Vet Med

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


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


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


Q: Sand boa still has shed on tail

Q: My male sand boa has been trying to get the skin off his tail for awhile. I feel like I've tried everything. I put a humidity box in his cage I tried to help him rub it of. I cant do it. What should I do? I have a local herp store where I got him. Sould I bring him there and ask for help. I fear it might hurt him. Am I overreacting?

Good advice, but a few quick comments.  Remember that if water feels warm to you, it is
warmer than your body temperature of 98.6 F (usually a LOT warmer).  Since reptiles take on the temperature of their surroundings, a bath that feels warm to you can turn quickly fatal as their core body temperature shoots up to dangerous levels.  Ideally you should use an IR temp gun to get an accurate temperature reading, but in a pinch use water that feels neutral or lukewarm over your wrist.  Also remember that even high temperatures that a desert dweller like your sand boa should be able to tolerate can be dangerous if they encounter them too quickly.  They might bask at 110F for brief periods of time, but a dunk in that water from room temperature could send them into thermal shock.  Be careful and use some common sense!
Lastly, while the soak will certainly help and is  a healthy practice anyway from time to time, a damp sponge and a little gentle, but persistent stroking and pinching motion with your fingers over his tail should do the trick very quickly.  It is very important to get those off since they'll restrict blood flow after a period of time and lead to necrosis and eventually sloughing of the tail tip.
As a fun fact, it was said for years that the many snakes in the wild seen with blunted tail tips must have narrowly escaped predators at some point in their lives.  While this is certainly one plausible scenario, it's been accepted that most have probably suffered the type of shedding issue you're describing.  Since it's an aesthetic flaw and not one likely to compromise reproductive success (i.e. the proclivity -- if there even is a genetic component -- has not been selected against), the phenomenon continues to persist even in wild populations.  Just one of the many fasinating insights into natural history gleaned from our ability to keep and observe snakes. - BJW


Q: Looking for advice on a GTP Neo Prolapse

Q: My email was given to a person because it was known I have snakes - LOL

Anyway, I got asked by a person what was going on with their GTP... She described it to me last night, and it sounded like a prolapse. I believe she has had it less than a week.   

It's being kept in a shoebox rack. As far as she knows, the last meal was a pinky on 8/24. It just shed 2 days ago, and pooped yesterday. She saw the issue last night. She was told it was a CB animal.

I searched the answers section here - specifically for Aaron's experience with Minnie, and I advised her to coat it with a thicker sugar water paste, and to remove the branches/perches and just have paper towel for substrate. 

I asked her to send me pics, and got the ones below today.
I also advised her not to feed as she had planned on doing today.
She doesn't live real far from me, and I told her I'd help her find out what is suggested for her to do.

What should one do with one so tiny??? Looks quite a bit smaller than mine from Buddy. 

Being asked this has made me realize I need to know more what to do in the event it happened to me. (Which I hope it never will, but I'd like to know in case.)

I just am not confident enough to give any more advise... I have zip experience with prolapses and very little, as you all know, with GTPs specifically. 
I am posting here with the pictures I have so that advise / info. given here can be passed along to her.


A: Actually, IF you can find a knowledgeable herp vet in the are (and that's an important IF), I think a visit is very advisable.  This is a common problem that qualifed herp vets face regularly and are well-equipped to address, often by means of a quick suture or some tissue glue if the sugar bandage has proven ineffective.  I think Julie is on the right track to hydrate this animal too, but I would not advise a non-professional to try to do this.  SubQ is not always the ideal ROA in reptiles this small, and furthermore fluid balance and aseptic technique are significant considerations.

I can appreciate Bart's skepticism of "exotics vets"; if you've kept snakes long enough you've almost undoubtedly been burned by a seemingly unscrupulous clinician.  I've had the misfortune of dealing with a few myself.  However, I can also relate to many great exotics vets who are have been brought animals literally on death's door because skeptical clients wait until the very last second to bring them their ailing snake.  The prolapse alone should not be acutely life threatening.  If you can convince your friend to do so, help her find a reputable reptile veterinarian, call ahead to report what you're seeing, and have your friend get the animal seen by a professional who can continue to be there for her when the next emergency arises. - BJW

UPDATE: The animal began exhibiting additional signs, including gaping, and was found dead in the cage within 12 hours before a veterinary visit could even be arranged.

