Common Snake Diseases and Parasites to watch out for
Amebiasis: one of the most significant parasite problems of captive snakes. This highly contagious disease is caused by a microscopic, one-celled organism (protozoan) called and ameba. Eating contaminated food and water containing the infective stage of this parasite easily infects snakes. The organisms cause extensive damage to the intestinal lining and liver. Secondary bacterial infections are very common and contribute significantly to the severity of the disease. Signs of amebiasis include listlessness, inappetence, and foul-smelling feces containing mucus and blood. A veterinarian may be able to diagnose this disease by having the laboratory examine specially prepared samples of feces. Sometimes examination of tissue sections of the intestine or scrapings from the lining of the intestine of a deceased snake is the only way the diagnosis can be confirmed. This underscores the importance of performing autopsies on snakes that have died, especially when there are other snakes in the collection whose lives may be threatened. Many snakes native to the American Southwest harbor these organisms but apparently do not suffer from the disease. Crocodiles and certain turtles are similar "carriers." Hobbyists must, therefore, exercise caution when housing snakes with these species to avoid an outbreak of amebiasis. Certain water snakes, as well as boa constrictors and pythons are especially susceptible to this disease. Amebiasis is treatable, requiring the expertise of a veterinarian. Specific antiprotozoal medications and antibiotics are used. Enclosures used to house infected snakes should be steam cleaned and disinfected with a 3% bleach solution.
Trichomoniasis: a type of parasite, one that is highly recognizable. They are found in the stool of snakes. When you suspect that your snake may have some sort of a health problem you should always check its stool. The stool of your pet snake can tell alot about what health issues are affecting it.
The most common cause of Trichomoniasis is from mice and rats. These rodents often carry parasites that can damage your snake. This is also a reason why you should never feed your snake wild caught rodents. When snakes have Trichomoniasis, they also often suffer from a secondary condition, like amebiasis or a bacterial disease. Only feed your snake rodents that were specifically grown to be used as feeder rodents.
The best method of treating parasites, and Trichomoniasis specifically, is to take it to the veterinarian. They will administer an antibiotic, which is fairly successful of ridding your snake of the parasite. Be sure that you take action as soon as you suspect there may be a problem because this will cause the least amount of long term damage to your snake. It will also allow the snake to be treated before its stress level builds up to a dangerous point.
Snake Mite Infestation: Snake mites are tiny spider-like organisms that reside on and between the scales of snakes and tend to also congregate around their eyes. They are relatively easy to see with the unaided eye but a magnifying lens aids in their identification. Mites are the most common and most dangerous of the external parasites of captive snakes. These mites feed on the blood of their hosts, causing anemia (often sever with heavy infestations). Blood feeding can also transmit viruses, at least one very serious disease-causing bacterium, and blood parasites. The snake mite completes its life cycle on its host. The females, however, lay up to 80 eggs off the snake within the immediate environment. This is one reason why particulate floor coverings (corncob material, pebbles, etc.) are not recommended. These substrates provide too many hiding places for the mites and their eggs.
Snake Tick Infestation: Ticks resemble oversized mites and occupy many of the same sites on the skin and scales of snakes as mites. They are often found just inside the mouth, nostrils or vent. Even under conditions of captivity, ticks rarely reach the burdensome numbers reached by mites. Recently imported snakes are usually the most heavily parasitized. Like mites, ticks feed on blood of the host snake and can cause severe, life-threatening anemia. Their blood-feeding habit enables them to transmit certain blood-borne diseases to snakes. Manual removal of each individual tick is the most expedient treatment for tick infestations. The hobbyist must exercise great care in performing this task. Simply pulling off the tick leaves the tick's mouth parts embedded in the skin. A small amount of alcohol applied to the exposed parts of the tick causes it to relax and facilitates removal. The treatment methods recommended for mites are also effective. Parasitized snakes usually require a minimum of 4 days exposure to No-Pest Strips to kill ticks. Enlist the services of an experienced veterinarian for a thorough pretreatment evaluation of the snake, especially if the use of a No-Pest Strip is anticipated.
