The short answer is YES. You can use antibiotic cream such as Neosporin on a snake’s wound including ball pythons as long as it has ZERO pain killers.
According to Margaret A. Wissman (an avian/exotic/herp animal veterinarian since 1981) “for superficial wounds, apply a light layer of antibiotic ointment.”2
The most important part is to use an antibiotic ointment WITHOUT painkillers. Many brands including Neosporin sell antibiotic ointment with painkillers so be sure you use the right one.
There have been studies that show the prolonged use of antibiotic cream can lead to bacteria resistance so only use it when the cut is at risk of infection.
Ball python wounds are especially tricky to deal with since its hard to keep a bandage on them, or keep the wound clean from substrate and other debris.
I have owned ball pythons for over 6 years and through that time they’ve been happy and healthy, but there have been times when they get cuts and wounds that are too deep to heal on their own.
These injuries could be from their prey, heating malfunctions, or them simply being mischievous.
Wounds on a ball python can heal on their own, but there are some products and techniques recommended by vets that can speed up the process and prevent infections.
Here are some other products you can use to treat snake wounds:
- Antibacterial soap
- Diluted iodine(Betadine)
- Antibiotic cream (WITHOUT PAINKILLER)
- Paper towels as substrate
*Please do not take this post as veterinary advice. For the best plan of action please contact your local vet.
Reptile Immune Response
Reptiles, including ball pythons, lack lymph nodes and germinal centers, which helps humans heal and protect from infections.1 They instead have an “immuno-neuro-endocrine network” that monitors the body’s integrity and regulates immune cell responses.1
This network of immune defense along with barriers such as skin and gut mucosa are what protect and prevent any further damage from superficial cuts.
How to Treat a Cut or Bite on a Ball Python(or any snake)
Most injuries that happen to a ball python in captivity are from live prey. Rats, especially, will defend themselves by biting. Sometimes their teeth will sink into your snake’s skin just from them constricting them.
A cut or bite from a rat will look like missing or damaged scales and redness in the area. If untreated, this cut can get infected and cause bacteria to enter the snake’s bloodstream. This could lead to more serious problems or even death.
NOTE: Leaving live prey unmonitored with your ball python could result in serious injury to your snake. Please take caution when doing so.
Your snake should be able to heal the cut on their own but since their environment is hot and humid, it’s a breeding ground for bacterial infections.
Injuries to your snake should be treated at least once no matter how small the wound is to prevent infections.
According to Margaret A. Wissman, an avian/exotic/herp animal veterinarian since 1981, “reptile wounds should be washed with copious amounts of warm, soapy water, using antibacterial soap.”2
Any antibacterial soap will work. I prefer one that is unscented and no added colors like Greenerways Antibacterial Hand Soap
Steps to treat your snake’s wound:
Step 1: In a bathtub, sink or storage tub add warm water and a squeeze of antibacterial soap. Gently pour the soapy water onto the wounded area.
Add warm water and antibacterial soap to a spray bottle and gently spray the wound and get out any debri if necessary.
Step 2: Soak or rinse the wound with diluted iodine. There are plenty of products online of iodine for pets, but really you just need something like this that you can dilute.
Povidone Iodine is better known as Betadine. Betadine contains the active ingredient povidone-iodine (PVP-I), to help treat and prevent infection in minor cuts, scrapes and burns.3
This particular bottle should be diluted with water to a light yellow/light brown color. Use this solution to wash out the cut area.
This solution is safe if ingested so you can soak your snake in it. Just make sure the water is warm to make them comfortable.
Step 3: After rinsing or soaking the wound with this solution rinse off with clean water.
Topical antibiotics like Neosporin can be used in small amounts, but studies show that overtime this can lead to bacteria resistance so use it sparingly.4
The wound should be kept as clean as possible so while your ball python heals its best to keep them quarantined. One way to do this is to keep them on unprinted newspaper or paper towels instead of loose substrates like coconut husk.
Keeping them in a space without substrate will help keep the wound clean of debri especially since the cut should be left uncovered.
Treat the ball python with the iodine mixture daily for the best chance at avoiding infection.
How do I treat ball python burns?
Before treating your ball python for burns it’s important to be able to identify if it is actually a burn and not something else serious like scale rot.
This may sound silly, but one way to identify a burn is to check the enclosure for any areas that could cause the burn.
It’s always good to use an infrared thermometer to check temperatures of hot spots, especially heat mats and bulbs.
A burn on a ball python looks like discolored scales, redness, and blistering. If you see any puss or leakage from the area, it could be something more serious like scale rot.
Ball python burn areas can be treated similarly to an open wound by cleaning and debriding with Betadine.
Treat the ball python’s burn daily with the diluted Betadine solution to prevent any infections.
After cleaning the burn its best to keep it uncovered.
Treat the burn just as you would an open wound and keep them in an enclosure without substrate so there is no chance it will get into the affected area. Use paper towels or blank newspaper to line your enclosure instead of substrate.
Make sure the snake has access to plenty of water and stays hydrated.
Aloe is a topical treatment you can use also to alleviate the burn and speed up the healing process.
Cuts and burns heal slowly for ball pythons. It can take 1 or more sheds to see the wound as a scar.
The wounds a ball python can get destroy and alter the scales affected so getting a full shed can be difficult.
Shed on a wounded ball python will come off in pieces and that is ok. You can gently get the shed off by using a warm, wet paper towel and gently rubbing towards the tail.
If needed you let your ball python a soak in iodine treated, warm water for 5-10 minutes and try gently rubbing the shed off again.
Scarring is normal.
Just like us, ball pythons develop scars. When a ball python is injured it affects their scales, underlying skin and sometimes underlying muscle tissue.
When the snake’s injury heals over they will develop new scales over time, but they’ll grow in a different shape or different size as the surrounding scales.
Tips to avoid ball python injuries
Keep Temperatures and Humidity Ideal
A ball python’s enclosure should be an ambient temperature of about 75°F-80°F with a hot spot at about 85°F-90°F.
Humidity should be kept high which can be done by adding a water source to the enclosure, or spraying it down with a mister or spray bottle once a day or as needed.
Having the proper environment for your ball python can help prevent injuries and avoid other issues like respiratory infections, scale rot, burns and more.
For more details on creating the perfect environment for your ball python click here.
Feed Frozen/Thawed Instead of Live
Feeding pre killed or frozen/thawed food to your ball python avoids any defenses their prey have against them.
All wounds my ball pythons have gotten are from feeding live prey, so I keep that to a minimum.
The younger your ball python is the easier it is to transition from live food to frozen/thawed(most of the time).
Transitioning your ball python from live to frozen/thawed can take time and patience, but it is possible and it really depends on the ball python.
Like any animal, ball pythons have personalities and there are some that just won’t eat frozen/thawed until they have no choice which could be weeks since ball pythons can go for long periods between meals.
Get a Reliable thermostat/heat mat
Use reliable products and avoid overheating or malfunctions in your ball python’s enclosure. There are so many products on the market now it’s hard to determine which ones are actually reliable.
Some tools I use to monitor my ball python’s enclosures with no worries are
- -Digital thermometer
- -Thermometer gun
- -Thermostats(A good one!)+heat mats
- Security Camera with built in thermometer and hygrometer
Products NOT to use
While researching ways to fix ball python’s wounds I found there are some products that are absolute no-nos:
- Do not use hydrogen peroxide
- Do not use antibiotic cream WITH painkillers
- Contact a vet when in doubt.