I'm so sorry to hear that.  My condolences to you and your friend.  At the risk of sounding insensitive, this is precisely why "see your local, competent reptile veterinarian" tends to be my knee-jerk response to anything exceptionally weird or complicated.  As I said in my first response, by the time our stoic reptiles begin showing symptoms, they're often so far progressed that treatment becomes involved, expensive and uncertain.  Others here were very insightful to note that there was probably more going on here than was immediately obvious.  And Bart was probably right about a "one way trip" in that the tiny snake was probably terminal before you started writing this question.  You did what you could and hopefully we all come away from it a little wiser than we were.  Sorry for the unfortunate outcome, but thank you for sharing the case!



Q: Hogg Island x Rainbow Boa... Possible?

Q: I got a boa a couple months ago and the guy I got him from told me he was a Corn Island Boa.  After I got him I quickly realized he was not and honestly he looked like a Hogg Island.  But his sides remind me of a Rainbow Boa.  I was informed that cross was not possible, but then I was watching a show about hybrids and saw that someone crossed a retic and a ball python, so I wondered if maybe this was possible.

When I bring him into sunlight he has that iridescent shine to him.  He's rather beautiful and because of this I thought about buying a female hogg island and a female rainbow boa and crossing them with him to see what I'd get.  I just want to know if this is possible?

A: I’ve seen ball pythons (from Africa) that have been crossed with woma pythons (from Australia), so I would't rule out the possibility that two boas could hybridize (under some highly artificial circumstances) even from separate genera.  That said, this is a terribly foolish and irresponsible suggestion.  You're going to find that almost all serious keepers look down on this very strongly.  I'll summarize why, and if I sound harsh, let me assure you that this is as fair and level-headed as I can be about this topic. On virtually any other forum this suggestion would get you torn to shreds.  This topic makes blood boil.

Let's start with the premise of "crossing" animals.  When you cross two dogs (say a corgi and a dalmation), the puppies from your cross are still dogs.  They may be ugly, but they are the same species.  They are still Canis familiaris.  When you cross reptiles from two different species, you have
not created a "mix" in the same sense.  You have created a hybrid.  Although it's certainly not the snake's fault, the hybrid is a functionally unnecssary and ecologically worthless organism. It represents a completely artificial amalgamation of genes thrown together to satisfy childlike curiosity with childlike foresight. 

The snakes you keep are not dogs.  You may name them and pet them and even love them, but they are essentially wild animals whose future -- in captivity as well as in the wild -- is far from certain.  The people who advocate hybridizing are almost invariably amateurs who haven't been around long enough to appreciate the peaks and crashes in the industry (on the private side) or the irreparable ecologic or legislative damage (on the environmental or political side) that has prevented us from acquiring species that we used to.  Just try to go find pueblan milk snakes like the beautiful Zapotitlan Basin, MX campbelli we used to see in the 80s.  You see pueblan milks in every pet shop and on every other table at reptile shows, but their true form has all but disappeared.  And this wasn't even from hybridizing, but simply from intergrading different subspecies (e.g. Nelson's) trying to add new "morphs" to the line.  Try to find Sanzinia from Madagascar.  Try to find outbred ringed pythons.  Try to legally import Aspidites.  Try to find a wild-type CB corn snake that isn't het for some morph.  Speaking collectively about the reptile taxa we keep in captivity, the natural authenticity of what we preserve is a house of cards.  When you come to appreciate this you'll wish to defend -- very passionately -- what's left.

One's fickle fancy for hybrids will change like the seasons.  Any idiot can take two cheap snakes from neighboring taxa, throw them together to make some weird looking "breed" of snake and hope to sell the offspring to turn a small profit.  And a season later neither the breeder nor anyone else will care, but the damage will have already been done.  The hybrid offspring have been sold -- to other amateurs, no doubt -- who will breed them and market them and the taxonomic illegitimacy spreads like cancer.  Defenders of hybridizing will say "the practice is OK as long as the hybrid offspring are marketed honestly."  That's like tearing open a down pillow atop a skyscraper in Chicago and promising to avoid making a mess by picking up the feathers.  Hybrids and their genes just cannot be regulated once they've left your -- the breeder's hand -- and decades of washed out "hobby" animals has proved this point to anyone paying attention.

