How to Avoid Infected Hemipenes on Ball Pythons

Infected hemipenes occur primarily in two different ways: overuse of the organ and the accidental withdrawal of foreign material into the body.

 The hemipene is designed to fold back into the cavity in the male’s tail. This action generally cleans off any debris that may be stuck to the hemipene upon withdrawal from the female. Once in a while, the system does not work properly and a piece of substrate will end up in the body cavity along with the hemipene. This can cause an infection of the area. One way to avoid this problem is to breed your snakes on paper.

Overuse of the organ is just what it sounds like—just because a male can breed a dozen females doesn’t mean he should. Many breeders try to stretch their males out as far as possi­ble without realizing the potential damage that can be done. They do this so that they only need to purchase and maintain the smallest number of males possible. When a male has been too busy breeding, the area around the cloaca will develop what appears to be herniat­ed tissue. In severe cases, the area will be so malformed that the hemipene will not be able to be used at all. This requires surgery, and not all veterinarians are capable of preserving the hemipene. Many will just remove it. Surgery to remove the herniated tissues and/or infected tissue around the cloaca and any abnormal tissues from around the hemipene will be very costly. This extra expense is something to keep in mind when you are setting your males and females up for the breeding season.

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