First off, if your ball python is behaving lethargically, which means that he or she is being sluggish or lazy compared to his or her usual self, take a breath and don’t worry: chances are there’s a completely healthy explanation for your ball python’s behaviour. There are only a few very rare circumstances where lethargy can be alarming. I’ll go over these in a second.
The most common cause of lethargy in ball pythons is that they are preparing to shed. Snakes do not like to be active for about two weeks before a shed, which is a part of the ball python shedding process. My guess is that this could be because they want to conserve their strength for the shed, or because their layer of old skin is too irritating to be slithering around in, but for whatever reason, they are very likely to act lethargically in the days leading up to them shedding their skin. Havana, my three-year-old ball python, will literally sleep for a week and a half straight before she sheds her skin. She won’t even bother to sleep in her hide, maybe because she finds it uncomfortable to be in her hide during that time. Either way, if she’s shedding soon, she’s just not going to go in or be doing any real moving. In order to tell whether this is why your ball python is behaving lethargically, keep an eye out for the signs that your ball python is going to shed soon. If your ball python shows these signs, you’ve discovered the reason behind the lethargic behaviour.
The second most common cause of lethargy is having recently eaten. Ball pythons use the vast majority of their energy on digestion, so when they have just eaten a few hours ago, or even a couple of days ago, they’re not likely going to be quite as active as regular. They may even sleep for prolonged periods of time, up to two or three days from what I’ve noticed, often until they defecate. If you’ve recently fed your ball python, this is likely the cause of any lethargy. Just give your pet some time to recuperate: the snake will be slithering all over his or her enclosure again in no time.
Environmental problems can also cause ball pythons to become lethargic. Ball pythons will usually remain quite still in a warm spot in their enclosure if they are feeling cold. Unlike humans and other warm-blooded beings, reptiles like snakes, as well as other cold-blooded creatures, do not produce body heat to warm themselves. This is why they can (LINK) go so long without eating (LINK). Thus, if your ball python is looking lethargic, be sure to check the temperatures in your enclosure to make sure they are where they should be.
The only time you should be worried about lethargy is if it’s paired with other symptoms. Mucous in your ball python’s mouth is not a good sign (and is often the result of a respiratory infection), and diarrhea could be a sign that your ball python has a severe case of salmonella. In either of these cases, you should take your ball python to the vet immediately, as in the case of respiratory infection, your pet will need antibiotic shots that can only be prescribed by a vet, and in the case of salmonella, you can really only tell for sure if your pet has salmonella, what strain it has, and how to treat it, by visiting a vet.