You sound relatively new and perceptive and enthusiastic, so I hate that I sound jaded and patronizing.  This is just such an important issue.  So much damage can be (and has been) done by curious, well-intentioned individuals who haven't taken the time to consider the downstream consequences of their actions (or don't care).  For the sake of the next generation of naturalists and herpers, keep your animals REAL! - BJW

R: I definately hear what you are saying.  I originally wasn't planning to breed him at all, mainly because I had no clue what was in him and didn't want to sell babies not knowing what I was selling.  The reason I became interested in the idea of breeding him was I watched an episode of SnakeBytes on youtube and Brian Barczyk was talking about hybrids and the ups and downs and I found it really interesting.

So let me ask you, if you got a snake like him what would you do with him?  Just keep him as a pet and not breed him or would it be ok to breed him with a hogg island?

Just to clarify, you don't have an issue with morphs (since you mentioned corn snakes being normal, but het for something), cause I love my corn snakes and all the colors they come in.

The one thing that I find interesting is that by defination a species is one that can reproduce and produce viable offspring.  Now I know they are not the same species, but it's interesting because wolves and dogs are 2 different species, yet can produce viable offspring.  Then you have horses and donkeys that can breed, but produce either a mule or a hinny, which are sterile.  Now cause I have horses also I know that in the equine world this hybrid is a wonderful thing because mules are the best of both worlds, unfortuantely hinnies are the worst of both worlds, which is why you rarely see them.

I appreciate you letting me know this valuable information!  Please do let me know about what you would do if you got a snake like him, or at least what you think I should do.


A: In my personal opinion, I would keep the boa as a pet and enjoy him as such.  Like I said, the animals can't help it if we breed them to be "mutts."  I have owned (and still own) some excellent snakes that bring me a lot of happiness; they're just not animals I would breed.  Imagine breeding your presumptive hog island boa (maybe to one someone else thought looked like a hog island boa?) and extend that logic through a few different breeders and over a few generations and you can see how we've managed to muddy the waters so badly...  If you want to breed hog island boas, go to a reliable breeder and get some incredible hog island boas from a locality lineage and produce the nicest, most beautiful and authentic snakes you can!  Don't add mediocre snakes from questionable lineages to an oversaturated market...  There's no sense in that, right?
Morphs are a different subject.  I don't think there's anything wrong with morphs, and I keep several myself!  The important thing to keep in mind though is that it's an entirely different type of project.  Rather than maintaining the species for what it is naturally in the wild, in this case you're exploring the mysteries of the "hidden" recessive genes that the species posesses.  You're unlocking the visual secrets of their genome, so to speak.  The important part to remember is that you're still experimenting with a species.  Too many people have tried to hybridize snakes trying to introduce a morph (e.g. albino) into a different species with the intention of back-breeding offspring to pure animals so nobody notices after a few generations.  It's dishonest, frequently ineffective, and has done a lot of harm to our captive lines.  Play with morphs all day, just keep them real too.  I'll give you an example I'm all too familiar with.  Honduran milk snakes have been the predominant "morph" milk in the hobby for a number of years now.  Serious milk snake enthusiasts breed them, they enjoy them, they're fascinating and fun to work with, but as a group they're referred to as "hobby hondos" and they do not evoke the same sense of awe and respect as an authentic, verifiable tri-colored hondurensis whose origins can be traced back twenty years to a known source in Central America.  
On a related note, I think the "holy grail" morphs are those that are verifiably pure natural morphs traced to known lineages.  If you're into corns, the "terrazo" key locality varietals are a great example!  Here you have a stunningly different morph from a real snake from a real place.  This is the coolest of the cool in my opinion!  :)
Finally, the biological issue you bring up is a fascinating one that I can't delve into too deeply here.  The species definition you cite is a very classical one, but isn't considered so cut and dry anymore.  The main thing to keep in mind is that when it comes to taxonomy we're ultimately trying to put black and white names to relationships that are millions of years in the making and far more fluid than we even understand (think back to my ball python x woma python example). - BJW



