Scale Rot Ball Python: Signs, Causes, and Treatment

Scale Rot in ball pythons is a common bacterial skin disease that can be life-threatening if left untreated. An umbrella term for most scale-related diseases, scale rot can occur at any part of the snake’s skin.

Scale rot causes ulcers and wounds on the scales of the snake and is progressive. Even though early detection can help in the treatment, advanced stages of scale rot are not easily treatable. The best way to handle this disease in snakes, including ball pythons, is to prevent it altogether by maintaining proper hygiene and moderate humidity in the snake’s enclosure. 

As scale rot is treatable if detected early, snake owners must acquaint themselves with the signs and treatment protocol. Read on to know all about scale rot in ball pythons! 

What Exactly is Scale Rot? 

Scale Rot is a general term for the skin condition in snakes that is caused due to bacterial overgrowth.

Scale Rot usually implies Blister disease or Vesicular Dermatitis, but other skin diseases like bacterial abscesses, and ulcerative dermatitis, are also included.  

Scale rot usually begins on the ventral and lateral surface of the ball python’s skin but can quickly grow on the other parts of the body if left untreated. 

If the wounds get worse, the bacteria can enter the bloodstream and cause blood poisoning which is medically referred to as Septicimia

What Does Scale Rot Look Like? 

scale rot ball python

Scale Rot begins with crust on the skin’s surface. However, the very first signs include discoloration on the skin. 

When the disease advances, it can cause ulcers or wounds to form on the snake’s skin that might be filled with fluid or blood. 

These ulcers can grow in size and become very problematic for your snake. If the snake is not given proper treatment on time, it will eventually succumb. 

Signs of Scale Rot in Ball Pythons 

Knowing what the first signs of scale rot will look like in ball pythons, is extremely crucial to ensure timely and effective treatment. 

Discoloration on the Scales

ball python scale discoloration

The first signs of scale rot in ball pythons will appear in the form of reddish spots on the scales of the snake. This will cause significant discoloration and marks on the skin. 

The spots can be brown or red and can sometimes even be yellow or greenish-black. 

Discoloration can be due to various reasons but scale rot, it tends to be one of the first signs of the scale rot disease in ball pythons 

Blisters or Crusted Scales

ball python blisters

From then, the disease advances and tiny, clustered blisters will start to form on the scale that will be large in number and therefore easy to spot. 

Swollen or crusted scales can also be an apparent sign of scale rot infection. These blisters can start forming on any part of the snake’s body but if not paid heed in time, the blisters can grow at a fast rate and spread to other parts of the snake’s body. 


lethargic ball python

The other significant signs of scale rot in ball pythons can appear in the form of lethargy. If your snake is not active, then it might be a sign that something is wrong. You should take note of your snake’s activity throughout the day. 

Sometimes, the discoloration and tiny blisters can be a sign of mild skin infection that can eventually clear up in a few days. But it is still important to pay heed to how active your snake is throughout the day. 

If the case is extreme, your snake will be in a lot of discomfort. And this will be the clear call for you to take your pet to the doctor!

Loss of Appetite

Another prominent sign of scale rot infection is loss of appetite. If your snake has had a drastic development in its eating habits, along with the scale problems, you should take heed of this situation. 

Loss of appetite is one of the first signs of various health problems in reptiles. Sometimes, it may not be a cause of concern but if other signs like skin blisters or crusts on the scale appear along with the loss of appetite, you should consider seeking medical help for your ball python. 

Causes of Scale Rot in Ball Pythons 

Various causes can trigger a scale rot infection in ball pythons. But the following are the most common causes of scale rot in ball pythons.

Excess Humidity in the Enclosure 

ball python in humid enclosure

Even though humidity is important for ball pythons, as they soak moisture from their environment to maintain hydration, excess humidity can cause a lot of problems too. 

Excess humidity in the ball python enclosure will make the tank a breeding ground for various types of bacteria and fungi. Even though the snake can battle these pathogens for a while, if they are exposed to them for a long time, the pathogens will eventually dampen their immunity.

This will make it hard for the ball python to fight diseases and will eventually succumb to them. 

Bacteria and fungi are the root causes of scale rot infection. It is therefore important to regulate humidity levels in the snake’s enclosure. Make sure the bedding of the enclosure is not well all the time. 

Poor Enclosure Hygiene 

ball python enlcosure

If you do not regularly remove the snake’s feces, urates, or shed skin, it will again lead to the overgrowth of bacteria in the snake’s enclosure, leading to a lot of problems.

