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Fortunately, for snake owners, snakes do not catch communicable diseases like parvo or rabies. While snakes can transmit viral and bacterial infections or parasites, most pet snakes essentially live a life of isolation. In practice, these loners do not often transmit communicable diseases. Accordingly, there are not any vaccines available or necessary for your pet snake. Despite this, snakes can and do sometimes fall ill, requiring veterinary attention.
Common Health Concerns of Snakes
A number of parasites can afflict snakes; they are invariably present in wild-caught snakes. Mites and ticks are common external parasites, whereas roundworms, protozoans and tapeworms are common internal parasites. Viral and bacterial infections often manifest as an upper respiratory infections or as stomatis -- commonly called mouth rot. In addition to disease, pet snakes occasionally fall victim to some type of trauma. Examples of trauma that require veterinary assistance include rodent bites, burns, lacerations, rostral abrasions, intestinal prolapse and retained eye caps. Dehydration and constipation are potential problems that arise when snakes are kept too warm or are not provided with sufficient water.
While vaccines are not available for snakes, several other preventative measures will help keep your pet snake healthy. Providing ideal husbandry for your pet will keep its immune system functioning well, allowing your snake to fight off invading pathogens quickly and remain strong. The vast majority of illnesses requiring veterinary attention can be avoided by purchasing captive-bred reptiles -- which usually lack the high parasite loads of wild caught reptiles -- and by providing good husbandry. Keep your pet’s cage clean and appropriately warm, and be sure to provide adequate water. Additionally, keeping your animal's stress level low will help ward off illness.
Not all health problems require veterinary attention; you can treat minor issues like a bad shed or small injury at home. Snakes require veterinary care for illnesses such as respiratory infections, internal parasites, mouth rot, egg binding, intestinal prolapse, prolonged constipation or anorexia, trauma, burns, or unusual skin conditions including lumps, blisters or sores. Use good judgment, and if you have any doubt, see your veterinarian. The best time to establish a relationship with a reptile-oriented veterinarian is before you even acquire your pet. This way, you can take your pet in for an immediate physical and treat any problems. Additionally, your veterinarian will be able to treat your snake better if it gets sick, if he's already familiar with you and your pet.
First Aid Kit
It's a good practice to keep a first-aid kit near your snake’s cage to deal with minor health problems. The kit should contain a gentle antibacterial soap, antiseptic, a triple-antibiotic gel, long cotton swabs and medical tape to deal with minor injuries or to help care for your snake on the way to the vet. A quality mite spray should be part of every snake keeper’s first aid kit. Tweezers are useful for a number of applications, and a soft plastic spatula can help gently open a snake’s mouth for inspection.