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Reptile Illness

Neferteri and pet

What is Wrong with My Snake?

by Neferteri Baiddou
posted October 5, 2010

Is your little one laying on his side or maybe he is not lifting his head when you come into the room? If your snake does not seem right to you then maybe it is time to take that trip to the veterinarian. I have been down this road several times, and let me tell you, it can be heart breaking–as well as expensive. I am the owner of 50 reptiles, half of which are snakes. You can’t imagine, that cute little coil of joy will get sick.

Reptiles are good at hiding their illness because in the wild they would be easy prey. This makes it challenging for those of us who have them in our homes.

So by the time you realize they are sick, it is usually pretty bad and it can be hard for them to recover, if at all.

Since my collection is a large one, I have seen it all. I had a lizard that decided he wanted to be a “vegan”. He would not eat any meat but would eat hard boil eggs. (Go figure!). A trip to the vet’s office found that he had a very expensive parasite. I have had several snakes with respiratory infections, which is a serious issue for a snake and the owner.

It usually involves giving the snake a shot, and snakes are worse than little children when it comes to shots.

Here is a favorite of mine: cleaning out a snake’s mouth, due to infections. This usually involves some creative maneuvering as you might imagine. A reptile don’t like you messing with his mouth. Ouch! However, my all time favorite is a snake gut that is impacted with fecal matter. You will have to soak the snake in warm water, and when he finally releases, the smell will kill you!

One of the first tell tale signs that your pet is ill, can be he won’t eat or drink water. I know this may sound strange, but another sign of something wrong is when they have laid to one side of the cage. If you hear coughing or wheezing, there is something wrong; snakes don’t normally cough. This sound means they can’t breathe. If your reptile regurgitates his food, you know that something is wrong.

So who are you going call? You will call “the herp vet” (herpetology veterinarian). I assure you–there is such a professional!

As the snake’s owner, you will have to interview or research to make sure you find the right veterinarian. You will want to ask how much experience have they had with reptiles. If the veterinarian said he is an exotic animal vet, make sure he knows about reptiles. Please trust me when I say you will regret it if you don’t ask! Where do you find such a person? Sometimes word of mouth or a reptile magazine or the Internet is the best place to start your search. One of the websites on which you can find a reptile vet is The Association of Reptile and Amphibian Veterinarians.

EquinoxA few years ago, one of my Argentine Boas became very sick: would not eat, and became dangerously dehydrated. I took him to what I thought was an exotic vet. The veterinarian was actual an aviary veterinarian. Here is the funny part: he wanted me to assist him because he was afraid! If you think that is bad, you never want to go to a emergency animal clinic with an injured snake. My baby Seiti, is a 6 ½ foot Albino Green Burmese Python, and he got hurt at his show. He got hit in the mouth, and I saw some blood. So, being the good snake-mother, I took him to the hospital. It was a Saturday night, of course (nothing happens during normal hours) so I took him to an emergency 24-hour veterinary hospital. I called ahead to the hospital, so they would know I was bring him in, and I was assured they could handle the situation. Not!

The veterinarian was uncomfortable with him and was not sure where to give him a shot. I had to tell him where to give the shot, and I still had to pay for that.

Oh well, there went my new skirt (but I would do it again in a minute).

I do speak from experience: please make certain the veterinarian can handle your reptile. After a few trial-and-errors, I have found a knowledgeable exotic veterinarian who is also a surgeon, and he really listens to his clients. He knows me and knows what I do with my reptiles, so that helps so much. He always offers me options that I can afford!

You also want to make sure the treatment (if there is one) is one that you can do and afford. I am telling you: taking care of a sick reptile can be quite time consuming and usually takes several weeks (if not months) for them to recover. Therefore, they will be on the disabled list for a long time. My veterinarian knows what I do with my reptiles, so he always tells me how long he recommends that my little friend stays “off it’s feet”. You never want to take a sick snake to a show because they are worst than kids as patients, and taking them out will effect their recovery.

However, if you are like me owning 50 plus animals, you will have to have a stand in; it’s a “Vegas,” thing!

I have a snake that would not eat, it had mites and was allergic to an over-the-counter spray I was giving her for the mites! My vet had me soak her everyday, tube feed her twice a day, and give her a shot everyday. It is a good thing that I work from my home because I have to pace the treatment for her and for me!

I rescued a leopard gecko several months ago. The previous owner (not a good one) did not know how to care for the gecko. It never ceases to amaze me that people buy a pet and don’t learn to take care of it! The little guy had about 5 layers of shed and would not eat.

I placed him in a plastic show box on my DVR (Sorry DirecTV!) because the heat was just right to keep the box warm enough to produce the humidity he needed. I tell you, one has to be creative when it comes to these little patients.

The gecko would not eat as well so I had to become “The food Emril,” of the reptile world. You don’t want to know what was in that protein mix, but I will never use that food processor again!

Oh! Did I mention I had to spoon feed this mixture? I now know why I don’t have any human children because I had to corner him in his cage, and trick him to opening his mouth. Then I had to clean him, the container, and myself. When all was said and done, 2 weeks later he was eating on his own and now is a health aggressive eater. He will do his first show next week!

If you want to own a snake or any reptile, be prepared and inform a vet if they get sick. You will be giving up that new costume because the vet bills can be expensive, hence, that is why I don’t have a brand new car. I am always concerned that I need to have funds for my animals’ care. So I will dancing until I am 90 at this rate.

There is an insurance for veterinary visits for reptiles, but I only know of one company that will insure them. A few years ago, I had my albino Burmese python insured because he was in a show on “The Strip,” in Las Vegas. If I remember correctly, the monthly fee was $18.00. It works like any other insurance: there is a deductible amount and you have to go to a veterinarian in the network. (Good luck with that!) I lucked out because my veterinarian is in the insurance network.

Meshugina is examined by Dr. Harkewicz. Her tumor has progressed to where she cannot open her mouth.


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