Ball Pythons

How Long Can A Ball Python Go Without Eating? – And The Reasons Why

You may have wondered how long can a ball python go without eating. Well, some ball pythons have been known to not eat for as long as 6 months and in very extreme cases, up to 2 years. Ball pythons are very clever and can lower their metabolism rate. This means they don’t always need to eat, as they can stored foods and conserve energy. This comes in handy throughout the cold winter months, when a ball python is much less likely to move from its hide. 

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Ball pythons can not regulate their body temperatures like humans can. So through the winter months, most of their time is usually spent in a warm hide. Ball pythons do something similar to hibernation, where they become inactive in colder months. This is called Brumation.

Brumation Period

The brumation stage is due to the usual lack of daylight hours through the winter periods. Hibernation is where an animal sleeps through long periods. But ball pythons don’t do this. They commonly just slow down due to the decreasing surrounding temperature. This cooler temperature triggers their metabolism rate to drop, meaning they don’t actually need to eat as much to survive. This can be replicated for captive ball pythons if you wish, however it is not essential.

Pregnancy Period

Ball pythons are also less likely to consume a meal through the beginning of their mating session, or breeding period. Ball pythons sexual hormones are heightened through the lack of food, and their instincts also. Female ball pythons won’t eat for the entire time they are pregnant, and will only feed once their clutch of eggs has been laid.

If you come across this with your female snake when breeding for the first time, don’t be alarmed. This is completely natural and she will most likely go back to feeding soon after her eggs have been laid.

So there you have it. How long can a ball python go without eating? 6 months in general, 2 years to be extreme.

Why Do Ball Pythons Stop Eating?

There are a number of reasons why ball pythons may stop eating, besides medical conditions and this can vary for every individual. Sometimes ball pythons can just be stubborn. This is just part of their characteristics. However it can also be a number of other factors which range from vivarium temperature to intestinal parasites. So let’s take a closer look at “Why do ball pythons stop eating”.

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Ball pythons have some of the most irregular eating patterns amongst all snake species. They will often pass up on a meal simply for the fact they don’t feel like eating. Usually reptiles will be opportune eaters, eating whenever they get the chance. This is due to the fact they’re never to sure when their next meal may be in the wild.

However, because this is irrelevant for pet ball pythons, here is our top 5 reason why your pet ball python may stop eating. These five factors are; Vivarium Temperature, Parasites, Shedding, Stress and Different Foods.

Vivarium Temperature

The most common reason why ball pythons stop eating is due to the temperature. Ball pythons are very sensitive to colder conditions. Usually through the colder, winter months, a ball pythons metabolism will naturally slow down. This can also affect captive ball pythons as the seasons change. This can easily be solved by correcting the vivarium temperature. It’s also best to check the thermometer, to make sure it’s in fully working condition. Sometimes after a while thermometers will naturally just stop working (or at least working correctly). So its best to change this every so often if you feel it’s not telling you the correct temperature.

Intestinal Parasites

Intestinal parasites are really not good news for ball pythons. So detecting them early is crucial to your snakes health and wellbeing. Intestinal parasites will cause your snake to feel a little worse than usual. You may recognise this throughout sluggishness, loss of weight and a lack of appetite. Annual decal examinations are recommended to screen your snake for pinworms, coccidia and other parasites which will need to be treated with dewormers.

Shedding

If your ball python is about to shed, it is completely natural for them to stop eating throughout this whole process. They will only feed once they have completely finished the shedding process as sometimes this can cause difficulties shedding. Ball pythons like to shed their skin in one whole piece. This can sometimes be a problem if a ball python continues to eat throughout the process as their bodies will expand due to their food. This tends to crack or split the dried skin, causing it to shed at different rates, which can sometimes cause complications for the development of the new layer of skin.

Stress 

Stress is commonly overlooked in ball pythons. This is due to their docile nature, so it’s actually very hard to tell when they are stressed. They don’t have any tell tale signs, like more aggressive snakes do, when they are stressed. Stress can be causes by loads of different factors, such as; change in vivarium, change in substrate, handling too much, high/low humidity levels, incorrect temperatures etc. All these factors are to be considered for reasons for stress.

Difference Foods or Prey

Feeding a ball python different prey compared to usual may also cause them not to eat. Ball pythons are known to be picky eaters, so a change in prey may upset them. Factors such as the size, the smell, whether the prey is alive or not, temperature (not fully thawed), the prey species itself, can all play a part in your ball python not wanting to eat.

These are the most common reasons why ball pythons stop eating. If you continue to have these problems, then please seek professional advise from a veterinarian.

Methods on how to get your ball python to eat…

Now we have explored the reason why your ball python has stopped eating, it’s time to explore the ways in how to get your ball python eating again. There are 2 different options, or techniques you can use to try and entice your ball python into eating again. These two methods have been best for succeeding in getting your ball python to eat. 

Method 1

The prey must be properly thawed. You must warm it up before feeding it to your ball python. No this does not mean putting it in the microwaves for 2 minutes. There’s nothing you want to do less than to clean up the inside of your microwave with exploded prey. You can only imagine the carnage it leaves behind. It’s as simple as getting some hot water from a tap, (not boiling water from a kettle) and leaving said prey in the water for a few minutes to warm up and tender up. Some ball pythons don’t always take too well to wet food, so instead a hair dryer would be used to dry the prey, as lengthy as this process may seem

The feeding process can be done with some metal tongs, holding the prey between the two prongs, with the prongs horizontal, not vertically, so your ball python can gets its teeth into the prey, and not the metal. This method also makes it easier to release the prey for your snake to feast on.

Method 2

There is a trick that you can use to get your ball python to eat, however it is kind of gruesome and not for the faint hearted. Basically you have to chop the prey in half. Some people even say to open up the skull, but this is completely up to you. Cutting the prey in half means that your ball python will have much smaller portions to swallow, which they should easily be able to do. The taste and smell of the now cut in half prey, will start to stimulate your ball pythons senses.

If these methods don’t work, then please seek professional advise from a veterinarian or reptile specialist.

Most Recommended For Ball Pythons

Bathing Water Bowl – Click Here

Heat Lamp and Guard – Click Here

Reliable Thermometer – Click Here

Vivarium/Enclosure – Click Here

Climbing Branches – Click Here

Hydrometer – Click Here

Other pages you might like…

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How Long To Ball Pythons Live?

What To Do When A Ball Pythons Bites?

Why Is My Ball Python Not Shedding?

Why Do Ball Pythons Yawn?

Do Ball Pythons Like Water?


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