Oct 2011

Q: Is it okay to brumate younger male kings and corns?

Q: So I took my adult colubrids off their heat and they will be ready to be put in their cold room in a couple of days. I am excited to have three months of less work and to save a bit of money on feeders and electric bills.

I was considering putting my younger male kings and corns in brumation as well to save more on money, time and work.  I plan to keep heating and feeding my babies and yearlings, but brumating my two year old males. I don't plan to breed them because I feel that their female counterparts are not big enough to breed this season.

Is there any reason I should not put my 2 year old colubrid males in brumation? Will it cause any problems?

It would be mainly to save money on feeders, electricity and work, not to cycle them for breeding.

Let me know what you think.


A: This is a great discussion.  And as with all great questions, there's probably not just one correct answer.  To address your specific question though about safety and potential problems, Nate is right that it's pretty safe but it does come with risks.  And as Shannon said, they most certainly do it in the wild (although "overwintering mortality" is much higher in nature than in captivity).  Some snakes that won't feed post-hatching will often brumate and "wake up" feisty and ready to feed; the seasonal cycle almost seems necessary to stimulate their appetite.  Fun fact...

Anyway, yes you can overwinter them pretty safely, but occasionally you'll have an animal that won't wake up.  This can happen when brumating adults too.  Causes could include inadequate body weight, suboptimal brumation temperatures, chronic dehydration, inadequate hibernacula, other underlying stressors and disease, or some combination of all these (among probably other causes too).

If you choose to brumate, I always recommend that you install an electronic space heater that will kick on and off at pre-programable temperatures (totally worth the $40 investment!).  Be sure that your animals are of an appropriate body condition prior to brumation.  And, perhaps most importantly, be sure you fast your animals for two weeks or so -- wait to see those poops! -- before slowly bringing them to winter temperatures.

This probably is a more "natural" way to maintain our animals and you can usually brumate young animals without a problem. But Mother Nature can be a real wench sometimes so take every precaution you can! - BJW

Source: http://www.iherp.com/Answers/ReptileProblem.aspx?Id=23147

Q: Vet said ... What do you think?

Q: I have only second hand knowledge as I wasn't there. I had to work, and the vet will be in sugery on Tuesday and her day off is Wednesday.
I noticed my Hog Island boa had a nose rub about 2 weeks ago or so. I noticed yesterday that his gums were also swollen-to the point that his lips couldn't close. I made an appointment with a vet this morning and my boyfriend took him this afternoon. My boyfriend (Tom) called me at work to let me know what the vet said. He told me she said he has a disease, Mouth Rot. To my knowledge, mouth rot isn't a disease, but a bacterial infection caused by something else.  Tom said that if he ate in a week he should be okay, as long as he doesn't get kidney failure. We have antibiotics to give him. And she administered a pain medication when he was there. I don't fully understand how my snake could/want to eat if his mouth isn't swollen. I don't think the antibiotics will clear his mouth up that fast. 

The only information that I have is what the clinic invoice has on it. I'm guessing the Metacam injection is the pain meds she gave him and the Ceftazidime is the antibiotic. The invoice (nor any other paper that was given to Tom) doesn't have a diagnosis on it, only plan of treatment. We are to give him the antibiotics once a day for the first 3 days and every other day after that (also not on the instructions, but info from my boyfriend). There are also husbandry info and directions for  a warm water soak 10 mins a day. Directions inculde offereing a small rat later this week and if he does not eat in 2-3 weeks to force feed him.

He is an 08 boa at good weight and other than his swollen mouth and nose seems fine. Active, good grip when holding, and normal attitude. He last ate about a month ago. Not only am I not a fan of force feeding, but I don't think I physically could force feed him. His girth is about the size of a tennis ball, slightly smaller. I don't think he'd be a big fan of it.

I am planning on calling the office tomorrow to get more info, but this just doesn't seem to add up. He does have blood work going to check his white count, also no mention as to when that will be back. What do you guys think? I know this is a really long question, but I figured it best to be as detailed as possible.