Stomatitis: The word stomatitis refers to an inflammation of the snakes mouth. Stomatitis can effect all types of animals but it is by far most common in snakes. Usually the condition will start in one part of the mouth but will quickly spread to the gums, tongue and the roof of the mouth.
Stomatitis creates a white, thick substance in the mouth. Your snake will possibly lose teeth over time because stomatitis will infect the gums and cause the teeth to loosen. It is highly likely that the snake will stop eating if the stomatitis is allowed to progress without treatment. It will not eat because it is simply too painful to put anything in its mouth.
Antibiotics are most often necessary to clear up the infection. Your veterinarian will be able to guide you on the appropriate steps to take to ensure the stomatitis subsides and that minimal damage is caused to your snake. You may need to modify the snakes habitat in order to aid rehabilitation.
Dermatitis: When a snake has dermatitis it will shed its skin far too quickly. You may also notice irritated portions of its body that may appear to be inflammed. If you leave the dermatitis untreated these irritated portions of its body will quickly blister. If the snake is left even longer these blisters can form open wounds due to the snake rubbing its body on objects in its enclosure.
Dermatitis normally occurs from a dirty enclosure and a humidity level that is too high. Having a higher than normal humidity level is not a bad idea when the snake is shedding its skin but monitor it closely to ensure it does not rise too high. One of the best ways to do this is to provide the snake with a humid hide box, that way the snake can leave it if it feels too humid.
If you notice signs of dermatitis you can first try cleaning the cage and lowering the humidity. However if the problem persists, please take your snake to your veterinarian immediately.
Mouth Rot (Infectious or Ulcerative Stomatitis): Is a progressive bacterial infection involving the oral lining. It may begin with increased salivation. Often saliva bubbles from the mouth. Close inspection of the oral lining reveals tiny pinpoint areas of bleeding. The oral lining becomes increasingly inflamed and pus begins to accumulate within the mouth, especially among the rows of teeth. As the disease progresses, the underlying bone becomes infected and the teeth fall out. This infection must be recognized in the early stages to successfully reverse it. The hobbyist must seek veterinary help when mouth rot is first evident. The veterinarian may want to collect a saliva/pus specimen for bacterial culture and subsequent antibiotic sensitivity testing to determine the appropriate antibiotic(s) to use. A blood sample can also be collected to accurately assess the internal and overall status of the patient. Mouth rot often is an external manifestation of more serious internal problems. Initial treatment involves injections of vitamins A, C and B complex, as well as a "best guess" antibiotic (one that the veterinarian believes has the best chance of fighting the infection until the results of antibiotic sensitivity tests are available). Supportive care involves daily or twice-daily cleansing of the mouth, application of topical antibiotics, administration of fluids to combat dehydration and the possible detrimental effects of certain antibiotics, and periodic forced-feedings (using a stomach tube). Generally, snakes with heavy accumulations of pus and infected bones of the jaw are unlikely to be saved, even with aggressive veterinary efforts. You must be alert to the early stages of the disease and periodically inspect the mouth for signs of mouth rot.
Blister disease: Is common in many captive reptiles. It is most often associated with the maintenance of these animals in damp, filthy environments. The first sign is usually a pink to red appearance of the bottom-most scales. Later, these scales become swollen and infected by bacteria and fungi. At the first suspicion of this disease, you must seek veterinary help. Treatment involves use of topical and injectable antibiotics. Further, the underlying sanitation and hygiene problems must be corrected. Blister disease is preventable if you are aware of it and if the enclosure in which captive snakes are housed is kept dry and scrupulously clean.
