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  1. #1
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    Boa Health Declining Quickly- Advice Needed

    Hello

    I am new to snakes, and I got my first snake, a boa, in fall of 2020. He is around 9 months old now, but I am very worried about him.

    I bought him from a local pet store that said he came from a local breeder. He is, as far as I know, a standard BCI. He has a 4x2x1.5 PVC viv. The ambient temperature is always between 77 and 80, with floor temps measured by an IR gun being 75 in the coolest spot, 80 in the middle, 83 on the hot side, and a basking spot of 88-90. There are 2 under tank heaters and a CHE maintaining temps on thermostats. He has coco fiber substrate, rocks, and tons of wood and leaf clutter so that he feels safe. Humidity on the cool side is usually around 55-58% and humidity on the hot side is usually around 60-63%.

    He seemed to thrive for a while, but since about six to seven months he has started declining. He is losing weight, despite eating as large of a meal as I can safely give him (almost) weekly. He weighs less than he did when I got him. He sheds regularly and has grown in length but not by much. He is 90g right now and I am feeding him ~11-12g rodents weekly, if he will take them. As of the last month his feeding has been intermittent. Sometimes he wont take it at all, sometimes I'll feed him and a day later he'll be back at the front of the cage looking for more. He has never regurgitated but he will lie on his back while eating.

    He is weakening. When he was younger he hung to my arm very well but now he falls off of it very easily and appears to wobble when trying to stretch. He also spends most of his time pressed against the front of his viv on the hot side , with half his body on the ground and the other half pointing straight up leaning against the glass. He drinks a lot of water, and I've listened to him breathe and checked his mouth and body for any signs such as mouth rot, scale rot, clicking/wheezing breathing, mites or ticks, but there isnt anything I can identify.

    I live out in the country and the closest reptile vet is 4+ hour drive away. I took him there soon after I first got him and they said he was a healthy snake, but it was just a generic visit. I am a student and I have classes during the week, and by the time I get done with classes it is too late to make the long drive to the vet. We have no breaks coming until May. I dont know what to do. A few months ago he was nearly 120g, now I struggle to keep him above the 80s. Is there anything I can do to help him?? ((

  2. #2
    Registered User WrongPython's Avatar
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    Re: Boa Health Declining Quickly- Advice Needed

    Sorry to hear that you're having trouble with your boa, OP.

    Isolate your boa from any other reptiles you have immediately. Your boa is throwing some red flags for something called IBD (Inclusion Body Disease), which is unfortunately circulating within the captive boa population (particularly within morph boas/common BIs). Otherwise unexplained weight loss and a loss of coordination are common symptoms. Call your reptile vet, see if you can get a quick opinion over the phone, and consider getting your boa in to get tested for IBD through the University of Florida. It's not uncommon for baby boas to be a bit uncoordinated and wobble a little when they make a Big Stretch, but this sounds like it could be something more.

    The only other thing I could think of that would cause such weight loss is a parasite infection. A fecal test could establish if parasites are at fault quickly. Being weak from weight loss could explain your boa's loss of coordination and weakness.

    Your enclosure is a bit on the large size for a boa that young and your hot spot could be about two degrees cooler, but it sounds like your boa is otherwise okay with that setup if they're eating regularly and out and about.

    Good luck!
    0.1 Sonoran Boa sigma​: "Adelita" ('19 Hypo het. leopard)
    1.0 Boa imperator longicauda: "Kuzco" ('19 het. anery)
    0.1 West Papuan Morelia spilota​: "Pandora" ('20)

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  4. #3
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    That's an awful lot of weight loss & I'm sorry to say it sounds pretty serious. I think a vet visit is what you need- this doesn't sound like a husbandry issue, unless he was ever over-heated??? (Excessive heat can cause neurological damage to snakes- but you said you're using t-stats & all that.)

    Was he fed live rodents? Either by you or before you got him, IF you know? I ask because live rodents can share parasites like intestinal worms that steal a snake's food & health. But this could be something else & I don't wish to speculate. It's not appropriate or ethical to diagnose a seriously ill snake over the internet that we haven't even seen in real life, even IF we were veterinarians, which we are not- some of us are long time keepers & breeders of snakes with many years of experience, but that's all, so please believe me when I say you need some lab work done if you hope to save this snake. Waiting = more risk. Sorry if it's not convenient, so much of life isn't.

