Snakes don’t typically make much noise, so if you hear any strange sounds coming from your ball python’s enclosure, you might be curious about what they mean. Is a squeaking sound totally normal, or a cause for alarm? Is it simply a way for your pet to communicate, or a sign of illness?
So why is my ball python squeaking? The most likely reason your ball python is making a squeaking noise is because it has a respiratory infection or parasitic infestation. However, your pet could also be squeaking due to dust from its substrate, a stuck shed covering its nostrils, or water in its nose or vents.
In this article, we’ll talk about respiratory infections and parasitic infestations in ball pythons, as well as a few other reasons that your pet may be making squeaking noises.
What Is a Respiratory Infection?
A respiratory infection can be viral, fungal, or bacterial; there are many causes. A respiratory infection involves issues with your ball python’s upper respiratory system, which includes the nose, throat, and lungs. It affects your ball python’s ability to breathe and can be a very serious and even fatal infection.
How Does a Respiratory Infection Develop in Ball Pythons?
The most common cause of respiratory infections in ball pythons is improper temperatures in the enclosure, especially cold temperatures. Since ball pythons are cold-blooded, they rely on their environment to regulate their body temperature.
Without sufficient warm temperatures, your ball python won’t be able to thermoregulate properly. The lack of heat also makes it more difficult for your pet to fight off infections, leaving it susceptible to various health issues such as respiratory infections.
Because of this, it’s essential to keep your ball python’s enclosure at the correct temperatures. The ambient temperature can range from 75 to 80 degrees Fahrenheit, while the basking area should be about 88 to 94 degrees Fahrenheit.
Be sure to invest in multiple high-quality, reliable digital thermometers or hand-held temp devices, as well as a dependable thermostat, so you can monitor temperatures.
Unclean living conditions can also cause a respiratory infection. If your ball python’s enclosure is filthy and hasn’t been cleaned in months, the substrate will most likely be extremely damp and dirty. This type of environment is the perfect host for dangerous bacteria, leading to the development of a respiratory infection.
Stress also plays a large part in whether or not a ball python develops a respiratory infection. Stress can be caused by many different factors, such as being handled too much, transportation, or lack of sufficient hides. Ball pythons have a need for safety and security, so anything that threatens them or their environment can cause a great deal of stress.
You’ll be able to tell if your pet is stressed if it is more active than usual during the day, or if it tucks its head away when it’s being handled. Another sign of stress is not eating. Stress leads to a weakened immune system, which makes it more likely that your pet will develop a respiratory infection.
What Are the Symptoms of a Respiratory Infection?
Symptoms of a respiratory infection in ball pythons include:
- Sitting up and holding up its head
- Struggling to breathe
- Mucus coming from the nose and mouth
- Gurgling, wheezing, or squeaking noises
- Open mouth breathing
- Refusal to eat
- Lack of energy
How Is a Respiratory Infection Treated in Ball Pythons?
Respiratory infections cannot be treated at home–it’s essential to take your ball python to a reptile vet for treatment. Your pet will need testing to determine the cause of the infection, and antibiotics to cure it.
But once you get home from the vet, there are a few things you can do to help your ball python return to good health. First, thoroughly clean your pet’s enclosure and ensure that the substrate is fresh and dry, rather than moist.
Next, double-check your temperatures (75 to 80 degrees overall, and 88 to 94 degrees in the basking area). Make sure the humidity levels are adequate, around 50 to 60%.
You’ll also want to add a hide on both sides of your ball python’s enclosure so it doesn’t have to choose between a sense of security and the temperature it needs to thermoregulate. Remember to ease up on the handling a bit, reducing handling time to a few sessions a week at most.
Always give your pet two to three days to fully digest after eating before handling it. Overall, give your ball python some space and peace to recover from the respiratory infection.
What Is a Parasitic Infestation?
Parasites, or small organisms that live off of their host’s nutrients, are pretty common in snakes. Some of the most common types of parasites include trematodes, nematodes, and protozoans. When parasites take up residence within your ball python’s lungs or breathing passages, they can cause a whistling or squeaking sound.
How Does a Parasitic Infestation Develop in Ball Pythons?
Usually, ball pythons develop parasites from other ball pythons. When you house more than one snake in the same enclosure, they can easily pass illnesses and parasites through the water bowl or exposure to each other’s feces.
Improper husbandry can lead to a dirty cage that makes for a great environment for parasites to breed and grow as well, so be sure to keep up with a regular cleaning schedule.
Additionally, infected feeder insects sometimes pass on parasites. This is uncommon, but still something to look out for. It’s best to either opt for frozen feeders, or to ensure your feeders are healthy and come from a reputable source.
What Are the Symptoms of a Parasitic Infestation?
Symptoms of a parasites in ball pythons include:
- Wheezing or squeaking
- Trouble breathing
- Loss of appetite
- Weight loss
How Are Parasites Treated in Ball Pythons?
Parasites unfortunately cannot be treated at home. You’ll need to take your ball python to the veterinarian, where they will take a fecal sample to determine what kind of parasites are infecting your pet. Depending on the type of parasite, the vet will prescribe antibiotics, dewormer, or antiprotozoals.
Be sure to clean your ball python’s enclosure and get rid of any fecal matter and contaminated water. Wash all accessories thoroughly and replace the substrate.
What Are Other Causes of Squeaking in Ball Pythons?
Although a respiratory infection or parasitic infestation is the most frequent cause of squeaking, there are a few other possibilities.
First, if you use a substrate that can get dusty, it’s possible that particles of dust have lodged in your ball python’s nose and are obstructing its breathing. Allowing your pet to soak in a shallow container of warm water should help clear its nose out and stop the squeaking.
It’s also possible that your ball python has some stuck shed hanging on around the nostrils, resulting in impaired breathing and a squeaking sound. In this case, it’s best to just wait out the shed and see if the noise stops.
You can help promote a successful shed by increasing the humidity a bit and providing a container of warm water to soak in, or by creating a moist hide. You can also add a rough branch or two to the enclosure so your pet has something to rub against and help remove the shed.
Water in the Nostrils
A final possibility is that your ball python has water in its nose or vents which is causing the squeaking sound. Some ball python owners report that they’ve noticed their pets squeaking after falling into their water bowls or fully submerging their heads underwater.
In this case, turn up the temperatures in your enclosure a bit and wait a couple of days. If the squeaking doesn’t stop, it’s time to take your pet to the vet.
A squeaking noise coming from your ball python is most likely a sign of a respiratory infection. This is a dangerous health issue that requires expert care from a reptile veterinarian. Symptoms include trouble breathing and mucus coming from the nose and mouth.
However, a squeaking sound can also be caused by parasites that are living in your ball python’s breathing passages or lungs. A parasitic infestation can be deadly, so be sure to take your pet to the vet. Other signs of parasites in ball pythons include weight loss, regurgitation, and loss of appetite.
Finally, your ball python’s squeaking noise could be a result of something getting lodged in its nostrils. One possibility is dust particles from the substrate. Another potential culprit is a stuck shed that’s blocking off your pet’s airflow. It’s also possible that your ball python has some water stuck in its nose or vents, which is causing the squeaking.