A: There's a lot of good advice here.  If your vet's diagnosis of "mouth rot" (stomatitis) is correct, then you are dealing with a bacterial infection which your vet is right to call a disease (as opposed to a "syndrome").  My two cents:

1.  Definitely call and speak to your vet in person.  We're free to critique her plan here as harshly as we please, but she likely has a reason for proceeding the way she has.  Give her a chance to explain her rationale and ask whatever questions you still have.  She should be able to explain her plan.

2.  Overall I think her plan seems pretty sound, although I would agree with others here who said a snake that size does NOT need to be force fed in 2-3 weeks...  Do offer a rat at that time though since a willingness to eat is a good sign!

3.  Metacam is a non-steroidal anti-inflammatory (NSAID).  It's not believed to relieve pain in reptiles, but it's great at reducing swelling and inflammation, which I'm sure is why she chose to use it.

4.  Ceftazidime is a great, broad-spectrum antibiotic that is very safe and well-tolerated in reptiles.  Although a culture and sensitivity is a better, more targeted approach to antibiotic selection (and also more expensive), Ceftaz is frequently used as a first line of defense since (at least for now) it remains effective against so many bugs.  It's particularly good at knocking out gram-negative organisms (e.g. Pseudomonas) which are frequently implicated in mouth infections.

5.  Not to be confused with another popular broad-spectrum antibiotic, Baytril (enrofloxacin), which causes intense tissue irritation, chemical burns and scarring, Ceftaz is very-well tolerated and does not need to be broken up into multiple injections.  Poke Sunset as few times as possible and give the entire injection IM (ideally) or SQ as your vet instructed.

6. Cefotaxime is another great reptile drug, but it's particularly good in the nebulizer (as described).  It aerosolizes and mixes well with another drug that helps to break down the caseous debris associated with advanced respiratory infections.

7. Mouth infections have been known to mysteriously turn into respiratory infections, although there's some debate as to why.  One common assumption is that the bacteria "spread" from one site to the next, but it may be simply that the poor husbandry that caused the first problem also results in the second.  Not every mouth infection turns into a respiratory infection, in fact, to my knowledge most of them don't.  There's probably not any harm in nebulizing, but if you're not seeing signs of respiratory distress, I don't know that it's worth the extra effort and stress on Sunset to put her through additional therapy.  That might be another topic to discuss with your vet.

8.  Your vet's Ceftaz dosage isn't exactly "by the book," but it doesn't make it wrong.  She may have adjusted the dosage because of some prior experience she's had treating hog island boas, a recent report she's read, your snake's size and activity level, etc.  Ask her for her rationale, by all means, but don't panic just because she didn't prescribe the textbook 20 mg/kg every 72 hours.  My guess is that she's proceeding with a "loading dose," so to speak, where she's trying to hit the infection hard up front and planning to taper the dosage over the course of treatment.  I personally like to keep them on a 2 week minimum regimen (the infection can persist LONG after symptoms subside), but again, that's an executive decision you and your vet will get to make being privy to all the facts of the case.

9.  Even though it sounds like you take great care of your snakes, remember that these types of infections are USUALLY secondary to some error in husbandry.  Carefully evaluate your setup (temperature, humidity, substrate, cleanliness of the cage and especially the water and bowl, etc).  Your vet would be remiss not to have this discussion with you.  Try to identify what might have led to this and try to correct the problem since it's likely to happen again if you don't.

Good luck! - BJW

Source: http://www.iherp.com/Answers/ReptileProblem.aspx?Id=22953

Q: Canned cat/dog food for North American Wood turtles

Q: Can canned dog/cat food (wet) be used as a staple diet for North American Wood turtles?  I get conflicting answers in my research, one place names it as a staple diet, others say part of the diet or use sparingly, then I did find one that said to never use it.

I'd like to find out if I can use it as a staple diet along with "treats" throughout the week.  By treats, I mean, fruits, earthworms etc. 


