I’m a member of several online pet communities and pet clubs in Kansas and one popular question ball python owners ask is- How often do ball python poop? As a new pet parent, you might be worried about your little adorable pet. Everything your pet does or doesn’t become your biggest worry. Understanding your pet can be quite a challenge because unlike humans, they don’t talk and the only way you can know they have a problem is through behavioral changes which at times can be tough to notice and even when noticed can be hard to interpret. In this article I’m going to look into detail about what you should know about ball python poop and when to and not to worry.
Ball python pooping and feeding schedule?
Well all snakes poop and the question to how often they poop depends on the snake species. Unlike humans, ball pythons rarely eat that often and their digestion process is quite slow and at times it can take them several weeks or months to digest a full meal.
Ball pythons are very efficient in getting the most from their meals. That said, some will poop once a month and it’s not uncommon for them to go for several months without defecating even when fed every week. Just ensure that you feed him will clean supply of water. Some snakes will poop during their bi/tri monthly sheds.
Why do pythons take longer to poop than mammals?
One of the major reasons why snakes take longer to poop –from several weeks to a couple of months is the fact that they let their digestive system wither away/shrink between feedings. Because ball pythons feed a few times during the month, they have no other alternative than to repress their body organs and proteins in order to conserve energy.
After feeding, the organs grow back to their original size to digest food and increase oxygen consumption during digestion. According to a study (see it here), every time a python feeds, its digestive tract, lungs, pancreas, heart, liver and kidney increase in side by 50-100% with 1-3 days.
Unlike mammas that maintain their organs all through, and do not have big energy requirement during digestion, pythons have high energy expenditure during digestion and in rebuilding organs that have withered during fasting.
This can be better explained using an example of driving a vehicle- you don’t stop your vehicle engine during a brief stop, but can stop it to save fuel when waiting for a train to pass. Therefore by repressing their organs, pythons are able to save energy for their long fast.
Adaptive ballast hypothesis– poop in the intestines
The adaptive ballast hypothesis coined by Lillywhite et al states that some snakes can hold a lot of fecal matter in their intestines and some retain the poop as a hunting advantage to help them capture large preys.
Pythons are sedentary predators that ambush their prey and so they don’t mind the extra weight. The extra mass is concentrated in the posterior region and it increases the apathy of this region and the friction to the ground. Snakes can easily release the poop hence reducing their body mass by up to 20%. This happens before hibernation or when the snake is moving for long distances, when the snake is gravid or immediately after new meal.
What can affect a ball python’s pooping schedule?
There are several factors that could affect your pet pooping routine. They include; dehydration, temperatures & humidity levels, substrate impaction and over feeding.
The major cause of dehydration in ball pythons and other snakes is feeding frozen thawed food. Dehydration can result to constipation which can affect the snakes pooping pattern. For instance frozen mice contain less water compared to fresh or live mice. Since snakes and other reptile get their water supply mainly from their food, a diet of frozen food can result to constipation. A hardened stool also known as fecal stones will interfere with passage of poop.
Another cause of dehydration is a snake is lack of sufficient water supply which can interfere with colon movement. The more time feces stay in colon, the drier it gets.
Temperatures and humidity
Ball python’s ideal temperatures are as follows:
- Basking surface — 95-105°F (35-40°C)
- Ambient/air — 82-86°F (28-30°C)
- Night drop — 72-78°F (22-26°C)
Placing your snake pet in lower temperatures than normal can make the snake conserve higher internal body temperatures for normal body function. An increase in internal body temperatures can lead fecal dehydration causing the feces to dehydrate inside the body.
Snakes rely on external temperatures for thermoregulation and hence not providing ideal basking temperatures can result to constipation. Low humidity can similarly impact your snake’s body. Lack of sufficient moisture can impact bowel movement.
Overfeeding can cause obesity in snakes. Obesity doesn’t interfere with water absorption but can affect the movement of the colon. In snakes, urine is produced in semi solid forms known as urates. What commonly causes obesity in snakes is the accumulation of the hardened urates inside a snake’s body.
Snakes have a single opening (cloacal opening) for passing urine, feces eggs. As more water is absorbed in the colon from the urate suspension, a harder urate plug is builds up inside the snake’s digestive tract. This hard plug blocks feces passage resulting to constipation. Some snakes will continue feeding even when constipated until it becomes intolerable and you’ll need to seek immediate attention from a qualified vet. Some other causes of constipation in ball pythons include paralysis from injury or nutritional disorder and severe parasitic infection.
Final thoughts on ball python poop
Its normal to get worried as a new ball python owner when your snake doesn’t poop as expected. Unlike humans, you’ll soon get used to your pet not pooping for a couple of weeks, probably once a month or when shedding skin. You’ll soon get used to the snake pooping a once every few weeks even with regular feeding throughout the month. Lastly, make sure that the snake is well hydrated, maintain ambient temperatures and humidity to avoid constipation occurrence.