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  1. #1
    BPnet Lifer Skiploder's Avatar
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    Respiratory Infections - The Basics

    I donít think more than a few days go by without seeing a post or two about respiratory infections in snakes.

    A couple of disturbing trends tend to rear their heads with these types of posts.

    The first is that ownerís hesitancy to take the animal to a qualified reptile vet for evaluation and treatment. Letís be clear in that no one on these forums is qualified to diagnose or treat a sick animal over the internet. Respiratory infections need to be diagnosed and treated by a vet, period.

    The first thing you should do when you purchase a snake is research and pick a qualified herp vet in your area. New purchases should be cleared during QT with a fecal sample, so waiting for your animal to contract a disease before you research vets in your area is inexcusable. Find one before there is a problem.

    Second is the advice that is given. Raise temps, lower temps, raise humidity, lower humidity. Be very careful in both giving and following advice of this nature. The only thing that should be done without consulting a vet is bumping up temps a few degrees which help out the immune system and mobilizes respiratory secretions. Any messing around with humidity should be done with extreme care as excess humidity can actually make problems worse Ė mainly in the fact that it is a combination of high humidity and poor ventilation that allows harmful bacteria to take a foothold in a micro environment like a snake enclosure. The link between low humidity and RIs has not been proven, no matter what common wisdom claims. Either way, it is always best to provide a micro climate such as a humid hide in lieu of turning the entire enclosure into a Petri dish.

    Snakes do not have to be exposed to another sick animal to contract a respiratory infection. Bacterial infections of this type are often caused by nothing more than already present gram negative or positive bacteria that take advantage of an immuno-suppressed host.

    Sadly, a lot of the advice that gets bandied about on these forums can lead to stressed snakes. Also a lot of advice can inadvertently also lead to the proliferation of potentially harmful bacteria.

    For example, it is not uncommon to ďhearĒ people recommending giving snakes baths or feeding the in separate containers. Both of these recommendations are more often than not completely unnecessary and does nothing more than stress the animal.

    We also consistently see people advocating keeping the whole enclosure humid. When we keep these animals in small enclosures with constant misting and poor ventilation, we do nothing but create fertile breeding grounds for potentially harmful bacteria.

    Stand alone viral infections in snakes are fairly rare and can lead to respiratory infections only in that the stress of being afflicted with the virus often opens the animal up to secondary bacterial infections. The exception being OPMV, which more often that not targets the respiratory system.

    To summarize the list of respiratory infection causes, it all often comes down to nothing more than environment: making sure temperatures are correct, that proper ventilation is provided, that urates/urine/feces are promptly cleaned up and spot sanitized, and that the entire enclosure is kept in as clean a condition as possible.

    When a snake contracts a RI, the most common symptoms are nasal discharge, open mouthed breathing (which includes holding the head at an elevated posture), wheezing, etc. These symptoms will be fairly constant as opposed to stressed breathing due to being handled or pieces of shed stuck in the nares which are episodic.

    It is also important to stress that when you take you animal to the vet, that you ensure that proper treatment is being administered. Remember that you are the client and that the vet is working for you. As such, unless the animal is at deathís door, the vet should culture the infection in order to determine which antibiotic the causative bacteria is most susceptible to.

    Too often we see instances where snakes are prescribed meds without the infection being cultured and then have to endure several rounds of antibiotic therapy while the vet blindly searches for an antibiotic that works. This is unnecessary, expensive and more importantly stressful to the snake. The goal is to quickly and effectively treat the infection and to not subject the animal to under stress (numerous vet visits, injections, etc.)

    Due to the stressful nature of undergoing antibiotic treatment, sick animals should not be fed during this time. Most treatments are in two to three day intervals, which narrow the window for feeding and handling without the risk of a regurge/stress induced-vomiting. The last thing the owner and animal need while fending off a RI is dealing with regurges.

    Another thing to consider is the administering of the shots. Some people have no issues doing this at home; others need to take their animals in every few days for the injections. The key is to recognize YOU limitations. If you do not feel comfortable injecting your snake, the best course of action is to fork over the extra money and have it done at the vetís office. Some vets recognize that snakes do not travel well and for a small fee, will make a house visit to administer the shots. This cuts back greatly on the amount of stress on the animal.

    The keys here are as follows:

    1) Make sure your husbandry is spot on and that you are not facilitating the overgrowth of bacteria in your snakeís environment.

