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Home > Ask A Vet > What to Do If a Ball Python Bites You: Our Vet Explains

What to Do If a Ball Python Bites You: Our Vet Explains

Hand holding the hand Ball Python snake

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Dr. Stacie Grannum Photo

Written by

Dr. Stacie Grannum

Veterinarian, DVM

The information is current and up-to-date in accordance with the latest veterinarian research.

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Ball pythons are generally docile snakes and are popular as pets. Bites are rare but can still happen. While ball pythons are non-venomous, their bites can be painful and can lead to an infection. If your pet snake bites you, you should wash the wound thoroughly with warm water and antibacterial soap. Follow this up by calling your doctor for more medical advice.

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Why Did My Ball Python Bite Me?

Pet snakes may lash out if they are startled, stressed, hungry, or not feeling well. Immature or younger ball pythons may be more apt to bite than adults. Ball pythons may accidentally bite your hand when striking at prey if you are holding it or if they detect the scent of their prey on your hand.

A young girl holds a small ball python
Image By: In The Light Photography, Shutterstock

How Do I Care for a Ball Python Bite Wound?

If you are bitten by your snake, calmly and carefully place it back into its enclosure if you are holding it ,and ensure that the enclosure is secure to prevent your snake from escaping.

All open wounds should be flushed with warm water for several minutes to help dislodge bacteria introduced from your snake’s mouth. Apply direct pressure to bleeding wounds by pressing firmly with sterile gauze, bandage material, or a clean cloth to help promote clotting. Wash the wound with antibacterial soap to help kill bacteria. Keep the wound clean and dry after thoroughly washing it. You can cover it with a bandage to help it stay protected during the healing process.

Snakes’ mouths are full of bacteria, which can lead to an infection if a bite wound is not taken care of properly. Promptly call your doctor for advice on further wound care and the need for possible treatment options. Your doctor may recommend a tetanus shot depending on your vaccination history. You may also be prescribed antibiotics based on how serious the bite wound is.

What Are the Warning Signs of an Infection?

Signs that a bite wound may be infected include:

  • Redness
  • Swelling
  • Heat
  • Drainage or pus
  • Increasing pain
  • Bruising or abnormal bleeding
  • Fever

If you notice any of these signs, call your healthcare provider right away.

a person being treated for snake bite
Image By: Microgen, Shutterstock

How Do I Prevent Bites From My Ball Python?

To prevent bites from your ball python, ensure that it is well-fed. Offer prey with long-handled tweezers or tongs, or leave killed prey in your snake’s enclosure for it to find and eat. This will help keep your hands out of the way of any misdirected strikes.

When your ball python is in the process of shedding, their skin can be irritating. You can help this process along by offering your snake water baths and daily misting. The extra moisture and humidity are beneficial for the shedding process. If it is too dry, your snake may have difficulty sloughing the old layer of skin. Minimize handling your snake during this time.

Signs that your ball python may be ill and not feeling well include having no interest in eating, lethargy, reclusive or hiding behavior, and skin color changes. Skin that has a pink or reddish hue along the belly may indicate sepsis, which is a serious bacterial infection in the bloodstream. If you notice any abnormal changes in your snake, taking it to a veterinarian for an evaluation as soon as possible is highly recommended.

Take care to avoid surprising, scaring, or startling your snake, as it may bite you as a defensive mechanism. You can minimize the startle response by approaching it slowly. Always handle your ball python gently and support its body when holding it.

Tips for Keeping Your Pet Healthy and Safe

  • Ensure that your ball python is well-fed.
  • Make sure your snake’s habitat is at the correct temperature and humidity.
  • Minimize handling during your snake’s shedding process.
  • Pursue veterinary care if your snake is ill.
  • Handle your snake gently.
  • Avoid startling it.

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Ball pythons are generally docile and non-aggressive snakes. Bites are rare but can happen if the snake is frightened, hungry, stressed, or not feeling well. If your snake bites you, wash the wound with copious amounts of warm water and antibacterial soap. Call your doctor for further advice, and monitor the wound for signs of infection.

Featured Image Credit: Kaiskynet Studio, Shutterstock

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