Q: Snake with mites

Q: Hello, over the past week one of my Jungle Carpets has been submerged constantly in her water bowl. Last night I noticed black dots in the water and upon a closer look its definately mites. I haven't noticed any of my other's acting differently so I believe that she's the only one that has them. I know there are many different products on the market but I was wondering which I should purchase. If anyone has any preferences  on certain productsI'd like your opinion please. I'm looking for a treatment for the actual snake and a treatment to treat the cage. I will treat all my snakes and cages as a precauction. Thanks in advance!

A: You're undoubtedly going to get a variety of replies with treatments ranging in efficacy, safety and expense.  There's no single "right way" to tackle this, although there are a handful of ways to do it wrong.  My recommendation -- first thing -- is to submerge Pandora's actual cage in shallow water (assuming you can find something it will fit in).  This is a control measure.  Mites on a snake are an annoying nuisance, but mites on all your snakes is infernally frustrating and much more difficult to manage.  Although the sheer number of them seen can be intimidating, they can actually only spread by crawling from one cage to the next or by you accidentally carrying them from one cage to the next.  They cannot jump, hop, fly, etc and they most certainly cannot swim.  This is one reason snakes will seek refuge in water; it's the one place they can go where the mites will detach and drown pretty quickly.  So once again, if you can set Pandora's cage in a tub of water and practice strict hygiene when working in her cage (i.e. feeding or cleaning her last, washing your hands/body, changing clothes, etc.) there's a good chance you can keep them contained.

With regard to actual treatment, I've had great success with vapona (dichlorvos) available in the Hot Shot "No-pest strips" you can purchase from Lowes or Home Depot, and the chemical -- used properly -- is well-tolerated by pythons as a group.  These chemically impregnated strips are designed to release pesticide into the air and keep entire rooms free of bugs.  The stuff is actually pretty toxic and it's very water soluble, so you only want to use this as long as it takes to clear the infestation.  While wearing rubber gloves, open the No-pest strip box and cut off a small chunk of the yellow strip and place it in a small ramekin or deli cup with holes punched in it.  Placing it in a hole punched ramekin ensures that the pesticide can dissipate into the air without the snake coming into direct contact with it.   REMOVE THE SNAKE'S WATER BOWL DURING TREATMENT.  Pesticide from the air will settle and dissolve in the water bowl and, unfortunately, dichlorvos toxicity from sloppy treatment is all too commonly seen in veterinary practice.  I leave the ramekin in the cage for 24 hours before removing it, replacing the water bowl, and repeating again a few days later.  It's best, obviously, if all cage furniture is removed and bleached (or better: discarded) at this time.  It rarely takes more than a few treatments in this way before the mites are killed and your husbandry can return to normal.  As a disclaimer though, I typically keep the snake on white paper towels and treat again a week or two out to ensure anything not killed at the egg stage will be destroyed as it’s emerging.
Another unusual but important word of caution is that dichlorvos is extremely toxic to invertebrates (duh).  If you keep tarantulas, centipedes, or anything else without a backbone you'd be wise to move them out of the house until some time after the mites are under control and you've concluded treatments.
Good luck! - BJW

Additional Info: The Life History of Snake Mites

Q: What is the best way to treat Mouth Rot?

Q: Sigh... As a reference please see this entry.

So now, my little Cheeto has the early stages of mouth rot. Lips are swollen, he hasn't eaten, and I can see small spots of blood on the more swollen side. So the question is, what now? I've treated him immediately with a 50/50 water & Hydrogen Peroxide solution and then followed that with Neosporin. The humidity in his bin is perfect (in fact, I might let it dry out for tonight so as not to encourage the bacteria) and I will be raising the ambient temps to 85-90. Anything else?