    2) If your snake is exhibiting RI symptoms, donít waste time shopping for advice on a forum, take the animal in to a qualified vet. Be very cautious of any advice you follow from someone who is not a vet. Have a vet on hand before your snake gets sick.

    3) Make sure that the vet cultures the causative bacteria before prescribing an antibiotic.

    4) Make sure you are comfortable administering antibiotic injections.

    There are other things I guess we could cover here, but these are the basics.

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  3. #2
    BPnet Senior Member TheSnakeEye's Avatar
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    After reading your post, I was wondering. Is there any supplement that we can maybe put in their water as to health with their immune system? Kind of like acidophilus for the stomach, but instead just something for overall health?
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  5. #3
    BPnet Veteran Abaddon91's Avatar
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    one thing i would like to point out is at least with my vet who is the most recomended in san antonio. he dosent like to do cultures for $100ish and wait 3-5 days before the results come in , when baytril cost $6 and amicacin cost $12. that being said i did ask for a culture and recived baytril until the results came in and then got amicacin that cleared it up FAST. that was the drug that the vet originaly wanted to go with
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  7. #4
    BPnet Senior Member L.West's Avatar
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    Re: Respiratory Infections - The Basics

    Thanks for this great post - but I do have a question - so I should not be rinsing my snakes off when I get up in the morning to find that they are laying in their own waste??

    I usually just rinse them in the sink - use a little baby shampoo - rinse them off and back into their tub they go.

    I surely don't want to do anything to harm them - someone please advise.

    Thank you
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  9. #5
    BPnet Lifer Skiploder's Avatar
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    Re: Respiratory Infections - The Basics

    Quote Originally Posted by Abaddon91 View Post
    one thing i would like to point out is at least with my vet who is the most recomended in san antonio. he dosent like to do cultures for $100ish and wait 3-5 days before the results come in , when baytril cost $6 and amicacin cost $12. that being said i did ask for a culture and recived baytril until the results came in and then got amicacin that cleared it up FAST. that was the drug that the vet originaly wanted to go with
    A vet will often give an initial injection while the culture is being processed.

    The selection of the antibiotic injected will often be based on infections that the vet has been seeing over the past six months to a year.

    That's why selecting a vet that regularly treats herps is so important.

  10. #6
    BPnet Lifer Skiploder's Avatar
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    Re: Respiratory Infections - The Basics

    Quote Originally Posted by L.West View Post
    I do have a question - so I should not be rinsing my snakes off when I get up in the morning to find that they are laying in their own waste??

    I usually just rinse them in the sink - use a little baby shampoo - rinse them off and back into their tub they go.

    I surely don't want to do anything to harm them - someone please advise.

    Thank you
    I would recommend using either Hibiclens or diluted chlorhexidine sprayed directly onto the animal while in its cage or in hand, then lightly wiped off.

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  12. #7
    BPnet Lifer Skiploder's Avatar
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    Re: Respiratory Infections - The Basics

    Quote Originally Posted by that_dc5 View Post
    After reading your post, I was wondering. Is there any supplement that we can maybe put in their water as to health with their immune system? Kind of like acidophilus for the stomach, but instead just something for overall health?
    For the immune system - not that I know of.

    You can use either Benebac or ReptiBac as a probiotic for reptiles. The former is readily found at Petco - usually in the bird section. The latter is found online and at some specialty stores.

    You can sprinkle the powder directly on the prey item.

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  14. #8
    BPnet Senior Member kitedemon's Avatar
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    Skip great post!

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    Great Post and Helpful

    Thank You
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  17. #10
    BPnet Lifer h00blah's Avatar
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    Re: Respiratory Infections - The Basics

    Quote Originally Posted by Skiploder View Post
    The link between low humidity and RIs has not been proven, no matter what common wisdom claims.
    I believe that there's definitely a link between low humidity and RIs. Not because someone told me so, but because I've experienced it with my own BP.

    long story short - my BP showed symptoms of RI (wheezing and i saw 1 bubble coming out of his nose). I called my vet and set an appointment. For the 3 days leading up to the vet visit, I was misting the tub because it was extremely lower than what i learned it needed, then when vet time came, my bp was fine.. No wheezing, and earned a clean bill of health... I even went back to do a fecal!

    I'm not saying that boosting humidity is the fix for RI, but when I noticed my BP is showing signs, I checked the most basic environmental requirements that i learned.. Temps and humidity.. This is proof enough for me personally
    Quote Originally Posted by reixox View Post
    BPs are like pokemon. you tell yourself you're not going to get sucked in. but some how you just gotta catch'em all.

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