Septicemia: A wide variety of bacteria can cause generalized internal infections (septicemia). These bacteria may invade the body by way of wounds and abscesses or as a consequence of serious illness originally localized in the respiratory, gastrointestinal and reproductive tracts. Signs may be subtle or obvious and may include lethargy, anorexia, dehydration, and regurgitation of incompletely digested food, redness to the skin and scales, or bleeding from the skin. The help of an experienced veterinarian is essential n these cases. The outlook for these patients is always guarded to poor. The attending veterinarian may collect a specimen for bacterial culture and antibiotic sensitivity testing, as well as one or more blood samples to more accurately determine the extent of the disease, whether or not various internal organs are involved, and as a means of monitoring the patient's progress. Treatment involves use of injectable antibiotics and appropriate supportive care (fluid therapy, force-feeding, injectable vitamins, etc.). Treatment must usually be relatively long-term and periodic monitoring of the patient's status is essential to a favorable outcome.
Respiratory infections: Are common in snakes. They may be associated with septicemia (body-wide illness, viral infections and mouth rot. Some respiratory illness may be the consequence of stress from poor or inadequate husbandry. Signs include loud respiration, discharge and/or bubbling from the nostrils and/or mouth, coughing and open-mouth breathing. Treatment must be aggressive and at the direction of a veterinarian. A bacterial culture of the windpipe and subsequent antibiotic sensitivity testing should be undertaken to identify the offending bacteria and the appropriate antibiotic(s) to use. The veterinarian may also recommend collecting a blood sample to determine the extent of the disease and to see if there has been serious compromise to internal organs. Antibiotic therapy should be by injection and may need to be long-term, especially in severe and long-standing cases. Inhalation therapy (vaporization or nebulization) is frequently employed as part of treatment.
Eye Infections: Captive snakes occasionally suffer eye infections. Infections may be superficial or more extensive, involving the entire eye. Superficial infections may result from mild injury to the eye. Superficial infections may also become established below a retained eye cap. Infections of this type must be recognized promptly and treated aggressively to prevent involvement of the entire eye. The retained eye cap must first be removed if at all possible. Infections involving the entire eye may result from trauma to the eye or from septicemia (body-wide) infection. In the latter case, the bacteria enter the eye by way of the bloodstream. Veterinary help is essential with these cases. Treatment involves use of topical and/or injectable antibiotics. Sometimes, drugs that help to exercises the iris (the colored portion inside the eye) are used to help prevent adhesions inside the eye.
Viral infections in snakes, as a whole, are generally poorly understood. This is because viruses are extremely difficult to detect and identify. They are equally difficult or impossible to treat. Viral infections result in tumorous skin growths in many native snake species. Other viruses can cause digestive, respiratory and nervous system disease among snakes. An example is a recently recognized viral encephalitis affecting pythons and boa constrictors. Afflicted constrictor species exhibit a very gradual deterioration of the brain and eventually die. Most viruses are highly contagious. Hobbyists must be aware of this and quarantine all newly acquired snakes for at least 6-8 weeks. This involves complete isolation of new snakes and careful scrutiny of them during this period for any signs of illness. All newly acquired snakes should be thoroughly examined and evaluated by a veterinarian experienced with snakes. Blood tests may offer clues as to viral infections.
Fungal Infections: A number of fungal organisms can cause superficial and deeper infections of snakes. Most of these infections involve the skin and respiratory system. Fungal infections of the eyes are most likely to occur in snakes housed in damp, contaminated environments. Ringworm fungi that usually infect people, pets and livestock have also caused skin infections of snakes. Snakes must be housed in scrupulously clean and dry enclosures. The flooring must be easy to clean and should not be of a material that encourages fungal (mold) growth (see section on Housing). A veterinarian must examine Snakes exhibiting problems with their skin and/or eyes as soon as possible. A microbial culture and a skin biopsy may be necessary to obtain a diagnosis. Treatment of fungal diseases involves use of topical and systemic (oral and/or injectable) antifungal agents. Prevention of fungal disease involves correcting underlying problems with husbandry.
Sources: most of the info in these posts was copied from http://www.animalhospitals-usa.com
some small pieces may have also been copied from http://www.popularpets.net
Last edited by zaroba; 05-09-2010 at 01:38 AM.