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  1. #1
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    URGENT: Need Advice About Ball Python Swollen Face

    Hello. My two years and five-month-old male ball python, Poltergeist, has a badly swollen face, which I believe three things could be responsible: RI infection, damage from rubbing/pushing his enclosure or allergic reaction to a painted castle thing designed for fish.

    For the RI, there is no discharge coming from his mouth but there is a slight "whistle" noise when he breathes. He has stopped eating ever since the swelling occurred, which beforehand, he ate anything I gave him. Another reason why I suspect it to be possible RI is because his humidity may have spiked too high sometimes, as I read it at 80% occasionally (though, it is usually 65-70%). Also, there was another thread I read somewhere on the internet that sometimes RI, in rare cases, causes swelling...
    For the rubbing/pushing cause, I heard him at night trying to get out of his plastic bin enclosure that measures roughly 32x14x14 inches. Also, the plastic from the air holes sticks inward in the enclosure, which he could have injured himself on (I'm currently trying to get them removed). What makes me uncertain about his face being injured is that there is no apparent injury, puss or anything inside his mouth or outside. The only issue is that his face looks grossly distorted, and he refuses to eat.
    For the castle, the swelling occurred just around the time I installed the castle for him to climb on. He could be having an allergic reaction to it but I removed him from his enclosure and into the "hospital" bin. He's been there for a couple of days now and there was no change in his swelling when I did this. In fact, it seemed to have gotten worse.

    Treatment I've tried: I moved him to my small "hospital" tub and amped the hot spot to 95 degrees Fahrenheit, removed any water (bowl and spraying) to try and see if the moisture from his face will go away (I heard that this was tried on that thread about the rare RI but the results were not there). His swelling has slightly gone down but I could just be seeing things. I have also given him vitamins to boost his immune system (a liquid for reptiles containing glycerin, deionized water, vitamin A palmitate, niacinamide, riboflavin, cholecalciferol, ascorbic acid, thiamine hydrochloride and pyridoxine hydrochloride). It says it has vitamins A, D3, B1, B2, B6 and C in it.

    Enclosure: A springtail bioactive with false bottom, coconut chip bedding with bioactive dirt with charcoal, two of the same plastic hides, one castle hide in the middle for him to climb on, roughly 30x14x14 inches plastic tub, hot spot 87-90 degrees Fahrenheit, ambient 70's-80's degrees Fahrenheit, heat mat with thermostat. I was having trouble getting the heat mat the correct temperature for a little while, because the plastic is thick and I didn't want to burn him, so it might have been too cold for a couple of days but I don't remember. I have a heat gun, btw.

    Temperament: Besides refusing to eat, he acts normal. He is active and moves around when out. If I let him on the floor, he explores like he usually does unless he's "balling-up." I haven't been holding him ever since I noticed the swelling. Normally, I leave him alone and only hold him once or twice a week. I occasionally take him outside to explore.

    I would greatly appreciate it if someone could give me advice. I am willing to go to a vet but it's expensive and I don't see how the vet could help (if they could, please tell me how). I don't want to spend money for nothing, as I'm borderline broke, but I'm more than willing if that's the only thing that can be done.

    What do you think is going on and what should I do? Thank you.




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  3. #2
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    Re: URGENT: Need Advice About Ball Python Swollen Face

    Quote Originally Posted by GoldKingCobra View Post
    For the rubbing/pushing cause, I heard him at night trying to get out of his plastic bin enclosure that measures roughly 32x14x14 inches. Also, the plastic from the air holes sticks inward in the enclosure, which he could have injured himself on (I'm currently trying to get them removed). What makes me uncertain about his face being injured is that there is no apparent injury, puss or anything inside his mouth or outside. The only issue is that his face looks grossly distorted, and he refuses to eat.
    I vote pushing injury. I kept my adult male bp in a similar enclosure. I moved him to a larger one when he started injuring himself pushing. Likewise, my bp's only injury was swelling.
    Last edited by Homebody; 04-29-2024 at 01:30 PM.
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  5. #3
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    "I don't see how the vet could help (if they could, please tell me how)"

    A vet can (a) diagnose whether there is local infection; (b) determine how far that infection has spread (skin/tissue/bone/oral mucosa/systemic); (c) determine whether or not an RI is present; (d) recommend further more extensive diagnostics; and (e) prescribe effective treatment. I would guess they would make sure there's no RI, prescribe systemic antibiotics to address any infection, and recommend improving the enclosure situation. The only thing online forum users can help with is the last item on that list.

    "if that's the only thing that can be done." Waiting and monitoring is an option, though one possible outcome is that the snake declines enough to where a vet won't be able to do anything to help. Administering vitamin supplements is an option, though a very bad one since this isn't an immune system issue, and overdosing Vitamin D3 and especially Vitamin A in rodent eaters is a real possibility. Seeing a vet isn't the only thing that can be done, but in situations where there is an obvious medical issue but it isn't at all clear exactly what that issue is nor exactly how it should be treated, seeing a vet is the best thing that can be done.

