Chapter 8 Snakes

Snakes are popular reptile pets, and there has been a resurgence in their popularity with the breeding of a variety of colour morphs. A huge number of species are available in the pet-trade, but the commonly kept species are listed in Table 8.1.

Table 8.1 Commonly kept species of snake: Key facts

Species Notes Common disorders
The royal python (Python regius) This is a small python, growing to 90–120 cm. It has a not undeserved reputation for prolonged fasting, probably as a result of poor husbandry and endogenous cycles, although this is less pronounced with the modern captive-bred individuals and colour morphs Dermatitis, dysecdysis and pneumonia. Anorexia, especially in wild caught or captive farmed individuals
The Burmese python (Python morulus bivittatus) This python is a potentially very large snake; adults can reach up to 5–7 m long with a large muscular cross-section. Adults are usually reasonably behaved but hatchlings and youngsters can be aggressive Dysecdysis, burns, pneumonia, inclusion body disease (IBD)
Boa constrictor (Constrictor constrictor) A large snake up to 1.8–3.0 m long. Usually handleable but some individuals can be aggressive. Several colour morphs available and there is some selective breeding to reduce size using naturally occurring dwarf island subspecies Snake mites, dysecdysis, inclusion body disease (IBD)
Corn snake (Elaphe guttata guttata) Moderate-sized rodent-eating snakes that make excellent introductions to snake-keeping. This is probably the nearest there is to a domestic snake; it is available in a very wide range of colour morphs, grows to a manageable size (around 1.0 m) and readily takes frozen-defrosted prey Dysecdysis, cryptosporidium
King snakes (Lampropeltis spp) King snakes are natural predators of snakes and other reptiles and so are usually kept individually Dysecdysis, obesity
Garter snakes (Thamnophis spp) Small to medium-sized snakes. Can be nervous on handling. Many of these are earthworm, fish and amphibian predators, although they can be readily converted on to mammalian prey Septicaemia, thiamine deficiency

The internal anatomy of a snake is shown in Figure 8.1 (see also ‘Radiography’, in Musculoskeletal Disorders).

Consultation and handling

A healthy snake should be reasonably alert and responsive to touch. If it is flaccid or exhibiting CNS signs, such as ‘star-gazing’ it is likely to be suffering a septicaemia, poisoning or possibly a protozoal infection such as acanthamoeba.

Start the examination at the head and work backwards. Larger snakes such as the pythons and boas may require one or more people to hold them while you perform your examination. A gag is usually required to open the mouth – wooden spatulas work reasonably well and are less traumatic than metal equivalents. Do not encourage staff or clients to drape large constricting snakes across the shoulders and around the neck because if the snake feels insecure, it may well tighten its grip unexpectedly.

Venomous snakes require specialist handling equipment and should only be handled by a competent herpetologist or while under an anaesthetic.

Nursing care

Provide an appropriate environment, including provision of:

Skin disorders

Differential diagnoses of skin disorders

See also Skin Disorders, in Lizards

Treatment/specific therapy

Respiratory tract disorders

Gastrointestinal tract disorders

Treatment/specific therapy

Aug 21, 2016 | Posted by in EXOTIC, WILD, ZOO | Comments Off on Snakes
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