All snakes shed their skin. But unlike most snakes, ball pythons actually shed their skin all at once. This is a process called ecdysis. Ball pythons shed their skin to accommodate their ever changing rate of growth. Snakes physically out grow their skin. When a ball python grows, it fills its skin. When it’s nearly at max capacity in its skin, they will shed the tight outer layer. This allows the bigger/looser under layer to become the new outer layer. Thus giving the snake more room to grow into.
Ball pythons do not stop growing once they have reached adulthood. They are forever growing and their bodies continue to increase in size throughout their whole lives. However the rate of growth does continuously slow down as they get older. They grow quickly whilst they are young, but this slows down as they mature.
Ball pythons skin is tough, almost like leather. This means that it’s not very stretchy, if at all. So in order to make room for growth, the ball python must shed the old skin, for a newer, bigger skin.
Ball pythons go through a pre-shedding stage. This lasts for 1-2 weeks. Their skin will become very dark in colour, looking dull. Meanwhile their underside or belly may actually appear pink. These are clear signs your ball python is entering its shedding process.
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When Do Ball Pythons Shed?
So, when and how often do ball pythons shed their skin.
The time between sheds for a ball python depends on what stage in life it has reached, or is going through. This relates to its eating and growth. These factors will determine how often a ball python sheds their skin. Let’s take a look at these two factors a bit more in depth.
The age of a ball python has a lot to do with how often it sheds its skin. Juvenile ball pythons are eating more frequently than adults, due to the fact they are growing faster. The more your ball python eats, the faster it will grow. Therefore, if your snake is a frequent eater, then it will need to shed its skin more often.
Some ball pythons will naturally grow faster than others, even if they’re not eating as much. This is just down to genetics, just like humans. Growth doesn’t always have a correlation with the amount of food intake.
Juveniles (Under 1 year old)
Juvenile ball pythons will shed their skin regularly. This will occur once every 3-4 weeks within their first 12 months. This is the fastest growth stage of a ball pythons life, so they are quickly out growing their skin.
Once your ball pythons weight reaches 700-1000 grams, its growth will start to slow down. At this weight, growth spurts will reduces, meaning the time for sheds will increase. Adult ball pythons will usually shed their skin once every 6-8 weeks.
3 Signs Your Ball Python Is About To Shed
There are three main factors or changes to look out for which are tell tale signs the shedding process is beginning. These three factors are, changing stomach colour, changing skin colour and glossy eyes.
You will begin to see a change in colour of your ball pythons stomach. The stomach will begin to look pink at the very start of the shedding process.
The skin of your ball python will start to look duller. Their usually quite distinctive patterns will become blurred almost. This is due to the skin drying naturally.
The eyes on your ball python will begin to look glossy, almost white. We call this stage in the process the “Blue stage” and this is the very beginning of the shedding process. This will last about 36 hours before the shedding begins.
Why Is My Ball Python Not Shedding?
There could be a number of reason why your ball python isn’t shedding its skin as commonly as usual, or incompletion of its shed. This could be due to habitat or health problems which we’ll take a closer look at. Some snakes experience difficult or improper shedding. This is called Dysecdysis. Dysecdysis is considered a symptom of an underlying problem. Commonly this is due to husbandry and management problems, for example incorrect environmental temperature or humidity and/or improper nutrition.
If you find that your ball python isn’t shedding as often as usual, there are a few factors in its enclosure which may help/aid the shedding process.
First of all, you should check the humidity levels inside your enclosure. A low humidity level is the number one reason why snakes don’t, or struggle to shed their skin. Humidity needs to be kept high throughout the shedding process. A ball python can only shed its skin if there is enough moisture in the air to accommodate the process.
One way you can ensure increased humidity levels inside the vivarium is to place its water bowl or bathing bath, over the heating mat. The water will evaporate into the surrounding air, increasing the humidity within the vivarium. This does mean that you will most likely need to refill the water bowl at least 2 times a day to accommodate this method.
Another method you can use which is equally as easy, is too purchase a spray bottle. Fill the spray bottle with filtered water and spray the inside of the vivarium a few times each morning and afternoon. This is a better method to use if you’re going to be out the house all day, as you won’t have the risk of the water bowl drying out.
Lastly, check the ventilation is in correct working order. Ventilation should be decreased through the shedding period to ensure the humidity stays high. If too much water is extracted from the vivarium, then your ball python will not shed its skin as often. Or it might partially shed it, which can cause serious health problems.
Often, most ball pythons will refuse food whilst in the process of shedding. However, some will continue to accept food. Although there is nothing wrong with offering your ball python food whilst it’s shedding, many people chose not to due to possible shedding issues. Choosing to withhold food until the shedding process concludes.
Feeding a ball python during its shedding cycle doesn’t have any serious health risks (or shouldn’t cause any). However, complications do arise when trying to shed. Basically what happens is, your ball python eats a large meal. In doing so, once eaten, the prey will stretch the snakes skin as it slowly digests through the body.
This causes the dried out skin, to rip and tear. Portion causes some pain to the ball python. Rips and tears in the dried skin mean that during the shedding process, there is segments that are likely to be changing to shed. The skin usually shed is one piece, but damages to the skin can prevent this. Damaged skin can be tricky to shed, meaning some patches have trouble releasing. This can cause the shedded skin to stick to the new layer on skin, which caused a lot of irritation and stress.
Diseases, mites, cuts and open wounds can also affect the shedding process. Your ball python may be experiencing some unease due to any of these factors. This unease your python may be experiencing could be similar to what they may feel before the shedding process begins.
This, in combination with retained skin, may trick your snake into believing they may need to shed again. However this is not the case and will cause a lot of stress. Removing the using the methods below will ensure your pythons stress levels stay low and the need to shed again reduced.
3 Ways To Help a Ball Python to Shed
There may be a number of different reasons why your ball python may be experiencing shedding issues. But for all these issues the most common and effective solution is allowing your python to soak in lukewarm water.
Allowing your ball python to soak in warm water will often soften the retained skin. Commonly pythons will actually bathe themselves if they realise they’re having shedding problems. Making sure the water bowl is always full, so your snake can submerge itself is crucial. Too little and your snake may not be able to bathe the parts of its body where the retained skin is left.
If you see that your ball python isn’t bathing in its water bowl and you don’t want to handle them, then you can use a spray bottle instead. Having a spray bottle filled with filtered water will provide the same soaking method as bathing in a water bowl. You should keep your python soaking for about 15 minutes, making sure it stays comfortable and stress free with this method.
If after this the skin is still attached, do not try and pull it off. Even if it looks loose. This can cause serious irritation and the skin can become prone to infection.
Furniture – To rub against
Introducing new furniture into your snakes vivarium such as drift wood and rocks, will give your snake the opportunity to rub the skin off. This is natural to what a ball python would do in the wild if they had shedding complications. This also allows the python to apply its own pressure, meaning it will not hurt.
If you try a help to rub the dry skin off, even very softly, then this might still be painful for your snake. Under no circumstances should you ever try to aid the shedding of skin. If you feel your snake its becoming aggravated and stressed, then please seek advise from a veterinarian.
Symptoms of Abnormal Shedding
- Incomplete Shedding
- Sores on skin (From rubbing)
- Flakey Skin Shed
- Changes in behaviour
- Moving Difficulties
- Not feeding
WE hope this has covered everything you need to know in relation to ‘Why Do Ball Pythons Shed Their Skin”. Follow the links below for our recommended products and other articles you may like.
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