MORE IMPORTANTLY: Has anyone sucessfully treated this without seeing a vet? Can I get baytril without a vet appointment? To be completely honest, I don't have the patience to watch "exotic vets" manhandle my baby snake and/or give me things that won't work. HELP before this gets WORSE! Thank you <3

A: Mostly good advice all around, just a few comments. 

Recognize that you're operating on the assumption that this is a bacterial mouth rot.  It's a very GOOD assumption as most cases are bacterial in origin, but fungal, neoplastic and even viral etiologies should be in the back of your mind if this becomes chronic and refuses to respond to the usual treatment.  Anyway...

Don't ever use neosporin in the mouth, even on the gums.  It's a strong mucous irritant and it's not metabolized well when it gets into the circulation.  Your topical regimen sounds spot on.  I also like both dilute listerine as well as dilute chlorhexidine.  The maxiguard sounds reasonable too, though I don't have any experience with it in snakes.  If there's a lot of caseous debris, the H2O2 can help fo fizz away some of the smaller bits and you can follow it with listerine or nolvasan to targer the bacteria underneath.

If this has been occurring longer than you've realized, the infection may be deeper than you know and your topicals may not be reaching the site of infection.  In that case, systemic antibiotics are ideal, but I do not recommend baytril as it's powerfully cytolytic in reptiles (they absorb/metabolize the injection MUCH more slowly than mammals and it's been associated with local tissue damage -- I've burned my own snakes with this stuff on the vet's orders and learned the hard way).  If I had to choose one drug, ceftazadime has a good track record in snakes and is very broad spectrum, targeting both anaerobes as well as the aerobic usual suspects.  If you can pay for a cultuer/sensitivity though this is obviously a better and more targetted way to go.

Lastly, my self-serving plug... although you and others likely have legitimate reasons for distrusting self-proclaimed "exotics vets" -- hell, I've got a nightmare story too! -- please realize that there are a lot of snake-loving vets out there who are actually making incredible strides for the health of our captive reptiles, and they REALLY need your support.  The same way you die a little inside every time you read some ignorant facebook comment about how snakes are slimy or dangerous pets, my heart aches every time I heard a blanket statement about how exotics vets are incompetent crooks.  Do your homework, make some phone calls and try to establish a good professional relationship with a competent reptile-oriented veterinarian, even if its long distance.  When you have a real emergency, you'll be glad to have a professional to turn to! - BJW


Q: Are these eggs good? (doubtful but I figured I would ask)

Q: I looked for other questions that have been answered, but none that really seemed to help. I have looked around online, and found that most likely, my eggs are all duds. But, I figured as a last grasp for hope that I would post the image here.


For omelettes, yes! 

I had a few of these this year, myself.  I incubate everything for at least a few weeks just in case, but those look like they'd do better fresh with mayonaisse and some diced celery.


Q: Relocating long distance with multiple animals

Q: In about two months we will be moving from Ohio to Florida. We have multiple animals, 60+, and I'm curious to hear from others who have made a long distance haul with multiple animals, good tips on safe travel, ways to reduce stress on animals, etc. The total trip is about 20-24 hours depending on traffic and stops. We have the option to stop roughly mid way in TN (family resides there) to stop for a breather or for the night. I'm not sure what would be best for the animals, to be able to give them a break, let them stretch their legs and whatnot, or to just tough it out and fly striaght through. I have, what I believe, to be adequate transport containers but I wouldn't mind hearing from anyone on what they have used and the success they had. Thanks.

A: I've never had to move lizards, but for snakes I've put the larger ones in pillow cases (deli cups or other such containers work well for small snakes) and then placed them in styrofoam coolers.  The pillow cases preclude a "snakes on a plane" type of incident and the styrofoam coolers seem to keep temperatures fairly stable during the trip.  A few stops were necessary during my trip to change some soiled pillow cases, but the animals seemed to tolerate it fairly well and all settled in comfortably after the move.  Best of luck!


Q: Can we make our herps sick?

