Snakes are prone to illness and injury just like any other animal. There are however, some illnesses are that snakes are more prone to. Here is a brief description of the most common illnesses in snakes, how to tell if your snake is sick and what you should do to treat the illness.
Internal parasites are one of the most common illnesses found in snakes. Many people believe that internal parasites only plague wild-caught snakes, however this is far from the truth. Internal parasites can be passed on to captive bred snakes by contact with other infected snakes. Snakes can also contract internal parasites from infected prey. Internal parasites are often difficult to detect in snakes, and a fecal sample will need to be taken to the vet for a proper diagnosis. Symptoms of internal parasites can include regurgitation, weight loss and a lack of appetite.
Stomatitis, better known as mouth rot is another illness that is fairly common in snakes. Mouth rot must be treated immediately, as if it is left untreated it can be deadly. Stomatitis occurs when bacteria enters the snakes mouth and causes an infection of the lining of the mouth and gums. Mouth rot can also infect the rest of the snakes digestive system if left untreated. Symptoms of mouth rot include swelling of the mouth or gums, a change of color to skin around the mouth and gums or the snakes inability to close its mouth completely. If you believe your snake has contracted mouth rot, you should seek veterinary treatment immediately.
External Parasites- Mites & Ticks
Mites and ticks are one of the health problems that herpetologists fear the most. A mite and tick infestation can spread quickly to other snakes and can be hard to bring under control. A mite and tick infestation can cause malnutrition to your snake by literally draining it of its blood. It can also lead to severe skin problems. If your snake has mites, you will see tiny dots moving on the skin of the snake. These dots may be red, white or black. Ticks are of course larger than mites, and usually appear in fewer numbers. If you suspect your snake has a mite or tick infestation, immediate attention is required to treat the snake and its enclosure.
Eating disorders- Regurgitation
Regurgitation is not an illness per say, however frequent regurgitation can lead to malnutrition and may be the sign of an underlying illness. Most often, regurgitation is simply caused by stress from being handled too soon after eating. Regurgitation can also occur if the prey is to large for the snake to eat and digest. Another common cause of regurgitation is an inadequate amount of heat to aid in digestion. If your snake is too cold, it will regurgitate its food as it needs head to help it to digest. If your snake continues to regurgitate frequently, and you have made sure that stress and improper housing conditions are under control, you should seek medical attention for your snake as there may be an underlying illness causing the regurgitation.
Blister disease is an illness that is most often seen only in captive snakes. Blister disease occurs from improper enclosure maintenance. If the substrate in your snakes cage is dirty, moldy or too wet, fluid-filled blisters can form on the snakes body. To prevent blister disease from occurring, you should keep the snakes enclosure clean and dry. If your snake develops blister disease, the blisters will need to be cleaned and treated, and the snake will need to remain in a sterile, clean tank until the blisters have healed.
Cuts, Abrasions & Burns
Cuts, Abrasions and Burns aren't generally viewed as an illness, but are problems that many snakes suffer from. More often than not, cuts, abrasions and burns occur due to improper housing conditions or injuries sustained from live prey. Enclosures should be checked for sharp edges and items placed in your snakes cage should be checked for spots that could injure the snake. Hot rocks should never be used as a source of heat, as they can short circuit and end up with hot spots that can burn the snake. Heating lights should be covered with screens, to prevent your snake from coming in direct contact with the heat bulb. You should avoid feeding your snake live prey as it can bite or scratch your snake causing severe injuries, or even killing it. If you must feed your snake live prey, you should not leave the snake unattended until it has killed its food. If after an adequate amount of time your snake has not eaten, remove the prey from the enclosure and try again later. Never leave the prey in the cage with the snake unattended under any circumstance.
If your snake suffers from a cut, abrasion or burn injury, the wound must be treated. If the injury is severe, seek professional medical attention. If the injury is minor, clean the affected area throughly, and apply an antiseptic. You should also keep your snake in a clean, sterile environment until the wound is healed.
Having a snake is just like having any other type of pet. Injuries and illnesses can and will occur and need to be treated accordingly. Knowing what to look for can help to prevent serious issues, as can knowing how to properly care for your snake. If you are looking to purchase a snake as a pet, you should do as much research as you can before buying one.