    I do a fair amount of DIY snake medicating and treatment, but I would take this one to the vet, personally.

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    I don't like how the swelling is also affecting his eye socket. That's approaching dangerous territory there. Especially if the swelling is still increasing.

    What is Polter eating? Is this possibly a rodent bite?
    Is this bioactive soil one you purchased? Or did you collect it?


    I worry that if this isn't a pushing injury, this could be a bacterial or fungal infection which definitely would need medical intervention

    Edit: Also! How long has this swelling been happening? How long has he been in iso? Some people call a week a couple of days... Some mean 2 days. Lol
    Last edited by Armiyana; 04-29-2024 at 05:21 PM.

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  9. #5
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    I suggest that you see a qualified (experienced with herps) vet A.S.A.P.- & this site can help you find one: https://members.arav.org/search/custom.asp?id=3661

    I recommend NOT using "castles" & such decor designed for tropical fish in snake enclosures, because ones I've come across have very sharp edges left inside, here & there, which apparently doesn't bother fish but can cut up a snake pretty bad if they try to wedge in for a sense of security, or can cause a very infected puncture wound to a snake that's just innocently exploring. I would not think "allergic reaction"...much more likely a small infected cut. (And did you wash & disinfect the "castle" first, before putting it in his home?) Personally, I'd donate it to someone with fish.

    I wouldn't be eating either if my face was comparatively as swollen as your snake's face is. Ouch. And head infections are near vital functions (eating, breathing, eyes, brain...BRAIN) so infections can get serious pretty fast if ignored. And if you don't know, snakes generally have solid pus, so infections don't drain without help- they require the delicate surgical skills of a veterinarian to to remove abscesses, which might be what this is. Left alone, infections can spread too. Your snake likely needs antibiotics...prescribed correctly from a qualified vet.

    95* F. is too hot- can make a bad situation worse by causing thermal burns to your snake. And temperatures too cool can mean the snake's immune system won't function so well -ie. they can have more trouble fighting off an infection. Very important to get the temperatures corrected & reliable.
    Last edited by Bogertophis; 04-29-2024 at 05:49 PM.
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    Re: URGENT: Need Advice About Ball Python Swollen Face

    Quote Originally Posted by Bogertophis View Post
    95* F. is too hot-...
    Is it? The forum's care guide lists basking as 88 to 94F. 95F is only a degree higher, and I've heard others (including my vet) recommend bumping up temps when your snake's fighting an infection.
    Last edited by Homebody; 04-29-2024 at 08:17 PM.
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  12. #7
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    Re: URGENT: Need Advice About Ball Python Swollen Face

    Quote Originally Posted by Homebody View Post
    Is it? The forum's care guide lists basking as 88 to 94F. 95F is only a degree higher, and I've heard others (including my vet) recommend bumping up temps when your snake's fighting an infection.
    To be honest, it's been a while since I looked at the forum's care guide (as I no longer keep BPs); it was written in 2010 & I remember thinking at the time that it could use some updating.

    I think most of us have been going with 88-90* as the safe upper limit these days, to error on the side of safety. In part because there can be some inaccuracy (a couple degrees) when taking temps.

    Safety has to come first when bumping up a few degrees when a snake is fighting an infection...which yes, is something that's done, but not if it puts a snake at risk of thermal burns. If a BP has 89* for the warmest temp & needs a few degrees more for an infection, then trying 91-92* max isn't so bad, IF you keep an eye on them (which you'd do if they were sick, right?). But I would still be cautious if going over 90* because some BPs can be very slow to catch on that they're too hot. Who knows why that is?
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    Could also be an impacted/infected tooth from pushing or just being an overly enthusiastic eater. If it is then the snake needs antibiotics.

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    Re: URGENT: Need Advice About Ball Python Swollen Face

    Quote Originally Posted by Homebody View Post
    Is it? The forum's care guide lists basking as 88 to 94F. 95F is only a degree higher, and I've heard others (including my vet) recommend bumping up temps when your snake's fighting an infection.
    Afterthought on this: Another way to "raise the temperature" for an ailing snake is just to increase the warmer area's size. It's what I'd prefer to do, anyway.

    For example, say you have 1/3 of the enclosure floor at 90*, with a gradient to lower temps (about 78*) at the other end. I would try to have half the enclosure @ 90* while maintaining the other half at about 80* if possible. For safety, a snake MUST have cooler temps. to retreat to as needed, so it gets tricky but with a very watchful eye, this is what I'd prefer to do, as opposed to bumping up the warmest temperatures to something that might prove unsafe & harmful.
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    Thanks for the help, everyone! I'm going to take him to the vet. Lucky for me there's a "local" exotic one. I'll give an update as to what's going on and his treatment.

    - - - Updated - - -
    Last edited by GoldKingCobra; 04-30-2024 at 11:15 AM.

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