Snake infections


A wide variety of bacteria can cause generalized internal infections (septicemia). These bacteria may invade the body by way of wounds and abscesses or as a consequence of serious illness originally localized in the respiratory, gastrointestinal and reproductive tracts. The signs may be subtle or obvious and may include lethargy, anorexia, dehydration, and regurgitation of incompletely digested food, redness to the skin and scales, or bleeding from the skin. The help of a vet is essential and the rate of survival is usually poor. A blood sample is usually collected to determine the extent of the disease, whether or not various internal organs are involved, and as a means of monitoring the patient’s progress. Treatment involves use of injectable ntibiotics and appropriate supportive care and treatment must usually be relatively long-term.

Respiratory infections:

Respiratory infection is common in snakes. They may be associated with septicemia. Some respiratory illness may be the consequence of stress from poor or inadequate husbandry. Signs include loud respiration, discharge and/or bubbling from the nostrils and/or mouth, coughing and open-mouth breathing. Treatment must be aggressive.

Mouth Rot (Infectious or Ulcerative Stomatitis):

It is a bacterial infection that affects the oral lining. It usually begins with increased salivation, often saliva bubbles from the mouth. If you look closely you would see tiny pinpoint areas of bleeding. The lining become inflamed and pus begins to accumulate inside the mouth, especially among the teeth. The underlying bone becomes infected and the teeth fall out. This disease can only be successfully treated if caught in the early stages. The keeper needs to seek vet help when mouth rot is suspected. The vet may want to collect a saliva and pus specimen for bacterial culture and subsequent antibiotic sensitivity testing to determine the appropriate antibiotics to use. A blood sample can accurately assess the internal and overall status of the patient. Mouth rot is often an external manifestation of a more serious internal problem.

Treatment involves cleaning of the mouth, application of topical antibiotics, administration of fluids twice a day. Periodic forced feeding with a stomach tube will also be necessary. Snakes with heavy accumulations pus and infected bones of the jaw are unlikely to be saved. You must be alert to the early stages of the disease and periodically inspect the mouth for signs of mouth rot.

Blister disease:

Blister disease is common in many captive reptiles. It is mostly caused due to maintenance, animals kept in damp, filthy environments. The first sign is usually a pink to red appearance of the bottom-most scales. Later, these scales become swollen and infected by bacteria and fungi. If you say this you need to consult with a vet immediately. Treatment involves use of topical and injectable antibiotics. The sanitation and hygiene problems need to be corrected.
Blister disease is preventable if you are aware of it and if the enclosure in which captive snakes are housed is kept dry and clean.

Eye Infections:

Eye infection may be a result from an injury or due to a retained eye cap. These infections need to be treated aggressively. If possible the retained eye cap must first be removed. Infections involving the entire eye may result from trauma to the eye or from septicemia (body-wide) infection. In the latter case, the bacteria enter the eye by way of the bloodstream. Treatment involves use of topical and/or injectable antibiotics. Sometimes, drugs that help to exercises the iris are used to help prevent adhesions inside the eye.

Viral infections

Viral infections result in tumorous skin growths in many native snake species. Other viruses can cause digestive, respiratory and nervous system disease among snakes. Most viruses are highly contagious. Hobbyists must be aware of this and quarantine all newly acquired snakes for at least 6-8 weeks.

Fungal Infections:

Most of the infections involve the skin and respiratory system of the snake. Fungal infections of the eyes are most likely to occur in snakes housed in damp, contaminated environments. Ringworm fungi that usually infect people, pets and livestock have also caused skin infections in snakes. Snakes need to be housed in clean and dry enclosures. The flooring must be easy to clean and should not be of a material that encourages fungal (mold) growth.
A vet must examine snakes exhibiting problems with their skin and/or eyes as soon as possible.


My snake had carcinoma cancer in her intestines. There aren’t any documented cases of snakes that survived this type of cancer but mine did. She was operated on and they removed the tumour with great success, she is doing wonderful. You can see the photos of the tumour here:


Parasitic Diseases:

Snakes can be hosts to a large number of parasites and a huge variety of organisms that can cause many problems. It can cause serious diseases of the digestive, respiratory, reproductive and vascular blood and bloodstream. Tapeworms parasitize the digestive system. Flukes cause illness in the respiratory and urinary systems. Roundworms and related parasites inhabit the digestive tract, but their juvenile states can cause disease to other organs (especially the lungs) during the course of their migrations.

Mites and ticks are found on the skin and scales of snakes and create disease by feeding on the host’s blood. Signs depend on the parasite and body tissue involved. External parasites are usually easy to diagnose. Internal parasite problems require examination of various specimens, most often blood, feces, urinary tract products, and washings from the windpipe and lungs.


One of the most commonly recognized parasites of snakes is another protozoan, Trichomonas. This organism is often noted in the stools of. Infection with Trichomonas may result from ingestion of mice and rats, both of which often harbour the parasite without showing signs of illness. Infected snakes may exhibit no signs or those associated with gastrointestinal disease (inappetence, vomiting, and diarrhea). Some infected snakes may also have bacterial disease at the same time.


Amebiasis is one of the most significant parasite problems of captive snakes. This highly contagious disease is caused by a microscopic, one-celled organism (protozoan) called and ameba. Eating contaminated food and water containing the infective stage of this parasite easily infects snakes. The organisms cause extensive damage to the intestinal lining and liver. Secondary bacterial infections are very common. Signs of amebiasis include listlessness, inappetence, and foul-smelling feces containing mucus and blood.

Mite Infestation:

Snake mites are tiny spider-like organisms that are on and between the scales of snakes and tend to also congregate around their eyes. They are relatively easy to see. Mites are the most common and most dangerous of the external parasites of captive snakes. These mites feed on the blood of their hosts, causing anemia (often sever with heavy infestations). Blood feeding can also transmit viruses, at least one very serious disease-causing bacterium, and blood parasites. The snake mite completes its life cycle on its host. The females, however, lay up to 80 eggs off the snake within the immediate environment. This is one reason why particulate floor coverings (corncob material, pebbles, etc.) are not recommended. These substrates provide too many hiding places for the mites and their eggs.

Tick Infestation:

Ticks resemble oversized mites and occupy many of the same sites on the skin and scales of snakes as mites. They are often found just inside the mouth, nostrils or vent. Even under conditions of captivity, ticks rarely reach the burdensome numbers reached by mites.



Abscesses can be external and internal and is a common form of bacterial infection. External abscesses are usually the result of bite wounds or other injuries. Internal abscesses may be within one or more organ or within the body.

Rat/Mouse Attack:

Rats and mice will fight for their lives and turn on the snake. These bites can get seriously infected and a vet needs to treat it. Here is a story of a snake that was so badly bitten that he did not survive it.


Snakes sustain serious burns from unprotected or malfunctioning heat lamps or any other heat source. Snakes tend to not move away from the heat and get seriously burned.

Nose Abrasions:

This happens when a snake repeatedly tries to escape its enclosure. It damages the scales and the skin on the nose and if the trauma continues, deep ulceration of the nose and deformity may result. It is important to supply your snake with hiding places, it helps minimize stress.

Source by brian samsun