Health

Want to learn more about your snake? Are you worried that you might have a sick Dumeril’s boa? You’re in the right place! This is ReptiFiles’ table of contents for all things related to Dumeril’s boa health.

In the wild, a sick or weakened snake is a target for predators, so snakes have become experts at pretending to be well. As pets, this means that any reptile owner must be extra diligent in order to notice changes that may indicate illness.

  • Weigh your boa weekly – sudden weight loss often indicates illness.
  • Keep a weekly record of weight, feeding habits, behavior, shedding, etc.
  • Prepare a reptile first-aid kit so you won’t be left scrambling if your snake becomes sick or injured

If you’re looking for a reptile veterinarian near you, I recommend reading ReptiFiles’ article, Finding the Reptile Vet of Your Dreams, and checking out ARAV.org’s Find a Vet tool.

Disclaimer: I am not a reptile veterinarian nor a reptile health expert. The contents of these pages are to be used as guidelines, not professional medical advice. If you have an emergency, call an ARAV-certified reptile veterinarian immediately.


Head Rubbing

Symptoms: raw spots on head, constantly prowling the perimeter of the enclosure

Cause: hungry, looking for a mate, enclosure too small, mites, shedding

Treatment: If your Dum has developed any raw spots on its head, flush the wound with diluted chlorhexidine or iodine and treat with a triple antibiotic ointment like Neosporin (not the pain-relief formula). If all other factors have been ruled out, consider getting a larger enclosure and/or providing more enrichment items (loose substrate, additional hides, etc).

Mites

Visit this page for in-depth instructions on preventing, detecting, and eradicating mites. It was originally written for ball pythons, but the process is the same.

Respiratory Infection

Symptoms: lethargy, weight loss, decreased appetite, open-mouth breathing, bubbling mucus in nostril/mouth, audible breathing

Cause: cold temps, humidity too high, stress, starvation, poor hygiene

Treatment: Respiratory infections happen when bacteria infect the snake’s lungs. Check to make sure your temperatures, humidity, and heat gradient are correct. If you don’t clean your snake’s enclosure very often, step it up. Then take your snake to the exotic vet. They will prescribe antibiotic injections to clear up the infection.

Sexing

Ask an exotic vet to do it. They will use a technique called “probing” to find and identify your snake’s reproductive organs. While this is common practice, it should be left to the professionals–amateur work can permanently harm your beautiful snake.

Shedding

The pride of a snake keeper is in a clean, 1-piece shed. Once you notice that s/he is “in the blue,” bump up humidity to a consistent 60-70%. (“In the blue” = describes how a snake’s eyes turn bluish and opaque when about to shed) If your boa sheds in pieces, you need higher humidity next time. A humid hide filled with damp sphagnum moss can be the perfect solution.

Juveniles tend to shed in a 3-6 week cycle, depending on growth rate. Adults shed less often.

Weight (Gaining)

Symptoms: fat rolls, inability to see muscles under scales

Cause: overfeeding, lack of exercise, fatty prey

Treatment: A fat snake can develop fatty liver or heart disease, leading to an untimely death.

  • Feed smaller prey.
  • Feed rats instead of mice. Rats are generally leaner and more nutritious.
  • Make sure your boa is in an appropriately-sized enclosure, large enough to facilitate exercise. Regular handling can also encourage your snake to exercise. Go the extra mile by snake-proofing a small room (spare bedroom, bathroom, etc.) for exploration without fear of escape.

Record your snake’s weight 1-2x monthly to keep tabs on progress.

Weight (Losing)

Symptoms: dehydration, visible spine, not eating

Causes: parasites, low temps, illness

Treatment: Losing weight is more serious than gaining weight. If you have been recording your snake’s weight 1-2x monthly and noticing a constant decline, call your vet. Weight loss has a variety of possible causes, and the fastest way to find a solution is to get a veterinary examination. DO NOT FORCE FEED! Unless instructed to do so by the vet, this can actually make the snake’s condition worse.
For more information on keeping your Dumeril’s boa fit and healthy, read this article by Reptiles Magazine.