Q: I know this maybe a stupid question, and some of you may laugh at me for being ignorant, but my Daughters recent illness has me thinking (not always a good thing)... I know we can catch mange, fleas, cat scratch fever, etc etc etc from cats and dogs, and a small chance of catching salamanilia (?) from our reps, but... can we give our reptiles an illness? I know if they don't have proper heat, ventilation, humidity, bad substrate, food etc etc etc they can become ill, but what about common cold, flu, strep, infections like MRSA, or stuff like that? Can they get ill from second hand smoke (BRIAN)? I work as a CNA and around some very contageous bacteria, and micro organisms and i take proper precautions not to bring them home to Kyrah, with universal precautions and stripping on my porch, although no matter what i do there is a slight chance i can pass it on. Can someone enlighten me on this? Can our reptiles be infected with a human illness? Dumb I know but I'm curious.

A: Great question -- not dumb at all -- with a lot of different elements to consider.  First, it's important to realize that not all microorganisms that we carry necessarily cause the same types of symptoms in both humans and reptiles, if they cause symptoms at all.  Salmonella bacteria, for example, are a normal part of a reptile's gastrointestinal flora, just like E. coli is a natural part of ours.  It doesn't mean that these can't cause serious harm if they end up in the wrong places.  There are definitely diseases you can bring home to your reptiles and care should be taken to avoid their introduction.  IBD and paramyxovirus are two deadly viral pathogens to reptiles (human adapted strains of the latter can cause measles, mumps, and pneumonia) that you might not even know you're carrying.  Both are strongly suspected to be transferred by fomites (e.g. contaminated clothing, dirty hands, etc) so be careful where you go and whose snakes you handle!  Reptile shows and zoos could be great places to inadvertently pick up these or other organisms like mites.  We share a lot of bacteria with our reptiles too.  Streptococcus, Enterococcus, and Pseudomonas bacteria all exist fairly commensally in our (and our reptiles') guts.  If you or your reptile's immune system is compromised though, any one or a number of these can proliferate opportunistically and begin to cause problems.  Mouth rot in snakes is usually a gram-negative opportunistic infection, for example, and rarely can one know definitively where the snake picked it up.  The role of the environment cannot be ignored either.  As you said in your question, poor living conditions can cause an animal to become sick, but this is not independent of the organisms you then proceeded to list.  A staphylococcal innoculation from you to your snake might be unlikely under normal circumstances, but put that stressed, undernourished snake in an environment with poor ventilation and too much humidity and you might have created the perfect environment for Staphylococcus to grow.  See what I mean?  Humans -- animals -- the environment we share: these are the backbone of a complex web of health-related interactions, the dynamics of which we're only beginning to understand.

The take home message is that although reptile-associated zoonoses are few and far between, there are still a lot of potentially dangerous things we can introduce to our snakes and vice versa, so it's always best to err on the side of caution.  Care should be taken to wash hands thoroughly before and after handling, especially for children (since they love putting their hands in their mouths).  I even make a habit of using a hand sanitizer between different snakes too.  Some routine precautions may seem tiresome and unnecessary, but if they keep you and your loved -- reptiles and children alike -- safe and healhy, you'll be glad you heeded them. - BJW


Q: Scale rot or not?

Q: I had my male Ball Python out today for some exercise and noticed that he has 2 "scabs" on the underside of his head. I have included a picture because they are hard to describe. Does anyone know what this is? I keep him and my female on cypress mulch and there isnt excess moisture on the cage floor, the basking temp is at about 85-90 and the cool end 72-75 humidity is about 40% right now. Please help!

A: While it could be an early, focal version of something similar, that doesn't look anything like full blown scale rot to me.  If it is though, you caught it about as early as could be humanly possible.  Regardless of what it is, use a Q-tip with a little betadine solution and wipe gently in the direction of the scales.  Then treat with a topical triple antibiotic like neosporin (the old school one, not the "plus" edition with pain killer).  Do that daily for a 4-7 days and keep his cage clean.  I'd be willing to bet it disappears as quickly as it popped up.  Good luck. - BJW


Q: I am considering having my snakes microchipped. Has anyone done this? Anyone else considering it?

Q: Just curious if this is something others have done or are considering doing. I have been thinking about it for a while now. My snakes mean the world to me and if somehow they escaped and were found, getting them home would be a lot easier if they were chipped. Shedding would concern me though. Please... share your thoughts.

