Why Is My Ball Python’s Belly Pink?

You’re probably pretty familiar with your ball python’s coloring, so any new shades or discoloration may take you by surprise! A pink belly is one of the most common types of discoloration for ball pythons.

So why is my ball python’s belly pink? The most common reason is that your snake is about to shed, but it could also be suffering from a burn or scale rot, or it could even have picked up some red dye from the substrate in its tank.

Below, learn more about each of the reasons why your ball python’s belly may have turned pink. You’ll also be able to read about at-home treatment for health issues that can cause discoloration.

The Shedding Process

Often the first sign that your ball python is about to shed is that its stomach turns pink. It can range anywhere from a light pink to a very intense shade. It’s normal for ball pythons to shed as they grow, or they may also shed as a result of losing or gaining weight. Typically, healthy ball pythons shed every four to six weeks.

Signs Your Ball Python is About to Shed

If your snake’s pink belly is accompanied by some of these other indicators, it’s very likely that the reason behind the pink coloration is simply that your ball python is about to shed.

  • Lethargy
  • Eating less
  • Blue, milky, or opaque eyes (called “being in blue”)
  • Dry, wrinkled skin
  • Dull coloration
photo provided by AceMackin Photography

Extra Steps to Take During the Shedding Process

There are a few things you can do to help the shedding process along. But one thing to keep in mind is that you should never try to remove your snake’s skin yourself! You should also try to avoid handling your ball python during the shedding process. 

When your snake seems to be done shedding, ensure that its eyes have returned to their normal appearance and that there is no extra skin left on the tip of its tail.

Increase Humidity

An easy way to aid the shedding process is to increase the humidity in your snake’s tank. You can do this by moving its water bowl on top of a heat source. You can also create a homemade humidity chamber if it seems like your ball python’s skin isn’t all coming off in one piece.

All you’ll need is a Tupperware container and a hand towel. Wet the hand towel with warm water and place it inside the Tupperware container. It’s even more helpful if you can place the container on top of a heating pad set to 85 degrees Fahrenheit.

Once the container has reached the right temperature, place your ball python inside and cover the top of the container with a cloth. The darkness created by the cloth will help your snake relax and feel comfortable in the environment. After an hour, return your pet to its tank. Wait 24 hours to see if the rest of your ball python’s skin sheds. If it doesn’t, simply repeat the process.

Provide an Area to Soak

Ball pythons often enjoy a good soak when it’s time for them to shed. You’ll need a bowl large enough for your entire snake to fit in. Place it in your pet’s tank so that they can soak as they please. While some ball python owners recommend soaking them in the tub, others report that snakes have drowned as a result–so if you choose to do so, make sure to keep a watchful eye on your pet!

Create a Moist Hide

You should already have hides in your ball python’s tank, but creating a moist hide will help to facilitate a healthy shed. Ensure that the hide is at the proper temperature and humidity, and then add moist sphagnum moss to the inside. 

Burns

Symptoms of a burn include the lighter parts of your snake turning pink or red, blistering, and open wounds. Usually burns in ball pythons are caused by problems with the heat source in their tank. 

Coming into direct contact with a heat source like a heat lamp or ceramic heat emitter is one way your snake can get burnt. Heat mats that don’t have thermostats are another common culprit. A malfunctioning thermostat can also cause temperatures to rise to an unhealthy level. Heat rocks are a final cause of burns.

How to Treat Burns

First, locate the source of the burn and adjust the environment accordingly. Make sure your thermostat is working correctly, that it’s set to the proper temperature, and that your ball python cannot come into direct contact with any heat sources.

If your pet has open wounds or blisters, you can treat them at home. Soak your ball python in a solution of water mixed with povidone iodine for 30 minutes a day until the burn has healed. After soaking, you’ll want to apply a topical antibiotic to the injured area. Some good options are betadine ointment, flamazine cream, silvadene cream, and polysporin. 

Just like humans with sunburns, it’s very important for your snake to stay hydrated while recovering from getting burnt. Provide plenty of fresh water for them to drink.

When to Take Your Ball Python to the Vet

If the burn is very large or deep, or if your snake starts to shed the burned tissue, it’s very important to take your pet to the vet. If the burn is left untreated, it can quickly become infected with dangerous bacteria. 

You’ll want to note that even with the correct care and treatment, permanent scarring is likely. Burns do take a long time to heal. In fact, it can take multiple shedding cycles before the burned tissue is completely replaced.

Scale Rot

Scale rot is a relatively common infection in ball pythons, and just like shedding and burns, it can also cause pink or red skin discoloration. Other symptoms include:

  • Yellow, brown, or green scales
  • Small blisters with clear or yellow fluid
  • Raised scales

Causes of Scale Rot

There are four main causes of scale rot. The first is keeping your ball python’s cage at the wrong temperature. It should be about 75 to 80 degrees Fahrenheit on the cool side and 80 to 85 degrees Fahrenheit on the warm side, with a basking area kept at 88 to 92 degrees Fahrenheit.

The second cause is keeping the humidity level in your pet’s tank too high. 60% humidity is generally considered the “sweet spot” for ball pythons, but anywhere from about 55% to 70% should be sufficient.

The third cause of scale rot is a dirty cage, which can be a breeding ground for bacteria that can then cause infection. It’s essential to maintain your ball python’s tank and make sure it stays clean! Spot clean frequently, and aim to deep clean the tank about once a month. 

Finally, the fourth cause of this infection is trauma. If your snake has suffered some kind of damage to its scales, that makes it much easier for bacteria to get in and cause health issues. 

How to Treat Scale Rot

A mild case of scale rot can be treated at home and should clear up in three to six weeks. If your ball python has a more severe infection, it will need veterinary care and may take a few months to fully heal.

The first step to treating scale rot at home is to remove all substrate from your ball python’s tank and replace it with paper towels. Next, soak the affected area in a solution of water and betadine for five minutes. You’ll want to continue soaking the area twice a day for at least a week, or two if the symptoms persist. Then, dry your snake very gently with paper towels.

Once your ball python has soaked in betadine and dried off, use Neosporin ointment on the area. If your snake has a more severe case, your veterinarian will prescribe a stronger medicated ointment to use. 

Dye From Substrate

If you use a substrate with red coloring, the dye may rub off onto your ball python’s skin and result in pink or red discoloration. To make sure this is the cause, switch out the substrate for one without dye and wait to see if the discoloration goes away. If not, it’s wise to take your snake to the vet for a clear answer on why its belly has turned pink.

Conclusion

A ball python with a pink belly may be about to shed. However, it’s also possible that it has a burn, scale rot, or that dye from its substrate has stained its skin. As for the shedding process, it’s a good idea to increase the humidity in your ball python’s tank. 

Many burns and cases of scale rot have simple at-home treatments, and dye from substrate is typically nothing to worry about. However, if you’re ever in doubt, don’t hesitate to take your ball python to the vet for a professional opinion and treatment!

Sources:

https://www.quora.com/What-are-the-main-reasons-for-a-pet-snake-to-have-a-pink-belly

https://www.reddit.com/r/snakes/comments/2hhfnv/ball_python_pink_belly/

http://reptilescanada.com/threads/help-ball-python-has-pink-belly.60212/

https://ball-pythons.net/forums/showthread.php?166787-ball-python-with-a-Very-Pink-belly

http://www.worldofballpythons.com/python-regius/care-sheet/