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Snake Health

The key to optimum health and longevity of captive snakes is the pursuit of sound husbandry and feeding practices. Equally important are the hobbyist's awareness of the potential health problems that can afflict captive snakes and the vital role of the experienced veterinarian in diagnosing and treating health problems.

Snake Health Problems

Remember that newly acquired snakes often have one or more health problems. A thorough veterinary evaluation (physical examination, fecal exam, blood and microbiologic work-ups) of the new acquisition is always recommended. Such an assessment determines the true (rather than the perceived) health status of the snake. A veterinary evaluation of this type should be undertaken once yearly as the basis for a preventive medicine program. The importance of periodic, routine veterinary examinations for disease prevention cannot be over-emphasized. When disease is suspected or obvious, veterinary assistance is mandatory to thoroughly evaluate the patient, arrive at a diagnosis as quickly as possible, and promptly institute appropriate treatment so that diseases are not allowed to progress unchecked. The veterinarian will need answers to a number of routine but very important questions when you present your snake for a routine health check or because of a suspected medical problem. This list includes the following questions and instructions:

  • From what source was the snake acquired? ( pet shop, private party, etc.)
  • Do you have any knowledge about previous owner(s) of the snake?
  • Do you have other snakes? If so, how many, and of which species?
  • What are the housing arrangements for the snakes? Any recent acquisitions?
  • Do you routinely quarantine new acquisitions?
  • Describe the dimensions of the enclosure in which this snake is housed.
  • Of what materials is the enclosure constructed?
  • What floor coverings are used in the enclosure?
  • What other items are used in the enclosure?
  • Describe the heat sources used in the enclosure.
  • What is the environmental temperature within the enclosure?
  • Is an artificial UV light source used?
  • Describe the water container/soak pit used.
  • Are hiding places provided for the snake?
  • What is the snake fed?
  • Is the snake fed live, stunned, freshly killed or thawed frozen prey?
  • How often is the snake fed?
  • Has the snake regurgitated recently?
  • When did the snake last defecate?
  • When did the snake last shed?
  • Was the shed complete (in one piece) or in pieces?