An often neglected part in snake care are the various diseases from which the animals can be vulnerable even despite good housing conditions. Experience has shown that animals that have been taken from nature get sick faster than in the wild.
Although the risk is lower, offspring can also get sick. For the animal to be treated, it is important to recognize an illness at an early stage – not an easy task for the beginner. That is why it is important to keep a close eye on your pets.
A snake can signal discomfort in a variety of ways, but unfortunately never as clearly as other pets. If there is a change in the behavior of the snake, such as
- Refusal to eat
- Increased water intake
- Incomplete shedding
- Increased aggressiveness
These are usually a first signals. If the snake is no longer looking for its usual sleeping / resting or sun spots, you should also watch your animals more closely.
If a disease progresses, the animals eventually become so weak that they no longer go to their usual resting places and lie around stretched out. External changes are also visible: the sides sink in due to malnutrition, the mouth does not close properly, the snakes hardly tongue-in-cheek and can be removed from the container without resistance, since they are already too weak for an escape reaction. All of these signs indicate an already advanced disease.
However, the behavior of a snake also changes in other processes that have nothing to do with a disease, such as shedding, mating, pregnancy, hibernation, etc. – so it is important to inform yourself thoroughly about your fosterlings to correctly change behavior interpret and not to misunderstand as illness.
If you have a sick snake that needs treatment, you very often have the problem that many veterinarians have little experience in treating sick reptiles. When choosing a veterinarian, you should therefore take the time to find a veterinarian experienced in reptiles. Under no circumstances should you try to treat your snake yourself with medication on suspicion, as this usually has fatal consequences. In many cases, antibiotic treatment is required, which should always be coordinated with a veterinarian.
If you want to treat a sick animal, you should first isolate it from the other snakes to reduce the risk of infection. To do this, you should set up a special quarantine tank for the sick snake. In this container, the equipment should be limited to the bare minimum, a water bowl and a hiding place are sufficient for now. The temperatures in the quarantine basin should be a little higher than normal and should hardly drop at night. It is important to have a hygienic substrate that can be replaced immediately if it becomes dirty.
Common Health Problems
Intestinal occurrences can happen, for example, due to lack of exercise, stress, indigestion, muscle weakness, nerve paralysis or improper nutrition (too frequent feeding, too large, or unusual prey animals). Parts of the intestine are usually pressed out of the cloaca during decoction and can no longer be withdrawn. The tissue then swells up quickly and then looks like a bubble.
Green tree pythons still have a reputation for prone to bowel prolapse, but this problem usually only occurs in young animals. So far it has mostly been assumed that an intestinal prolapse is primarily due to feeding unfamiliar prey. As has now been recognized, rather unfavorable climatic parameters contribute to this problem. Young animals that are kept permanently at high humidity and at the same time at temperatures at the upper limit (around 31 ° C) digest very quickly, which in turn means that they vomit more often and faster. The droppings become porridge-like, which can cause problems for the young animals, since they then often vomit for a very long time and pull the intestine over the branch again and again.
If you find an animal with a bowel prolapse, countermeasures must be taken immediately. This includes first cleaning the tissue from the substrate, then applying conventional table sugar to the fallen tissue to remove water and reduce swelling. When the swelling has subsided, you can try to gently massage the tissue back with a damp Q-tip. Sometimes the protruding piece of intestine is pulled in again by itself. You will only be successful if the fabric is not deep red / purple or encrusted. If you are unsuccessful, or parts of the intestinal tissue are already inflamed or dead, you should take the animal to the vet, as part of the intestine or the intestinal mucosa can be surgically removed.
The cloaca opening is usually narrowed by a so-called “tobacco pouch seam” to prevent further incidents. In the next weeks / months, only small, easily digestible feed animals in the form of plain mice / rats should be offered.
Male snakes may experience a hemipenis incident if the animal tries to mate and the female is either unwilling or flees during the mating act. This can twist, stretch, or otherwise damage the tissue so that the hemipenis can no longer be drawn in. The same applies here: If the situation does not improve within a few days by massaging yourself carefully, the organ must be examined by the veterinarian and removed if necessary. Local after-treatment with antibiotic ointments is advisable.
Like all other living things, snakes can become dehydrated. In most cases, the animals dry out due to constant high temperatures, lack of drinking water or insufficient ambient humidity. Untreated wooden terrariums, for example, extract moisture from the air. The same problem is encountered when using wooden bedding or similar absorbent substrates as the substrate. For this reason, either glass, plastic-coated wood, or plastics such as Styrofoam / Styrodur should be used for terrarium construction. If you have used untreated wood, it is advisable to line the pool with cork boards and seal it with silicone.