A: If you look at recent iHerp Answers questions, there's a brand new one called "
Leo with horrible joint growths".  Ashley posted an imagine in the comments section demonstrating the classic presentation the OP is talking about.  Go stare at that image. 

I'm not trying to sound condescending at all, but I am serious.  And this is actually perfect timing for your question haha!  Stare at that image and take it in.  Because that syndrome is what happens when people feed omnivorous reptiles a staple diet of canned dog and cat foods.  The protein levels are astronomically out of whack for omnivorous reptiles and the result, over the long term, is chronic subclinical hyperuricemia and eventually gout, which is painful and practically irreversible (see my response in the other blog).

I don't doubt at all that some have recommended this diet to you.  It's probably why gout is one of the most common diseases we see in captive reptiles.  Unfortunately those who have used this diet "successfully" and advocate its use often release, sell, trade or inadvertently kill their turtle before they get to see the longterm effects.  You can certainly use these foods as an occasional treat or a way to quickly boost weight for breeding, but this should not be considered a primary source of nutrition.  Hope this helps! - BJW

Source: http://www.iherp.com/Answers/ReptileProblem.aspx?Id=22616

Q: Leo with horrible joint growths

Q: hokay, so a friend rescued a leopard gecko. the poor thing is nearly wasted away, and has horrible growths on its joints. shoulders and hips. i have no idea how it moves, or even attempts to catch food. supposidly the owner said it ate every 3 weeks, i can see that. they also want it back if we can fix it. i told my friends, no. you need to lie to them, saying it died if it somehow survives (i am against lying in most cases). because this is animal abuse, this poor thing has been starving, and can barely move. it takes 2-3 weeks for their tails to shrivel (i think?) and those growths didnt apear over night. so if returned this poor thing will only go back to a neglectful owner.

i will ask for them to email me a picture of her, but it is a bit graphic. the growths almost look like gout, but i dont know if leos can get that. they also look to be affecting the bones in the joints themselves. we've been feeding her via eye dropper some repta boost, to give her some energy. but im not sure what else to do for her aside from putting her down, so she doesnt suffer anymore :/

A: Articular gout is the most likely culprit, and unfortunately it's quite common in captive reptiles including leopard geckos. 

The pathophysiology of gout in reptiles is poorly understood - almost all our info is extrapolated from the human literature! - but the consistent risk factors seem to be renal issues (often from the use of certain antibiotics), dehydration, and inappropriate levels (or lack) of protein in the diet. Basically what happens is you get a perfect storm of physiologic and environmental factors that come together to increase the amount of normal uric acid in the blood ("hyperuricemia").  And when the concentration of a solute in solution gets high enough, what happens?  A precipitate - in this case urate crystals - comes out of solution to make an insoluble solid.  Since crystals don't flow easily through blood vessels, they tend to get stuck in tight places.  And since the joints represent the very tightest spaces blood flows through, this is where they accumulate.  These accumulations are responsible for the hard nodules you see at the joints. 

If you're imagining that this is probably very painful, you're probably right.  Although reptiles, being very stoic creatures, are very good at compensating for their condition, it's safe to assume their quality of life is compromised, especially as the syndrome progresses.  Prognosis at advanced stages is typicallly considered "poor," but you have a few options.

Identifying and correcting the husbandry can stop the progression of disease, significantly improve the animal's quality of life, and may even help reduce symptoms over a long enough period of time.  This should be done regardless.  Corrective treatment is difficult though, especially since it's hard to find vets equipped to address gout.  Allopurinol (or other antihyperuricemics) and antiinflammatory drugs may help to reverse signs of disease, but I can't verify whether that's even been attempted in a leopard gecko.

Get any lizard that looks like the one in the picture to a good, qualified reptile veterinarian.  Discuss treatment options and prognoses with your doctor, and consider euthanasia if there's nothing you can do to correct his condition or improve his quality of life.  Good luck! - BJW

Source: http://www.iherp.com/Answers/ReptileProblem.aspx?Id=22643