Does a Ball Python Bite Hurt (and Why Would Your Pet Bite)?

Receiving a bite is a rite of passage for snake keepers. A very small number of keepers may get lucky and avoid bites forever, but most will probably suffer a bite at some point in time.

Ball python on hand
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A lot of owners are nervous that their pet snake may eventually bite them. But don’t worry, it is usually not a big deal – especially for those who keep ball pythons. Ball pythons are relatively small snakes, and the wounds their bites cause are usually very minor.

I still remember my very first bite. Even though my first nip came courtesy of a species with slightly longer teeth (a carpet python), I still remember being shocked at how insignificant it was. In subsequent years, I’d go on to receive literally thousands of bites. A few, which came at the hands of much larger species, were definitely not fun, but those from ball pythons were never very troubling.

Read on and we’ll explain what to expect from a ball python bite, why your pet may bite in the first place, and what to do afterward.

What Does a Ball Python Bite Feel Like? Is It Dangerous?

Simply put, ball python bites are not very painful. While their teeth are quite sharp, ball pythons don’t have strong jaws. Accordingly, bites typically feel like a series of tiny pinpricks.

In fact, a variety of common injuries typically hurt much worse than a ball python bite. Some of the best examples would include:

  • Stubbing your toe
  • Getting tangled in a rose bush
  • A paper cut
  • Hitting your funny bone

All of these things hurt much worse than a typical ball python bite.

Also, because these snakes don’t reach very large sizes, their bites rarely cause a lot of damage. The only caveat to this would be that a bite to the face, throat or some other delicate area may be more serious. In such cases, it is conceivable, but not terribly likely, that the bite may cause more severe damage – particularly if your eyes suffered the brunt of things.

One thing that is important to understand is that your reaction will determine how severe the bite is. If you remain motionless, chances are, the snake will bite and release you very quickly. This will only cause a series of tiny puncture wounds.

But, if you jerk away, these puncture wounds may become lacerations (they may also rip out some of your snake’s teeth, which may lead to problems for your pet). So, do your best to remain calm in the event of a bite. Admittedly, this isn’t easy to do, but it will help mitigate the severity of the resulting wound.

> Further Reading: The Ball Python Behavior (Common & Unusual) and Health

ball python ready to bite

Why Did My Ball Python Bite Me?

Whether your ball python just bit you, or you are trying to learn about bites before you experience one firsthand, you’re probably wondering why your snake would bite you in the first place.

Fortunately, this is a relatively easy question to answer, as ball pythons (as well as most other snakes) only bite for one of two reasons:

  1. Your snake may mistake your hand or fingers for prey.
  2. Your snake may feel threatened, causing him to bite in self-defense.

Bites that result from mistaken identities are quite easy to avoid. Start by ensuring that your hands never smell like potential prey when reaching into his enclosure. This not only means washing your hands after handling rodents, but also anytime you touch your dog, cat, bird or other family pet.

Additionally, learn to recognize your ball python’s body language. When hungry, ball pythons will often wait inside their hiding spot, with their neck withdrawn in an “S” coil. Try not to handle your snake during these times, or at least use extra care if you must. It is also wise to avoid handling your pet ball python at night when they’re typically most active and alert.

Defensive bites can be less predictable, but a snake’s body language will usually provide several warnings that a bite may be imminent. Things like hissing and maintaining a tense body posture are two of the best signs that indicate your snake may be feeling frightened. If you notice these signs, simply return your snake to his enclosure so he can feel secure again.

Ball Python Bite Care: How to Treat It?

Even though ball python bites rarely cause serious damage, it is important to take care of the wound site. This will help prevent it from becoming infected and allow you to heal as quickly as possible.

The first thing to do after receiving a bite is to put your ball python back in his enclosure. Then, wash the wound gently with soap and warm water. Look at the wound carefully and try to determine if any teeth remain in your skin. You may also want to gently run your fingers across the site to ensure you can’t feel any teeth present.

Pull any stuck teeth out with a pair of tweezers and wash the wound one more time for good measure. Pour a mild first-aid disinfectant over the wound, allow it to dry, and then add a triple-antibiotic ointment. Finish up by covering the wound with a bandage.

ball python head

In most cases, the wound should heal up in a matter of days. However, if it fails to do so, or you notice any significant redness, swelling, streak-like marks, or discharge, see your doctor and have him or her evaluate the wound. It is also wise to visit the doctor if you haven’t had a recent tetanus booster.

Note that these instructions all assume that the bite was located on your hand or arm (the most common places bites occur). But if your snake bites your face or throat, it is likely a good idea to have your doctor inspect it right off the bat.

Take care!

We hope you’ve enjoyed this article and, hopefully, feel a little braver about your pet. Remember that ball python bites are not only inconsequential in most cases, but they’re also relatively rare, as these are typically shy snakes who don’t bite often. In fact, you shouldn’t be surprised if you never feel your pet’s teeth – even if he lives for decades.

If you’ve found this article helpful, please share it with your snake-keeping friends! Also, be sure to share any of your thoughts or experiences with ball python bites – as well as any questions you may have – in the comments below.

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Ben Team

Ben Team

Ben is a life-long environmental educator who writes about the natural world. He’s kept and bred a diverse array of reptiles and amphibians over the last three decades, but he’s always been particularly fond of snakes in the genus Morelia and monitor lizards. He lives in Atlanta, Georgia with his beautiful wife and spoiled-rotten Rottweiler.

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