Dehydration usually occurs when the floor temperature is too high and the snake has no way to escape to cooler and humid areas. If the relative humidity is still too low, dehydration of the animal is only a matter of time. Other sources of error are excessive heating of the sun spots due to excessive radiator power. In particular, tree-dwelling animals often lie on a directly illuminated branch for too long and dry out slowly, even if the ambient humidity in the container is high. The problem can be avoided by reducing the heat output of the spotlights with a dimmer and not directly illuminating the sun branches, but slightly offset to the side.
Floor heating should be avoided if possible if you keep digging snake species, as the animals can then come into direct contact with the hot cable heating / heating mats. The heat regulation mechanism of snakes usually does not protect the animals from too much heat “from below”, so that the main source of heat should always be a radiator. Floor heating systems should only be used indirectly and should not heat the floor too much (25-26 ° C maximum, depending on the type). With good insulation or a suitable room temperature, you can usually do without underfloor heating.
Another important factor is the relative humidity in the terrarium room. Especially in midsummer, when the room temperatures rise sharply and in winter, when the room air becomes drier due to constant heating, the humidity in the terrarium should be checked daily and regulated accordingly by spraying warm water. In the case of moisture-loving snake species, part of the soil substrate can also be kept moist, if possible also a container with a moist substrate (“wet box”), which many specimens like to visit outside of the molting period.
If a snake, especially a small one, appears to be very dehydrated (the skin becomes wrinkled, which becomes particularly visible when the snake curls up), countermeasures should be taken immediately: First of all, one should improve the keeping conditions, spray more mist and partially moisten the substrate . If the air humidity is permanently too low, the ventilation areas should be reduced. More severely affected animals can be placed in a container with a moist substrate for 1-2 days, but should not let the night temperatures drop too much.
Specimens usually recover within a few days, provided there is no important harm. If the symptoms don’t improve after a few days, administration of electrolytes may be useful (oral or intramuscular). In the case of very small animals, only oral administration through a pharynx is possible; larger animals can be given an injection by the veterinarian. An injection is usually more effective than an absorption of the liquid through the gastrointestinal tract. A so-called Ringer’s solution is usually administered. This is a diluted NaCL solution that can be obtained from the veterinarian. The administration of normal drinking water does not make sense, since the body cannot absorb sufficient amounts of drinking water with normal salt concentration through the gastrointestinal tract if there is a lack of water. Do not wait too long with the treatment, because dehydration usually causes further problems.
Refusing To Eat
f a snake doesn’t want to eat anymore, it doesn’t always have to be related to an illness. One should first remember that times of “not wanting to eat” are completely normal for snakes. Many owners are concerned when an animal skips feeding. However, this is not a cause for concern, in most cases the cause is natural metabolic breaks, such as a mating mood. Of course, postural errors can also be behind this behavior, the possible reasons for refusing to eat are ultimately very different, such as:
- Too low / high temperature in the container
- The snake has been placed in a new container or has been purchased
- The animal is in the shedding phase, in which prey is rarely acquired
- An overfilled container (too many animals in one container means stress, as the snakes interfere with each other in their resting phases)
- The wrong food is offered
- Disease such as gastrointestinal tract, respiratory infection, mouth rot affect the eating of the snake
- The snake is infested with parasites
- There is a stress-related problem
- The animal takes a natural rest (winter / summer rest)
- It is a male snake in a mating state
If you can rule out mistakes in posture and have previously eaten the animal regularly, you can safely wait for several weeks to months, depending on the health of the snake.
It is not uncommon in males that nothing is eaten for up to six months. Males in a mating mood or pregnant females are among the most common food refusers. In such cases, only waiting will help, the snakes will start eating again when they are ready for it and not when the owner so wishes. Until then you have to be patient and do not try to “persuade” the animal with other prey.
However, if the animal is weakened or previously ill and loses substance, countermeasures should be taken. Under no circumstances may you force feed if you do not know the reason for the refusal to eat. If the animal during a natural resting period (as in winter), food can usually not be digested, since the metabolism is not adjusted to food intake and the forcibly administered food may not be able to utilize it. Unfortunately, in the case of animals refusing to feed, it is generally not possible to examine a faecal sample, so that you have to rely on your records or the statements of the seller. This shows again that it is advisable to examine a sample of faeces from new arrivals,
If you cannot avoid forced feeding, you should do it as gently as possible: It is best (especially for already weakened animals) to prepare a porridge from scraped meat and egg and give it to the snake using a gavage. The tube should be carefully inserted into the throat so that the animal does not get the porridge into the windpipe and does not gag immediately. This procedure should be repeated until the snake has regained its strength. If the snake digests the substitute food well, you can stuff it with small prey, which you should always voluntarily offer to the animal beforehand.
Vitamins are organic compounds that the organism does not need as an energy source, but for other vital functions, but most of them cannot be synthesized by the metabolism. They therefore have to be ingested with food. Read more about our article about vitamin deficiency