Caring For Your Python

Health Care
As it can be difficult to tell if your snake is unwell we recommend owners to keep records of their health which includes body weight,last shed, ate and toileted. This allows for patterns to be established because snakes can get sick slowly and often the symptoms are not noticed until they are very unwell. Yearly checkups for common disease problems include respiratory infections, mouth infections, shedding problems and mites; you can also worm at this time. Snakes shed every 3 months as adults and up to every month when young.

Environment
Your snake must be kept in an environment with a suitable temperature range, humidity and day length. Disease problems in snakes are commonly associated with poor husbandry and temperature maintenance. Each species of snake has a preferred body temperature, with their enclosure temperature range of 2-3ºC either side of this. Preferred body temperatures are below:
Children’s Python – 30-33ºC
Carpet Python – 29-33ºC
Diamond Python – 29ºC
Water Python – 34ºC

The temperature does not need to be changed in the cooler months as it is not recommended to cool your snake down. Keep the environment the same temperature all year round, they may however eat less in the cooler months.

Housing
Housing temperatures are best achieved through the use of 40-75 watt blue globes or infrared heat lamps over one end of the enclosure. Snakes require a varied cage temperature so they need to have branches, hollow wood and rocks placed under and around the heat source allow the snake to sit at varying distances and hide away from the heat if needed. Ultraviolet light through exposure to unfiltered natural sunlight or an artificial UV light will help prevent Vitamin D deficiency and skin and bone disorders. This light needs to be replaced every 3-6 months as it will loose the strength of UV light; do not wait till it’s broken to be replaced. Enclosures are ideally made of wood or perspex and should be large enough for the snake to move around, stretch out and climb on branches. Thermometers and humidity gauges are essential. Humidity should be maintained between 35-75% depending on the species and this can be achieved by placing a shallow dish of water in the enclosure.

Feeding
In the warmer part of the year, snakes will feed once a week to once a fortnight. In winter, most snakes will feed less often or not at all. Willingness to eat and digestion in reptiles depends largely on the temperature at which they are housed. Sudden temperature drops after feeding may lead to regurgitation or decay of food in the stomach. All snakes eat whole prey such as mice, rats, chicks or rabbits depending on the size of the snake. Prey must always be offered dead, as live prey may attack your snake. Fresh drinking water must also be provided daily to your snake.

Handling
Younger snakes can sometimes be a little snappy which generally improved with maturity. Over-handling can cause snappiness and stress, which can lead to illness. Always support your snake’s entire body allowing them to gently glide through your hands and avoid squeezing them. Do not handle your snake in the lead up to it shedding as its vision will be affected which can cause snappiness. Also, avoid handling in the days after it has fed as they can regurgitate their food. Always supervise and assist children when handling snakes.

About the author: Megan Reilly

Megan is a Veterinary Nurse Technician - the highest qualification available to Veterinary Nurses in Australia, Megan has a fun loving spirit and brings a positive energy to Heights Pet Hospital. She is a talented nurse who has a love for all patients and is continuously updating our processes and procedures, always finding a better or more effective way. She has been at the hospital since its opening in 2011 and in the veterinary industry since 2000, starting out as a kennel hand and then completing veterinary nursing cert IV in 2006. She has also undertaken additional study, gaining her qualification as a Veterinary Nurse Technician in 2015. Megan runs our puppy school classes and has a special interest in canine behaviour. She continues to give back to the industry with her dedication to training new veterinary nurses and work experience students. Megan has Trevor, a black domestic short hair cat with a penchant for extravagant bow ties! and Howard, a fiesty Border-Terrier.

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