COMMON AILMENTS AND HOW TO TREAT THEM
Written by Zoe Stevens
Note: The following information pertains to Candoia c paulsoni, but in many cases can be applied to other snake or lizard species. The information below should not replace the advice of a qualified reptile veterinarian. I welcome additions to this list as I know I haven't covered nearly everything!
As mentioned earlier, your snake may need to be treated for external or internal parasites. Internal parasites are not usually easy to spot in fecal matter, so if your snake is passing feces, you should have a qualified reptile vet do a fecal exam ($20-$30) to check for internal parasites, and treat if required. If your snake is not passing feces, you should still treat for internal parasites as wild caught specimens are often afflicted.
External parasites can be snake mites or ticks. Ticks will be large and obvious, and can easily be removed. Just make sure that you also remove the mandibles which are buried under the scales, or infection can occur. Mites are more common but less easy to spot; rub the snake with a moist paper towel. If you see small black spots on the paper towel (rather like pepper), these are likely mites. They may also move, and if you squish them, a small smear of blood will show up on the paper towel.
Mites (Ophionyssus natricis) are small black parasites that live and feed on snakes. They bury themselves under the snake's scales, mainly around the head and neck, and feed off the snake's blood. They do not affect other animals (mammals, lizards, birds). You may see small, round black "bugs" the size of a pinhead crawling on the snake; you may observe your snake soaking more than usual; you may observe black dots in the water after a soak. As a final test, take a piece of wet paper towel and rub it along the snake; if your snake has mites, you will likely see small black spots (the size of ground pepper) on the sheet. You can squish them, and you may observe a small smear of blood.
Most hobbiests encounter mites at one time or another, because many wildcaught snakes are afflicted. In the wild, mites are less of an issue because the same external conditions that affect wild snakes - water, predators, cold snaps, etc - also affect the mites. So, while a wild snake may indeed have mites, they don't often become a debilitating infestation. In captivity, however, we tend to keep our snakes in ideal conditions - steady, warm temperature, perfect humidity, comfortable enclosure etc - which are also ideal conditions for mites. The mite population expands, and can eventually affect your snake by causing discomfort and stress, and dehydration.
There are several commercial mite treatments available such as Provent-A-Mite and Black Knight. These are deadly chemicals and should never be used directly on your snake. You may wish to use them on the inside of the cage and any non-porous cage furniture while the snake is being kept in a sterilite / rubbermaid bin during treatment.
The NIX treatment is also quite popular, and involves diluting the lice treatment shampoo in water and spraying the enclosure and snake. However, the Nix mite treatment also poses a risk to your snake if used directly on the snake or in a cage with a snake in it.
Although Vapona Pest strips are very unrecommended, some keepers continue to use them, either in the room itself as a safeguard, or in/around a cage to trap mites. Vapona is extremely toxic (and has been outlawed in certain areas). Vapona should only ever be used in a cage in a room that does not contain any animals. It's not so good for people, either.
Any of the above methods may not result in the death of your snake (immediate or otherwise), but it certainly can occur and has occurred. Please do not use chemicals to treat your snake for mites.
A method recently suggested to me is the Ivory Soap Nix Treatment. Ivory soap is safe and non-toxic, and although the entire treatment process is fairly labour-intensive, you will feel much better about the results.
If your snake is housed in a natural setup or wood cage, remove him to a clean Rubbermaid or Sterilite tub, with just the basics (plastic hide box and water dish).
Remove and discard all substrate from the cage.
Discard all porous decor such as wood. You may boil or bake the wood to kill the mites, or use it for lizards which will not be affected by the mites.
Remove all other cage furniture such as water dish, hide box, and give it a good cleaning with dish soap and hot water, rinse, and let it dry.
Clean and disinfect the cage using hot water and ivory dish soap, hot water and bleach (allow to dry for at least 4 days before re-introducing any animals to the cage) or any other safe method.
Take your snake and a bar of ivory soap, lather up and wash your snake, head and face included. Rinse to wash away any dead mites, and lather again and return the snake to its cage, leaving the lather to dry on the snake, suffocating the mites. Repeat every two days for two weeks, while also replacing paper towel / newspaper and rinsing down the Rubbermaid tub.
Injesting some soap won't hurt him, but wash and refill your snake's water dish daily.
Treat your ENTIRE collection, as well as any new snakes you acquire because mites can lie dormant or fly in under the radar, remaining unapparent for months.
If you're getting a Solomon Island Ground Boa (or any snake) from a really bad importer or abusive home, it may have any manner of lesions, scrapes, burns, or cuts. These types of injuries can also occur in even the most conscientious keeper's home by accident. If your snake has an injury, treat it with some regular polysporin or neosporin. Apply the cream at least once a day until the injury heals. If the injury seems infected or is not healing, a course of antibiotics is recommended.
Scale rot occurs when a snake is kept in poor, dirty conditions. It is a relatively serious condition that may require veterinary attention if it is not caught quickly. A snake afflicted by scale rot will have "mushy", leaky brown scales. If the area affected is small, you can treat it by first cleaning up the cage and providing excellent, clean conditions. Then get some betadine, and dilute it in a rubbermaid filled with a few inches of water until it is the colour of weak tea. Soak the snake for an hour or so. It is advisable to let your snake soak in plain water for a while first, where it can drink and poop if it needs to. When the snake is done soaking in the betadine solution, apply some polysporin or neosporin to the affected area(s). Do this at least once a day, and the scale rot should clear up within a couple sheds. Your snake will likely shed more often during this time. If the rot does not improve, it may be indicative of another problem (internal infections can sometimes manifest themselves externally as scale rot), or that your conditions are still not adequate, and you should see a vet as soon as possible.
RESPIRATORY INFECTION (RI)
RIs are fairly common in Candoia. An RI is sometimes referred to as "The Pops and Clicks" - because you can tell that your Candoia has an RI by the popping sound it makes when it breathes. The snake may also hold its mouth partly open. An RI is kind of like a cold or flu - it is generally caused by poor conditions (too cold), but seems to occur as a result of stress in freshly imported Solomon Island Ground Boas. A serious case of RI will need to be treated by a vet. A mild case can be treated by providing the snake with a very warm hot spot, no stress, and modest-sized food items until the infection clears up.
ZOE'S SITE: http://www.candoia.ca