    If you need more vet options: https://arav.site-ym.com/search/custom.asp?id=3661

    Your initial vet check-up wasn't likely to turn up anything- snakes are too stoic for that, so unless they did real lab work (blood & stool) & for actual symptoms, they were just re-assuring you with very little information to support their conclusion. Pet stores have tons of temptation, but keep in mind that their unfortunate animals have often been shipped to them from a long ways away under crowded & very stressful conditions (that weakens their immune system) & with exposure to both captive-bred & wild caught, native & non-native reptiles, some of which are likely to be ill or carriers of diseases & parasites- so bottom line, it's a risky place to buy a snake. In the past, when I was a new keeper, I have done so also, but it takes "luck" too.

    Good luck, I hope you get him some help, quickly. I'll admit that IBD crosses my mind too- pythons tend to get very sick much quicker whereas boas can have this for a while before becoming symptomatic. Sure hope that's not what it is though- again, you need professional vet help on this.
    Last edited by Bogertophis; 04-02-2021 at 06:18 PM.
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    Thank you for your responses. I'm going to call the vet on Monday first thing. I hope I will be able to get him in quickly.

    I dont have any other reptiles, so unless he has something that could pass to dogs or cats, I think that there shouldn't be an issue.

    I have looked at his poop but never seen anything too concerning in it, but I will save his next poop to get it tested.

    He has never overheated to my knowledge. I have always had his cage on thermostats, one for each heating element with the probes directly above the heating pads on the bottom of the PVC cage, secured with thermal tape. The CHE is for ambient temperatures more than it is a basking area, but I do monitor the area directly below it and the branch next to it to make sure they're not getting too hot. Where I live it can get very cold in the winters, which is why i invested in a PVC cage so early.

    He has never eaten live rodents to my knowledge, and I have always fed him f/t rodents. He might have as a hatchling though.

    I fed him today. He has gotten worse since the last I fed him. He curled into a tight ball like a curly fry at first and was striking somewhat everywhere. He bit and dropped the rodent twice, I wasnt sure he was going to take it. When he did finally start to eat it after I helped a little, he kept spinning around while doing so and started bobbing up and down afterwards, before going to his favourite digesting branch. I have seen him lying on his back while eating before, and he has never been the most accurate, but this was much worse than I have seen before. It will be at least two days before the vet opens and I may not get into the vet that day either though I hope that I will.

  7. #5
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    Just a hunch on my part but does he happen to be a morph? Is he all black?

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  9. #6
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    Re: Boa Health Declining Quickly- Advice Needed

    Quote Originally Posted by OatBoii View Post
    Thank you for your responses. I'm going to call the vet on Monday first thing. I hope I will be able to get him in quickly.

    I dont have any other reptiles, so unless he has something that could pass to dogs or cats, I think that there shouldn't be an issue.

    I have looked at his poop but never seen anything too concerning in it, but I will save his next poop to get it tested.

    He has never overheated to my knowledge. I have always had his cage on thermostats, one for each heating element with the probes directly above the heating pads on the bottom of the PVC cage, secured with thermal tape. The CHE is for ambient temperatures more than it is a basking area, but I do monitor the area directly below it and the branch next to it to make sure they're not getting too hot. Where I live it can get very cold in the winters, which is why i invested in a PVC cage so early.

    He has never eaten live rodents to my knowledge, and I have always fed him f/t rodents. He might have as a hatchling though.

    I fed him today. He has gotten worse since the last I fed him. He curled into a tight ball like a curly fry at first and was striking somewhat everywhere. He bit and dropped the rodent twice, I wasnt sure he was going to take it. When he did finally start to eat it after I helped a little, he kept spinning around while doing so and started bobbing up and down afterwards, before going to his favourite digesting branch. I have seen him lying on his back while eating before, and he has never been the most accurate, but this was much worse than I have seen before. It will be at least two days before the vet opens and I may not get into the vet that day either though I hope that I will.
    The vet you're planning to see does have plenty of experience with snakes & other reptiles, right? (I know some vets will see anything just to help out, but reptile medicine is quite different, so hopefully yours is listed with ARAV.)

    The stool has to be fresh (same day, preferably much less than full day) for the vet to see much. They do a fecal float & use magnification (microscope) to check- not likely you'd see anything.

    It sounds like you've given him very good care (though I agree w/ previous post that the highest temps. could be a couple- 2-3- degrees lower). I kept a BCI for many years, btw.

