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  1. #1
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    Ongoing health issues within BP collection

    Hi, I have mainly joined the forum to reach out for help with an ongoing health issue I have with my ball python collection. If anyone has similar past experience with the symptoms described in this summary, I would be grateful to receive any advice. Further detail, photos, vets notes are available.
    Thank you, Jos.

    • In 2019 one of my ball pythons convulsed making a flatulent noise. This was followed by it firing a mess out of its rear end. The faeces had an obnoxious smell and were diarrheal, loose with clear mucus mixed with other bodily fluids. Any food matter was undigested and in the fur of the prey was undigested. Then another showed similar symptoms, and another, affecting 3/30 animals with symptoms sometimes including regurgitation as well as discharge, (from both ends).
    • My initial thought was that I may have spiked their temperatures as I had to set the temp before leaving for work and there had been large variances during the day.
    • I separated the affected animals and sought veterinary advice. The convulsions and discharge episodes persisted over a period of a few months and randomly occured every fortnight or so. Eventually, it seemed to calm down and the worst of the symptoms ceased.
    • I am in my sixth season, all my husbandry parameters are spot on (temps, humidity) and I am stringent with hygiene procedures. They have their own room with a stable ambient temp of 24 degrees and housed in LP3 rack systems.
    • I have invested much time, effort and money in seeking vetinary help but to little advantage. Advice often seems based on speculation without able to diagnose whether it be a bacterial infection, virus or any other disease. I had cultures taken, pooled and individual faecal samples sent off to the labs, I even had one snake euthanized and a post mortem conducted for the greater good of the collection.
    • The history of faecal samples that have been sent off to the lab have all come back negative for all bacterial disease and viruses. A floatation done with a faecal sample back in 2019 showed up some nematode eggs. I treated this with metronidazole and fenbendazole. Around the same time a high level of yeast showed up in one of the animals. I used nystan to treat the individual. Other than that no other clear diagnoses have come from the vets.
    • After the recent post mortem on one of my animals, the only thing identified was a complicated strain of Salmonella. I ran seven courses of antibiotics for the whole collection. However, though there may have been a slight improvement, I’m still seeing poo that’s pale in colour slightly loose and the tail end of the logs containing mostly undigested fur from its food source. History seems to show a pattern of a time gap of dormancy followed by flaring up again On the whole they all look great, 100% healthy and are all smashing their food. However whatever the sinister issue is has now taken over my entire collection. I know something still remains within the collection as none of their faeces look quite right
    • Could it be a coccidian species playing havoc within the gut of the animals??? Could it be from a bad batch of food? Cryptosporidium keeps coming up as negative. Could it be Emeria or another salmonella species? Most snakes carry a certain level of salmonella right? Is it a gram+ Gram- imbalance in the gut? Or could it be a virus of some description that has got inside the stomach? A virus of some description could be possible as in the way it has spread through my entire collection
    • So this is a last call for help! I will continue to try and find the right diagnosis and treatment, but if anybody knows of any similar circumstances or outcomes (or if you know someone who might), then please get in touch.
    Last edited by Josleggett; 11-21-2021 at 03:43 PM.

  2. #2
    BPnet Veteran nikkubus's Avatar
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    Re: Ongoing health issues within BP collection

    Quote Originally Posted by Josleggett View Post
    • After the recent post mortem on one of my animals, the only thing identified was a complicated strain of Salmonella. I ran seven courses of antibiotics for the whole collection. However, though there may have been a slight improvement, Iím still seeing poo thatís pale in colour slightly loose and the tail end of the logs containing mostly undigested fur from its food source. History seems to show a pattern of a time gap of dormancy followed by flaring up again On the whole they all look great, 100% healthy and are all smashing their food. However whatever the sinister issue is has now taken over my entire collection. I know something still remains within the collection as none of their faeces look quite right
    This is way beyond my expertise, but how long ago was this step of treatment? What I do know is that reptiles take a much longer time to recover from any illness than mammals do. Could it be that the salmonella caused a serious disruption in gut bacteria and that somehow it needs to be re-seeded with something similar to how humans eat yogurt after a strong course of antibiotics or serious gut bacteria disruption? How has their weight and diet been compared to what you would expect, are they gaining the amount of weight you think they should for how much they are eating? Have you tried slowing down between meals more and offering smaller than usual prey items to help their gut recover? I'm just trying to think of anything I would want to investigate based on the information you gave, but I've never dealt with anything like this in reptiles.

    I'm sorry you are going through such a difficult situation and hope that somehow you are able to get to the bottom of it.
    7.22 BP 1.4 corn 1.1 SD retic 0.1 hognose

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  4. #3
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    What an odd thing to have happen so often.

    At a glance, a lot of your symptoms sound like bacterial infections I've seen in young cornsnakes.
    Sadly with anything like salmonella, it's difficult to say where the bacteria is originating. Reptiles are known to regularly carry salmonella.
    You may have an entire colony harboring that strain of bacteria and are possibly reinfecting the ones who are more heavily infected if you haven't treated all of the animals. The other possibility is that they were fed rodents that are carrying the strain as well. If it's a particular breeder you're receiving your rodents from, that can be in issue as well.

    Otherwise, I'm going to piggyback on what Nikkubus mentioned about feeding. Over the years, I've seen a few things with feeding that can cause those kind of stools.
    1. temps are on the hot side and the snakes are not properly metabolizing the meal.
    2. Powerfeeding too large of a meal or too many meals too close together
    3. feeding too close to a shed. Some animals metabolize much differently when in shed compared to others.