A: From my understanding, the rationale behind microchipping snakes is a little different than that behind chipping other pets, like your dog.  There's -- as Nick mentions -- a legal requirement in certain states (like FL) for certain large (potentially "injurious") species to be chipped.  In the event that an escaped burmese or retic is found, the owner can be identified and slapped with a nasty fine.

On the opposite end of the spectrum, certain big-name breeders have talked about microchipping their snakes so that there would always be some digital record on the animal that PROVES the animal came from their stock.  Never again would you have to go on someone's word when you bought an animal online that it WAS in fact from VPI.  It would come with a microchip and a certificate proving so.  I've heard talk that some of those big-name breeders may begin to offer it as an option for an additional fee.  You can imagine how handy this might be if you're re-selling the snake down the road and want to make sure to get your money's worth...

Tagging your animals in case they got lost though is really just up to you...  Personally, I have my doubts that the animal would ever make it back to you.  It would have to survive long enough outside to be found in an environment that is, unless you keep native species, dramatically different than what it requires.  It would have to evade foreign predators like hawks, dogs, cats, cars, etc.  And then it would have to be found.  And not just found, but found by one of the few people who wouldn't seek to kill it outright, and also by someone with the foresight to wonder if its microchipped, take the snake to a vet or animal shelter, have it scanned (assuming they even know where to scan on a snake), and then contact you to get it home.  It's certainly something that could be done, as Nick said, to the tune of about $35 a snake.  But in my personal opinion, ensuring that your snakes never escape to begin with is a more sensible and economical option. - BJW


Q: Wtf? Vita-Lite?

Q: Ok, so I've been doing some lighting research for day geckos and I've been seeing a lot of literature pointing me in the direction of these "Vita-Lites". I have never personally used them, and in fact I've never HEARD of them until yesterday. I want a good full spectrum light for my geckos and frogs- these things are supposedly supposed to be SO close to natural daylight that they give off UVA AND UVB as well as the growth spectrum for plants. Sounds too good to be true, imo. So MY question is this:

1) Has anyone ever used these things? What were your results?
2) Are they really that effective? I don't want to pay 15 bucks a bulb and find out my plants are dying and my animals aren't getting enough UV...
3) Am I better off just using an aquarium light for my plants, plus a heat lamp (one that gives off UVB)?
4) If you HAVE day geckos, can you tell me what kind of lights YOU'RE using? I would assuming anything that gives off UVA would suffice, but I'm seeing a lot of emphasis on full spectrum lighting....

Unfortunately, little to no research has been done on these lights that I've found. I just see a lot of people advertising them for anything from office, medical use,  to birds and reptiles.

Anyone's input would be GREATLY appreciated :D

A: You're right to be a tad suspiscious -- a "vita-lite" sounds a little misleading from an advertising perspective.  These bulbs don't "beam" vitamins any more than I can shoot lasers out of my eyes.  The "vitamins" are synthesized from within your reptile by energy they derive, not exclusively from heat, but largely from the light spectra they experience while basking.  This, by the way, is why lighting requirements are less fastidious for most snakes (nocturnal animals have little need for sunlight).  For diurnal lizards though, basking in direct sunlight, or under bulbs that mimic the important parts of the daylight spectrum is extremely important.  Without access to these wavelengths, lizards will slowly (or sometimes rapidly!) deteriorate and eventually die from malnutrition or secondary immunosuppression.  Do some research and find out what kind of lighting is most important for your day geckos, and find a bulb that satisfies those requirements.  Remember: simulating the daylight spectrum is probably more than sufficient, so expensive designer pet bulbs are likely a waste of money.  I just bought an ECOlux daylight spectrum bulb at Wal-Mart the other day for under $15 -- and it was for a 4' bulb! - BJW


Q: Prolapse! Halp!

Q: How do i correct a rectal prolapse in Dover, my baby IJ carpet? I do not, repeat DO NOT have access to a good vet and i wont risk going to a sh*tty one. If you know how to correct this at home, please let me know. If your only advice is to go to the vet then please don’t respond. Thanks in advance.