    His symptoms (loss of coordination) seem to be neurological & serious, I'm sorry to say. I'm very glad this is your only reptile right now, so you don't have to worry about contagion to others. And no, it's very unlikely to be anything that dogs or cats could catch- that's one big difference with our cold-blooded pals. They can't pass much to us either.

    Any chance he's been exposed to some sort of toxic chemical? That's another possible explanation for this sort of thing.

    I hope the vet can help with whatever this is- & I hope you'll update us here too.
    Rudeness is the weak man's imitation of strength.
    Eric Hoffer (1902 - 1983)

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  11. #7
    Registered User WrongPython's Avatar
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    Re: Boa Health Declining Quickly- Advice Needed

    Quote Originally Posted by OatBoii View Post
    He curled into a tight ball like a curly fry at first and was striking somewhat everywhere. He bit and dropped the rodent twice, I wasnt sure he was going to take it. When he did finally start to eat it after I helped a little, he kept spinning around while doing so and started bobbing up and down afterwards, before going to his favourite digesting branch.
    ...based on what I've read and heard, this really sounds like end-stage neurological symptoms of IBD. I can't actually and ethically offer you a diagnosis (not a vet, and even if I was I couldn't ethically give you one over the internet), but I can suggest that you prepare yourself for one. Unfortunately, there is no cure for IBD, and euthanasia is generally seen as the most humane option for animals in the end stages of the disease.

    I highly suggest using the herp vet locator that Bogertophis shared and seeing if there are any other herp vets around you. Give them a call, tell them your boa's symptoms, your concerns about IBD, and ask to be seen as soon as possible. This is an urgent, serious matter and you should get your boa to the vet as soon as possible. If your vet does come back an IBD diagnosis, please know that this isn't your fault. A large part of the reason why IBD is as prevalent as it is within the hobby is unscrupulous breeding, the refusal of many breeders to test, and the fact that boas can be asymptomatic for years before the disease manifests. The fault isn't on you, particularly as a new keeper.

    If it's any consolation, there is currently no evidence that IBD can spread to or effect dogs, cats, or humans.
    0.1 Sonoran Boa sigma​: "Adelita" ('19 Hypo het. leopard)
    1.0 Boa imperator longicauda: "Kuzco" ('19 het. anery)
    0.1 West Papuan Morelia spilota​: "Pandora" ('20)

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    He is not a morph, as for as I know he is a common BCI. He may have hets if he actually came from a local breeder, but if he does I dont know them. He was sold to me as a common BCI so I'm assuming that's all he is.

    The vet I am going to call is experienced with reptiles but is not ARAV Certified. There are only 3 ARAV certified vets in my entire state, one of which does not work at a vet clinic, one is a university professor, and the third is a vet for the zoo. I used the link provided in an earlier reply and did some research. I'm not sure I could get in contact with any of these veterinarians, let alone get an appointment with them. One of them used to work at a vet clinic though- should i call that clinic and ask if they have another experienced reptile vet?

    Thank you for the heads up about the fecal. And I will lower his temps a few degrees as well. It is also good to hear that none of the mammals in the house are in danger either.

    I dont believe he has been exposed to anything. I clean his tank with reptile safe cleaners. There hasn't been a bug spray in my house since last spring, and it's not early enough for the planes to be crop dusting yet. We havent started gardening yet either this year, so the chances of me bringing in anything from the fields is low. We dont make a habit of using any pesticides or other treatments anyways, but we do clean the house a lot. Every other day. However, my snake is in a room that we clean sparingly, and I have never used any chemical cleaners within 10 or so feet of him. Plus, I always wash my hands before and after I handle him, so i dont think it's that either. But it's possible I'm missing something? How much or little exposure would be needed to cause such serious issues? I hate the idea that our constant cleaning may have gotten chemicals in the air or something and caused all this :ccc

    Edited for new response-

    I was somewhat thinking that this was perhaps something terminal or unfixable like IBD. I wish there was an ARAV Certified vet near me, but the closest one that actually works at a clinic is in another state, over 8 hours away, and I'm not certain he would even survive the trip. I have already started looking into euthanasia. I just dont want him to suffer, and seeing him today struggling so much it really made me think about how to tell whether he has quality of life left anymore. I dont want him to slowly starve to death Could my town vet put him to sleep even if they're just a normal cat/dog vet?
    Last edited by OatBoii; 04-02-2021 at 11:53 PM.