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  6. #4
    BPnet Veteran Lord Sorril's Avatar
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    Re: Ongoing health issues within BP collection

    Your description of issues makes me think of a few possible scenarios: Temperature, food source contamination, and Cryptosporidium (as you already mentioned). Any testing done for Crypto that is not explicitly PCR based: I would rule as unreliable. PCR testing can be pricey and I have had to personally request the test at my Vets office vs. their standard method.

    For temperature: IMO: I think 24C is too cold for ambient. I did keep mine at 24C (to simulate winter) for several months and the result was a respiratory infection, several regurges, and a plethora of digestion issues in my colony. I've been holding at 26.7C stable now 24/365.25---no issues for almost a decade now. That is just my experience--I know lower temps 'work' for some people. I do still have a hatchling every now and then that has an issue with digestion, but, it balances out as they get older.

    Just some thoughts...Best of Luck!
    *.* TNTC

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  8. #5
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    I would rule out crypto as it likely would have been picked up in the necropsy, plus this has been going on for two years and crypto kills faster than that.

    After the course of antibiotics did you treat them with a reptile probiotic such as Nutribac? It helps re-establish good gut flora that get killed off by the antibiotic.

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  10. #6
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    I've never experienced anything like you're describing in my snakes either, & I've kept a great many for 35+ years now (mostly not BPs)- but I have to say that this is a job for an experienced herp veterinarian, it's not something we can begin to diagnose in an online forum, other than to share any similar experiences.

    And I agree with Lord Sorril that 24* C ambient is too chilly for BPs- their immune system doesn't function well at cooler temperatures- that's why some snakes (not talking BPs specifically, just snakes in general) get sick or even die when brumated (even when they appeared healthy at the start, & empty of food in the GI tract).

    It's bad enough to have one or two sick snakes- can't imagine the stress having your collection so affected. I hope you find the cause & effective treatment- & if you do, please keep us posted. You never know when the same mystery illness will turn up elsewhere- & likely it already has, but so far not to any of us currently responding.

    I've been very fortunate in that I've never had any sort of illness that affected more than one of my snakes, much less my entire collection at any given time over these years. BTW, I also agree that probiotics (for reptiles) are a good idea after any course of antibiotics given to snakes to help their digestion recover.
    Last edited by Bogertophis; 11-21-2021 at 05:35 PM.
    Rudeness is the weak man's imitation of strength.
    Eric Hoffer (1902 - 1983)

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  12. #7
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    Re: Ongoing health issues within BP collection

    Hi.

    The veterinary courses of action I have taken is a list literally as long as my arm! However, I'd be happy to leave it as a link on here for you to take a look at if they would let me and you think it might help?

    I tried to obtain Nutribac in order to get some friendly bacteria into them. You can't get it over here unfortunately. Now, I have finished the latest course of Antibiotics on the snakes, I have taken action and today ordered a similar product called Vetark's retoboost. This should arrive in the next day or two and so I can actively try that.That will certainly be something to try next.

    As you also mentioned, I have brought feeding down to a minimum of once a week or fortnightly with smaller items offered. As I imagine this would put less stress on their gut system. These efforts haven't seemed to benefit in any way other than a smaller sample of the same sorts being passed instead of a large amount. If this makes sense? Other than this, all the snakes look bullet proof and 100% fit and healthy. which makes the whole situation even more infuriating!

    Thanks for your condolences. It's an emotional rollercoaster! Such as Confused, Sadness, beyond my capability, anger, inadequate resentment even. Not looking for sympathy. This is just fact!





    You have raised a few generic good points. thanks again.

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    Re: Ongoing health issues within BP collection

    Is it really that odd? When every time someone tries to sell you a snake they tell you it's pooing properly?

    How did you treat the similar symptoms you mentioned in young corn snakes?

    You would think after all the screening done, samples taken and one of my snakes euthanized and put under the knife that anything bacterial would show up!? Also, although some bacteria strains are stubborn to treatment, you would expect some resolve through all the past treatments/medication action taken. I wouldn't like to push more than seven courses of antibiotics for 40 snakes and would expect that to knock the back out of any diagnosis!
    Which makes me also speculate!, that it could be viral and got into the gut?

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    Re: Ongoing health issues within BP collection

    Hello.
    Roughly all six tests for cryptosporidium have been sent to the PALS laboratory services. Also the snake I had euthanized had a virology report done. Theirs's no other methods I can obtain. Of course all the negative outcomes could be false negative.

    With regards to temps. When I say my ambient temperature is 24 degrees-That's the room temperature gained by the use of oil radiators. At the top level of the racks it is actually 1 degree hotter.

    Within the racks I have a hot spot of 32 degrees and a gradient of 32-26 degrees. I noticed symptoms flared up slightly when I tempted to raise the room (ambient) temperature. Outside temps here in the UK are just below freezing currently. Without heating room temps would be roughly 14 at a push. I have digital thermometers on each level of my racks and a garmin linked to my phone so it is all quite regularly controlled these days. The other problem I find if I raise the ambient room temps is the snakes just al move to the front of the tubs! I never drop my temps for mating purposes. Our temperate climates do this naturally. Although I try to keep them constant all year round. So I don't get RI.

    Cheers mate.

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    Re: Ongoing health issues within BP collection

    Agreed Crpto would have shown up-Deffinately. Unless each result is false negative. There are at least two other types of Coccidia which all relate to salmonella If I'm right? Emeria is one of them and I have tried Sera's Emerol to no affect?

    Probiotics are on the way now I have ran the antibiotics.

    Cheers.

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