Therefore, it becomes crucial to clean your snake’s enclosure as frequently as possible as this will ensure that the snake gets a clean environment to thrive in.

Moreover, make sure that you provide good quality substrate to your ball python. Even bedding should be regularly cleaned. Wet and dirty bedding will invite a lot of problems for your snake as it will cause bacterial overgrowth.  

As the snake will be in contact with the bedding almost all the time, it becomes even more important to keep the bedding clean and dry. 

Burns, Cuts, or Other Wounds

ball python wound

Whenever your snake gets any cuts or wounds, it is important to treat it with proper care. If not given heed, the wound area can become infected. 

Open wounds are not great for reptiles as they can lead to bacterial or fungal growth.  This can eventually get worse and become a scale rot infection in just a matter of a few days.

So, it is best to treat the cuts or wounds right away with proper treatment. 

Treatment of Scale Rot in Ball Pythons

Severe cases of scale rot in ball pythons can only be treated with proper medical treatment. Even though mild cases can go away on their own, it is important to look after your snake and take proper protocol in both, severe and mild cases. 

Other than the vet’s supervision, there are some things to take care of, to ensure the speedy and effective recovery of your pet. 

Quarantine in a Clean Enclosure 

The first step in treating your snake’s scale rot infection is to isolate it in a clean and dry enclosure.

Make sure the humidity levels are not too high as the humidity will again lead to bacterial growth. 

The new enclosure should be pristine and you should be even more careful with the cleanliness as maintaining a clean tank is crucial for a speedy recovery. 

Soak the Snake in Betadine Solution

ball python soaked in betadine

Soaking your snake in a betadine solution can be the first step to treating scale rot infection. 

Take 1:30 parts betadine and water, respectively. The water should be at a moderate temperature as the hot water can react with the betadine. On the other hand, cold water may not be effective.

Soaking the ball python in this solution for about 30 minutes can clean the sores and blisters and is a crucial step you shouldn’t avoid. 

Use Antibiotics

Severe cases of scale rot usually require antibiotics and antimicrobial spray. After soaking the pet in the betadine solution, you need to apply antibiotic cream on the infected areas.

Antibiotic creams are also available in the form of antimicrobial sprays. These will help in controlling and killing bacteria and help in recovery. 

How to Prevent Scale Rot in Ball Pythons 

Like always, prevention is better than cure! And scale rot is no exception. Being a fatal disease, scale rot is not easily treatable. Therefore, it is best to take the necessary steps to prevent it altogether. 

Clean Enclosure

Maintaining a clean enclosure is critical for your ball python’s overall health. Cleaning the substrate regularly and cleaning every corner of the snake’s tank is important to ensure a healthy environment is provided. 

The glass of the tank should be cleaned regularly, including the bedding. Make sure you regularly remove the feces and urate. 

Appropriate Humidity

Another crucial thing to remember when it comes to reptiles is that humidity can be a curse or a boon for them. Therefore, maintaining appropriate levels of humidity in the snake’s enclosure becomes important for the snake’s overall health. 

Make sure the humidity levels are maintained throughout the day. You can use a humidifier that regulates humidity levels at regular intervals. 

Proper Diet

A proper diet will ensure that the ball python’s immunity is good enough to combat infections and illnesses. 

Scale rot usually occurs due to the deficiency of vitamin A or C. Therefore, giving a diet rich in vitamins A and C will at least provide an extra shield for the snake’s immunity. 


How Long Does It Take To Treat Scale Rot? 

Scale rot infection usually starts clearing up in about 2-3 weeks after the treatment has begun. However, some cases of scale rot may even take longer to recover. Severe cases of scale rot in snakes may even take months to recover. 

Therefore, the recovery duration can vary from snake to snake. 

Can Scale Rot Reoccur?

Yes, scale rot can reoccur. However, proper and effective treatment can ensure it doesn’t reoccur. The vet may prescribe antibiotic injections for the ball python to increase the efficacy of the medicines.

Hygiene during the treatment is crucial to make sure the disease doesn’t reoccur. 

Final Thoughts 

Scale rot in ball pythons can be cured with effective treatment and protocol. 

As the disease is quite infectious and progressive, it is important to maintain proper hygiene in your snake’s enclosure at all times. 

Even though the disease is quite fatal, you can ensure that your pet is treated by seeking timely medical help. With proper medical assistance, treating scale rot can become much easier, and also effective! 

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