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    Re: Boa Health Declining Quickly- Advice Needed

    Quote Originally Posted by OatBoii View Post
    He is not a morph, as for as I know he is a common BCI. He may have hets if he actually came from a local breeder, but if he does I dont know them. He was sold to me as a common BCI so I'm assuming that's all he is.

    The vet I am going to call is experienced with reptiles but is not ARAV Certified. There are only 3 ARAV certified vets in my entire state, one of which does not work at a vet clinic, one is a university professor, and the third is a vet for the zoo. I used the link provided in an earlier reply and did some research. I'm not sure I could get in contact with any of these veterinarians, let alone get an appointment with them. One of them used to work at a vet clinic though- should i call that clinic and ask if they have another experienced reptile vet?

    Thank you for the heads up about the fecal. And I will lower his temps a few degrees as well. It is also good to hear that none of the mammals in the house are in danger either.

    I dont believe he has been exposed to anything. I clean his tank with reptile safe cleaners. There hasn't been a bug spray in my house since last spring, and it's not early enough for the planes to be crop dusting yet. We havent started gardening yet either this year, so the chances of me bringing in anything from the fields is low. We dont make a habit of using any pesticides or other treatments anyways, but we do clean the house a lot. Every other day. However, my snake is in a room that we clean sparingly, and I have never used any chemical cleaners within 10 or so feet of him. Plus, I always wash my hands before and after I handle him, so i dont think it's that either. But it's possible I'm missing something? How much or little exposure would be needed to cause such serious issues? I hate the idea that our constant cleaning may have gotten chemicals in the air or something and caused all this :ccc

    Edited for new response-

    I was somewhat thinking that this was perhaps something terminal or unfixable like IBD. I wish there was an ARAV Certified vet near me, but the closest one that actually works at a clinic is in another state, over 8 hours away, and I'm not certain he would even survive the trip. I have already started looking into euthanasia. I just dont want him to suffer, and seeing him today struggling so much it really made me think about how to tell whether he has quality of life left anymore. I dont want him to slowly starve to death Could my town vet put him to sleep even if they're just a normal cat/dog vet?
    Darn, I was hoping it was a neurological idiosyncrasy associated with some morphs as was hinted at by bcr229. I've not heard of this in boas (only BPs), but I'd take bcr229's word for it.

    You'll have to do the best you can as far as choosing a vet. I think the IBD test requires a blood sample to be sent to FL- if your vet can do that, it would sure help.

    You mentioned crop dusting in your area- can you smell it in your house? If so, I'd suspect that's enough to affect your snake- they're much smaller than us, & simple creatures whose bodies don't handle toxic things very well.

    Another thing I've seen (though it was MANY years ago) was a few pet stores that (at the time, not knowing any better) were using pieces or even entire flea collars intended for dogs & cats in the enclosures that housed their reptiles to rid them of the mites they came in with. This sort of exposure could slowly poison them, sadly, though maybe not before they were sold to unsuspecting pet buyers & thereafter went downhill. Any chance your local pet store did something like that?

    What sort of cleaners do you use? Plenty of them are toxic to reptiles- things that leave a lingering scent from certain plant oils (like cedar)- that's a maybe?

    As far as IBD- I'm glad you're prepared for the possibility- can't say that's what it is- I'm real concerned about the crop dusting where you are too. But yes, your regular vet can probably euthanize successfully IF it comes to that and IF they're willing to try- they can also do a phone consultation first with a more qualified herp vet to be sure they know what to do. I sure hope it doesn't come to that. But like you said, I wouldn't let him suffer either, if it comes to something you can't fix & his quality of life can't be recovered.
    Rudeness is the weak man's imitation of strength.
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  17. #10
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    Re: Boa Health Declining Quickly- Advice Needed

    Quote Originally Posted by Bogertophis View Post
    Darn, I was hoping it was a neurological idiosyncrasy associated with some morphs as was hinted at by bcr229. I've not heard of this in boas (only BPs), but I'd take bcr229's word for it.
    I was thinking someone may have dumped a super motley onto an unsuspecting pet store. Yes there are unethical breeders out there who still produce them.

    There are a LOT of potential conditions that cause the symptoms being described, ranging from viral infections to overheating to exposure to chemicals. Without a vet visit, bloodwork, and a ton of tests or a necropsy should the boa pass away there's no way to know.

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