Jan 2009

Q: What can you tell me about meningoencephalitis?

Q: Please, one of my BPs has been diagnosed with possible meningoencephalitis. Any/all help would be greatly appreciated.

A: Meningoencephalitis (inflammation of the brain and meninges) is not a disease, per se; it is a symptom for which there is invariably an underlying cause (or causes).  Was the vet able to offer any other information as to why you're seeing it?

Typically with captive snakes, neuropathology is associated with either environmental toxins (e.g. bug spray, vapona strips, new paint, etc.) or is pathogenic in nature.  In the latter case, a bacterial, viral, or amebic miscreant is usually the culprit.  If an environmental toxin is to blame and can be immediately removed, snakes often recover immediately with no long term damage.  If the encephalitis has a pathogenic origin, you've got a harder battle ahead of you.

Viral encephalitis, sadly, does not have a good prognosis.  There are few cures for reptile viruses (the same is true of human viruses); they must be left to "run their course," and, especially in encephalitic cases, often with a terminal outcome.  The doctor is likely to prescribe an antibiotic like metronidazole.  It's very broad spectrum with bacteria, and amebic cases sometimes respond too.

You'd be wise to quarantine the sick snake immediately if you haven't already, and keep him/her in a new cage or room if you suspect an environmental toxin.  In the meantime, be sure to offer lots of supportive therapy -- a little extra heat, a comfy hide, easy access to water, and a lot of time to ride this out.  Check frequently for dehydration, assist or force feed as necessary if it comes to that down the road, but don't handle unnecessarily in the meantime. 

If you learn anything else or can offer more specific information, let me know and I'll do my best to address what I can.  Good luck!

Source: http://www.iherp.com/Answers/ReptileProblem.aspx?Id=3670

Q: RI Symptoms?

Q: Hello,

I was just wondering what the symptoms are of an RI? So far, I haven't had any sick snakes, but one of my newest has been doing some things I have never seen before. His throat/lower half of the mouth bobs up and down (looks the way a male's adams apple moves in swallowing motion) and his hissing sounds a little funny to me. Also, I feel like his body is making weird gurgling noises ... perhaps disgestive?

I could be paranoid, but thought I would ask anyway because it has me a little worried. I just received him last week so he could just be stressed.  If I have to take him to the vet, what is the ballpark of what I can expect to pay for the visit? I hope I can find one that takes exotics nearby.

Oh yeah ... and he bit me too


A: That sounds suspiciously like an early respiratory infection. Of course, I can't see or hear the snake...and he's new enough to you that you can't be sure whether it's cause for concern or just normal for him... frustrating!

With a new animal it's good to get an initial check-up anyway, just to be sure it's coming clean into the collection. Vets are typically $30-50 for an office visit, depending on your location. I'd say bite the bullet and do it just to be sure. Make sure to get one that's reptile oriented! - BJW

Source: http://www.iherp.com/Answers/ReptileProblem.aspx?Id=3676

Q: White's Tree Frog Enclosure - Glass or Screen?

Q: I recently adopted a White's Tree Frog from my local Herp Society. Currently I've got him in a 20 long fully planted vivarium. I know this guy wants to climb, so I'm trying to decide on an appropriate new enclosure for him. I was thinking screen, as WTFs don't need super high humidity. I see lots of screen enclosures online that say "Great for Tree Frogs!!" but I can't say I've seen anyone who actually uses these. Most photos of WTF enclosures I've seen on forums are glass. What do you guys think? Glass or screen?

A: I haven't kept a tree frog in years, but I can't imagine ever having used screen.  Between the two, glass would definitely be the way to go.  White's tree frogs require up to 70% humidity which is going to be impossible to maintain in a screened environment. - BJW

Source: http://www.iherp.com/Answers/ReptileProblem.aspx?Id=3639

Q: Should I remove shed skin from enclosure?

Q: I am wondering about the shedded skin of my kingsnake. can they gain nutrients from ingesting their skin or should i just take the skin out?

A: This question has been answered, but I'll corroborate -- unlike many lizards which eat their shed skin, snakes just shuck it and chuck it.  And you should too, unless you get a particularly clean one with a worthy artistic or scientific future.  Just remember to wash your hands after playing with it.  Shed skins can transmit bugs too!

If you're interested at all in sheds or ecdysis, I highly recommend a book, "The Serpent's Cast," by Brian S. Gray.  It contains more information than you ever thought there was to even know about shed skins, including a guide to identifying many North American species by their sheds.  Happy herping!

Source: http://www.iherp.com/Answers/ReptileProblem.aspx?Id=3600