A cloacal prolapse can be very serious and may very well require medical attention, but they're an easier battle than prolapsed hemipenes, and there's one option you might try first:  soak Dover in a cool bath (not typical lukewarm water, but notably cool -- low to mid 70s) with table sugar dissolved heavily in it.  The cool water constricts the blood vessles, and the sugar in the water creates a hypertonic (hypoosmotic) solution -- think back to high school bio -- drawing fluid from the tissue.  This reduces swelling and often shrinks the tissue enough that it will retract on its own.  If not, that plus a little KY jelly on a gloved finger, GENTLY encouraging the tissue back where it belongs, just may do the trick.  If this is unsuccessful, you will want to see a vet right away.  Good luck! - BJW


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!


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


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


Q: Is this boa too fat to breed?

Q: The main reason I asked, is that I'm finding myself in an unfamiliar place, as I'm used to the underweight snakes, not the obese snakes.  I found a very nice looking normal rtb that I had intentions of breeding this year.  Pictures are always deceiving, and I could tell she was a well fed girl, and at least 7 feet.  I was excited to get another breeding project gearing up for this upcoming season, to go with my two pastels.  Well, I swear this snake looks like it swallowed 50 f/t jumbo rats at once.  This girl easily weighs 35-40 pounds, and is just plain fat.  The guy who sold her to me was so proud of her size, as you could tell he really wanted a "big" snake.  I've never seen anything quite like her before, and my question is this: I know that overweight male snakes don't make good breeders, but what about the girls? Would the extra weight provide her with more nourishment for the babies? Or am I going to have to slim her down, and wait until next year? I want what's best for her, but had purchased her with breeding in mind.  Other than the weight, she seems healthy, and active enough to constantly test the limits of her cage (she's an escape artist per her previous owner).  Thanks!

A: Kudos to you for taking the time to consider this type of question before rushing into a potentially dangerous situation. She looks plump and eager to breed, but you're taking an unnecessary risk in breeding her if she's of questionable weight (I suppose the jury is still out on that one). I'd advise you to always err on the side of caution. You haven't really lost anything if you give her a year to settle in and lose some weight before breeding her -- I suppose you lose that breeding season. But if hastiness means you lose the snake, well... hindsight is 20/20. Use your best judgement. But that brings up the next question: how do you healthily reduce the weight of a snake? I mean, if sugarbusters fails, of course... Well, you're dealing with an ectotherm -- your snake's temperature, which you more or less control, determines her metabolism. This is NOT to say "turn up the heat and watch her shed the meat." You should never keep a snake at temperatures which exceed its species-specific requirements. That being said, however, make sure the gradient you offer her DOES cover the higher range of temperatures she needs to thoroughly digest meals and begin burning those calorie reserves. For RTBs I think these are upwards of 82 - 90º F, even up to 95º F in the basking area (cooler on the other side of the enclosure, of course, and at night) -- but double check these values, I'm not an expert. As with all species, exercise is also an important factor. If she won't chase a tennis ball, at least make sure her enclosure is large enough that she can crawl around and explore. If she's handleable get her out and really let her roam. The more she's moving the more energy she's using which, in biological terms, equates to flopping off the flub. Finally, of course, cut back her diet. Make sure to do this slowly though. Reptiles are slow to do everything and they don't appreciate sudden changes. Keep her on her current diet until she's settled. Once she's comfortable and established in her new home, slowly begin cutting back -- maybe continue feeding her what the previous owner was providing (e.g. 2 F/T adult rats once every 2 weeks), but smaller sized ones (e.g. medium-sized rats instead of JUMBO). Continue this until you arrive at something more compatible with a snake of her size. Use caution when feeding and handling her at this time; no one likes to be put on a diet, including your snake, and she's likely to become more temperamental. Be persistent and she'll get over it. Keep in mind, too, that smaller more frequent meals are always preferable and more conducive to healthy body weight than are larger less frequent meals (the same is true in humans!). Make sure she always has plenty of water and monitor her carefully to evaluate her progress. I hope this provides a good jump off point. Good luck to you and the 7-foot tubster! - BJW