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Can My Snake Kill Me?

I recently bought my son a pet ball python. My wife is worried that it will grow big enough to eat my child (it's quite small right now). Should she worry? Also, can snakes cause disease?

Your first concern is unfounded. A ball python, no matter how well he eats, is never going to get big enough to eat your son. They get to be about 6 feet long but only reach diameters of 4-5 inches. A snake can open it's mouth pretty wide but it's not likely he can swallow a child.

I would assume it is possible for a 6-foot snake to suffocate a small baby, but I've never read of a ball python doing this. The "man-eating" pythons you read about are generally Burmese, reticulated or rock pythons (see the articles I've linked at the bottom). They are a much larger species. Generally their "man-eating" is over exaggerated. It's more likely for them to eat small pets like dogs and cats. Snakes do not see man as a food source.

Ball-pythons are generally very docile and very easy to care for. They are great beginner snakes! However, in order to keep the snake used to handling, you should handle him everyday. This will help prevent bites. A snake that is not used to handling is likely to see you as a threat and strike at you.

That being said, generally ball pythons are not big biters. A bite, I'm told, feels like a tetanus shot. It doesn't hurt terribly bad and it doesn't last terribly long.

Snakes do sometimes carry bacteria. Salmonella is sometimes shed in reptile fecal matter and it can get on the actual reptile. It can cause gastrointestinal problems in humans and sometimes, in extreme cases, septicemia and death. It's most likely to cause diarrhea and vomiting. Getting Salmonella from a snake is not very common. Turtles are the most common reptile source. It's still important to be aware and be careful.

Proper hygiene for your son and the snake are the best ways to control Salmonella. Teach your son to wash his hands with antibacterial soap after the handling the snake before he does anything else. Also, teach your son to check the snake's cage for fecal matter, urine, etc. daily. The cage should also be disinfected periodically. You can use bleach or a commercially available disinfectant. Just move the snake out of the room while you're cleaning!

Taking these simple steps will not only prevent disease in your son but make the snake much healthier and happier. One of the most common causes of disease in snakes is improper husbandry. Keeping his cage clean will make sure he lives a long happy life.

Good luck with your snake!

Here are some python links:
Ball Python Care Guide | The Snake Keeper | Man-eating Snakes

Q and A

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Please note that due to the volume of requests I receive and the time it takes to answer some of the more complicated questions, I cannot answer every question received and I will not answer duplicate questions. However, I will try my best to get to all of them in a timely manner.

Content on this site is for information purposes only and not meant to replace veterinary care. Please consult your veterinarian for specific advice concerning the care and treatment of your pet.

All info copyright © Amanda Galiano