    Have you had a vet visit and testing to rule out any medical issues?
    This though don't be surprised if the vet doesn't find anything. My middle-aged males have similar eating habits.

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    I would definitely consider having him tested for parasites and have the vet give him a once over.

    Honestly though, his weight is still looking pretty good from these photos.
    What size meals has he eating right and how much does he weigh?
    Last edited by Armiyana; 04-26-2024 at 04:47 PM.

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  11. #6
    BPnet Veteran Luvyna's Avatar
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    Re: Ball python body condition and feeding trouble

    Thanks for the input, everyone! I will try the strategies from the Reptilink videos next time I attempt to feed and schedule a vet visit. Other than checking for parasites, is there anything else I should ask the vet to test for? It's helpful for me to know what to advocate for.

    Quote Originally Posted by bcr229 View Post
    This though don't be surprised if the vet doesn't find anything. My middle-aged males have similar eating habits.
    Interesting to hear that your middle-aged males eat like this as well! Mine is a little younger than middle-aged, but it's also possible he just needs less food now and I was overfeeding him without realizing it.

    Quote Originally Posted by Armiyana View Post
    I would definitely consider having him tested for parasites and have the vet give him a once over.

    Honestly though, his weight is still looking pretty good from these photos.
    What size meals has he eating right and how much does he weigh?
    Glad to hear that his body condition is actually looking okay! Now I'm wondering if maybe he was more than a little overweight and over time I got used to how he looked so I didn't even realize he was getting too fat before. It's possible that he's now actually a healthier weight and I'm just not used to seeing him look like this.

    I wish I'd kept better records of his weight over the past 2 years (I stopped weighing him regularly after he reached adult size) which probably would have tipped me off that the feeding was wrong if he was gaining weight despite being fully grown. I weighed him today and he is 1746 grams and I've been offering him ~50g small rats every ~14-18 days. Maybe it's time to cut back to one rat every ~21 days?

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  13. #7
    bcr229's Avatar
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    Re: Ball python body condition and feeding trouble

    Quote Originally Posted by Luvyna View Post
    Interesting to hear that your middle-aged males eat like this as well! Mine is a little younger than middle-aged, but it's also possible he just needs less food now and I was overfeeding him without realizing it.
    Yeah they're not growing any more so they just need to maintain their weight. I have a few 10+ year old males on small/medium rats that only eat 6-8 times per year. Some of my non-breeding females only eat monthly. The only BP I have now that will eat weekly is a female that threw the unexpected clutch of eggs a few weeks ago.

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  15. #8
    BPnet Veteran Luvyna's Avatar
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    Re: Ball python body condition and feeding trouble

    Quote Originally Posted by bcr229 View Post
    Yeah they're not growing any more so they just need to maintain their weight. I have a few 10+ year old males on small/medium rats that only eat 6-8 times per year. Some of my non-breeding females only eat monthly. The only BP I have now that will eat weekly is a female that threw the unexpected clutch of eggs a few weeks ago.
    This is really helpful to know! Wow, from a human perspective eating 6-8 times a year is mind-boggling, but for captive middle-aged BPs maybe that really is all they need if they're healthy and maintaining weight.

    With this in mind I'm going to try offering food less frequently, maybe around once every 3-4 weeks and hopefully that will also help with getting my BP to take food more consistently and avoiding food waste.

    It seems like there are lots of guides for how to feed juvenile BPs but not so many for adults, so it's good to know what other people are experiencing with adult and middle-age or older BPs and what feeding schedules for older snakes are like.
    Last edited by Luvyna; 04-29-2024 at 04:54 AM.

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  17. #9
    BPnet Veteran Malum Argenteum's Avatar
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    I feed my adult male BP (16 years old, came to me as a hatchling; 2450 grams recently) when he's apparently hungry. I think feeding schedules for snakes are for keeper convenience (and ingrained habit from the way modern humans eat, which is often when the clock tells us to rather than when we're actually hungry); often best for the snake if the keeper learns how to read when they're hungry and use that as a guideline to when to offer food. Fortunately, this is a lot easier to do with BPs than with other snake species (much harder with colubrids).

    With my male BP, sometimes he acts hungry every couple weeks and so that's how often I offer a meal. Sometimes he stays holed up and I tend to just leave him be; sometimes he cruises the enclosure for weeks and I double check the temp and moisture levels and if that's all fine I let him do his thing. If he goes a couple months without signaling that he's hungry, I might offer a meal just to confirm. I usually offer small FT rats; sometimes XL mice (I breed my own, and sometimes breeders get retired; I prefer rats for snakes that will take them).

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  19. #10
    BPnet Veteran Luvyna's Avatar
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    Re: Ball python body condition and feeding trouble

    Quote Originally Posted by Malum Argenteum View Post
    I feed my adult male BP (16 years old, came to me as a hatchling; 2450 grams recently) when he's apparently hungry. I think feeding schedules for snakes are for keeper convenience (and ingrained habit from the way modern humans eat, which is often when the clock tells us to rather than when we're actually hungry); often best for the snake if the keeper learns how to read when they're hungry and use that as a guideline to when to offer food. Fortunately, this is a lot easier to do with BPs than with other snake species (much harder with colubrids).

    With my male BP, sometimes he acts hungry every couple weeks and so that's how often I offer a meal. Sometimes he stays holed up and I tend to just leave him be; sometimes he cruises the enclosure for weeks and I double check the temp and moisture levels and if that's all fine I let him do his thing. If he goes a couple months without signaling that he's hungry, I might offer a meal just to confirm. I usually offer small FT rats; sometimes XL mice (I breed my own, and sometimes breeders get retired; I prefer rats for snakes that will take them).
    Thanks for sharing this process, I agree that reading the signs of hunger is a good system! What do these "hunger signals" usually look like for your BP?

    When mine was still growing, he would very clearly be waiting for food when he'd stick his head out of his hide a bit with his neck in an "s" shape in ambush position, however I rarely see him doing that now. He's usually out cruising around his enclosure or basking under his CHE at night, or he just stays in his hide.

    Does your 16 year old BP also eat roughly just under 10 times per year?

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