Ball Python may have Injured Mouth? Hungry but won't eat

Asked July 12, 2018, 4:14 PM EDT

My (1 year old male) pet ball python lives in a terrarium with a metal mesh top. This past Sunday (07/08) when I was feeding him he ate happily, but on Tuesday when I was opening the lid to take him out, he lashed out and bit the mesh, something he has done before when especially hungry. Although this behavior has previously concerned me because I worry it might injure him, he has never seen particularly bothered. This time, however, he has seemed particularly uncomfortable, and keeps opening and closing his mouth like he is yawning. It is Thursday now, and as this behavior stopped yesterday, we decided to try feeding him again because of his continued apparent hunger, but when we put the mouse in, despite his hunger (he rose to meet the mouse, immediately leaving his hide) he didn't eat it. He keeps leaping for it but missing and following the mouse around the cage, but has always been skittish and is now even more so. The only mouse he ever missed was the first I ever tried to feed him, when he was only a few weeks old, so this is clearly not usual behavior, which is why I am worried that he is injured, perhaps from biting the lid, and that the injury keeps him from eating. There seems to be very little online about how to deal with this predicament, and while what sites I have found suggest taking an injured snake to a vet, there are no local vets that deal with snakes. I am also bothered by this situation because (I believe due to his hunger) he lashes out at me whenever I try to open his cage or reach in, so it has been somewhat difficult to even access him. This is especially concerning because even when the lid is closed, when I put my hand over it, he is very interested and somewhat aggressive, so I worry that he will bite the lid again, even when I'm just trying to refill his water dish-- and of course I don't want to leave him without water. I'm more than happy to do whatever it takes to get him healthy again, so any help (asap) would be much welcomed. Thank you so much!

Duval County Florida

1 Response

Thank you for your question. I recommend you take your snake to a reptile vet for an examination as soon as possible. A snake's mouth is very sensitive, and injuries to the mouth are susceptible to infection. Failure to treat these injuries can be fatal. In the case of an infection, for example, a vet can determine what bacteria is involved and determine the appropriate treatment.

Your question indicates you are from Duval County. Here are some reptile veterinarians in your area I located by searching for reptile vets:

Riverside Animal Hospital
2641 Park St.
Jacksonville, FL 32204
(904) 388-3494

Fleming Island Pet Clinic
4711 Hwy. 17 - Bldg. D
Fleming Island, FL 32003
(904) 264-7387

Exotic Bird Hospital (also treats reptiles)
8820 Old Kings Road South
Jacksonville, FL 32257
(904) 256-0043

You may also want to contact the Jacksonville Herpetological Society. Their website is located at:
They may also be able to recommend experienced veterinarians in the area.

As far as the aggressiveness around the cage is concerned, this may be due to the fact that you are feeding the snake in this cage. Based on your description, it sounds like you are lowering mice down to the snake and letting it grab them. You may be able to reduce the aggressiveness by feeding your snake in a separate enclosure, and once it has eaten, transfer it back to its regular cage. Over time it may stop associating your hand with food, so when you need to change water or perform other cage maintenance, it won't be as likely to strike at your hand.

I hope this information helps, and thank you for contacting Ask An Expert.