Treating Hardbelly in Hatchling Ball Pythons

“Hardbelly” is a health condition that affects approximately 1%-3% of the hatchlings we produce in a given season. This abnormality was also commonly observed in captive-hatched imports back when thousands of normals babies were being regularly brought out of Africa.

It occurs when abnormally hard yolk (healthy yolk is soft, with a yogurt like consistency) is absorbed into the hatchling’s belly during the absorption process.  Without intervention, afflicted hatchlings will die within 10-14 days as the hardness continues to grow, eventually blocking the entire lower third of the body. 

Watch the video below for instruction on how to treat hardbelly and give these babies a chance at survival.

Warning: graphic content

This treatment is very effective if the initial mass is not too large, especially when performed within 1-3 days of hatching. Often the snake will skip the typical first shed after this process.

There is some risk of complication, such as torn cloaca, but those risks pale in comparison to the certainty of death if hardbelly is not addressed. If the cloaca is torn during the removal of the mass, the snake can be treated with injected antibiotics (from your reptile vet) and topical antibiotic ointment. 

I hope this helps save some Ball Python hatchlings in your collection!

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