Why Is My Ball Python’s Eye Dented?

You’re probably pretty familiar with your ball python’s appearance, so anything out of the ordinary may cause you to wonder if something strange is going on. An eye with a dented appearance can definitely be a big surprise, especially if you’ve never seen it before!

So why is my ball python’s eye dented? One answer is that your snake is dehydrated and desperately in need of a higher humidity level; another is that it’s an eye cap left over from a recent incomplete shed. 

Read on to find out more about how humidity affects your ball python’s level of hydration, and the ways that you can rehydrate your snake if it needs some extra moisture. You’ll also learn more about the shedding process and the eye caps with dented appearances that can be left behind.

The Importance of Humidity

Humidity plays as big of a role as temperature in your ball python’s tank. In nature, humidity can drop as low as 30% and jumps to heights of 90%. But in general, it sticks to the 45 to 75% range.

Typically, you should shoot for a humidity level of 55 to 70% in your ball python’s cage, and turn it up a bit more around shedding time and in the wintertime if you live in a cooler climate. It’s very important to maintain the proper level of humidity in order for your snake to shed successfully and avoid respiratory issues.

Respiratory infections are commonly caused by a humidity level that is too high or too low, so if your snake seems to be struggling to breathe, it’s important that you not only take your ball python to the vet but also to adjust its environment accordingly.

You can purchase digital thermometers and hygrometers (which measure humidity) in order to keep tabs on the current temperature and humidity levels inside your ball python’s tank. 

Why Does Humidity Cause Dented Eyes?

When a ball python doesn’t have enough humidity in its environment, it begins to shrivel up. You’ll notice that its surface seems dry and wrinkled. Another way to tell if your snake is dehydrated is to gently pinch its skin. A dehydrated ball pythons skin will stay in place rather than snapping back after being pinched. Dehydration can also cause shedding issues.

Lack of humidity isn’t the only reason your ball python may be dehydrated. It could also be lacking access to fresh water. It’s also possible that you’ve provided your snake with softened or distilled water, which can result in dehydration.

How Can I Rehydrate My Ball Python?

One recommendation for rehydration is a warm electrolyte bath. You’ll need a sports drink or other electrolyte supplement, paper towels, a large plastic tub with air holes and a lid, a heat pad, and a thermostat.

Heat the mat to about 82 to 84 degrees Fahrenheit and place it under the plastic tub. Next, fill the tub with three parts sports drink to one part water. The depth of the water should reach about one inch. Give it 15 minutes to warm up, and then place your snake in the warm tub with the lid securely fastened for up to an hour. 

After the electrolyte bath, thoroughly rinse off and dry your ball python before returning it to its tank. You may need to repeat this process multiple times until the symptoms of dehydration go away.

Another option is to create a steam chamber for your ball python. Often, these snakes are more willing to sit in a steamy area than to soak in water. Necessary supplies include paper towels and a plastic tub with air holes and a lid. Line the tub with warm, damp paper towels and put your snake in the tub with the lid on. 

Next, place the tub in your bathroom and turn on the shower as hot as it will go. After 30 to 45 minutes, gently dry off your snake and return it to its enclosure. Just like the electrolyte bath, you may need to repeat the steaming process multiple times to eradicate dehydration symptoms.

Eye Caps and the Shedding Process

Eye caps are a common result of an unfinished shed, and they can make your ball python’s eye appear dented. Many owners immediately attempt to remove the unshed eye cap, but this isn’t always the best choice. 

Dehydration or Unshed Eye Cap?

Sometimes it’s difficult to tell the difference between dehydration and eye caps, so you should try to treat your snake for dehydration before attempting to remove a possible eye cap.

There are lots of horror stories out there from ball python owners who accidentally harmed their snakes due to this mistake! One way to avoid this issue is to check the humidity levels in your snake’s tank. Typically if they’re at the optimal level, a dented eye is not a result of dehydration.

Oftentimes unshed eye caps fall off after completing your chosen treatment for dehydration (an electrolyte bath or steam chamber), but in other situations you may have to help the process along. If you’re certain that the dent in your ball python’s eye is the result of an unfinished shed, gently use a moist Q-tip to loosen it. 

photo provided by AceMackin Photography

What Does the Normal Shedding Process Look Like?

In order to distinguish between dehydration and the beginning of the shedding process, you’ll need to know more about what kinds of signs and symptoms your ball python will show when it’s about to shed. 

First, its overall appearance will be more dull, and its skin may be wrinkly, similar to the way it looks when dehydrated. Lethargy and a loss of appetite are also common.

Unlike dehydration, your ball python’s eyes may look cloudy or blue, its stomach may turn pink, and it may act more defensively than usual. Generally, you should try to avoid handling your snake too much during the shedding process.

There are two very important reasons that ball pythons shed. First of all, as they grow, their skin doesn’t grow with them, so it’s necessary for them to develop new skin that allows them room to grow.

Secondly, the new skin comes with a stronger moisture than the old skin. The shedding process can take over a week to complete, so give your ball python the necessary time and space to shed successfully!

How Often Do Ball Pythons Shed?

Healthy ball pythons can shed as frequently as once a month or every six weeks. A successful shed means that all of the skin comes off in one piece. A higher level of humidity in your snake’s tank can help to facilitate a successful shed, and there are some steps you can take to help an incomplete shed along as well. 

What Can I Do to Help the Shedding Process?

If your ball python’s shed doesn’t come off in one piece and you notice dented eye caps or extra skin stuck to the end of its tail, you can create a steam chamber for your snake as described above. 

Usually, after being exposed to such a humid environment, the extra skin and dented eye caps will loosen significantly and fall off by themselves. After 24 hours, repeat the treatment if necessary.

However, if your ball python still needs a little more assistance with the shedding process, you can gently rub them with a towel after they’ve been in the steam chamber. This should help detach any excess skin.

If your snake is still having trouble after following these steps, take it to the vet. There may be a more significant underlying issue that’s affecting your pet’s ability to shed. 

Conclusion

A dented eye can look very worrisome, but in the vast majority of cases there’s a simple explanation. There are two major culprits that cause dented eyes: dehydration and the shedding process. 

Ball pythons can become dehydrated when they don’t have sufficient levels of humidity in their tank, so make sure to keep your humidity between 55 and 70%, or even a bit higher when you’re anticipating a shed. You can give your snake an electrolyte bath or create a homemade steam chamber to help your pet rehydrate.

If your snake has an incomplete shed, meaning that there’s skin left behind after the shedding process, this can result in dented eye caps. Once again, you can use the steam chamber method to help this issue, or you can very gently use a wet Q-tip to loosen the eye caps. 

As long as you keep a close eye on your ball python and its environment, a dented eye is easy to fix and nothing to worry about!

Sources:

https://www.pinterest.com/pin/233483561915325934/#:~:text=More%20information-,If%20your%20ball%20python%20has%20dented%20eye%20caps%2C%20wrinkled%20skin,Ball%20Pythons%20by%20ReptiFiles%E2%84%A2.

https://ball-pythons.net/forums/showthread.php?46919-Eye-Dents

https://www.reddit.com/r/snakes/comments/3fqu47/ball_python_eye_indent/

https://arachnoboards.com/threads/whats-up-with-his-eye.154611/

https://wheremyscalesslither.tumblr.com/post/134814644453/ball-pythons-the-shedding-process