Signs of illness in a boa constrictor might be hard to identify. Since your boa is not going to be crying to let you know she's in pain or feeling sick, it's up to you to figure out if she's healthy or not. Learning the signs of illness and what constitutes normal behavior and habits will go a long way to help you keep her healthy and happy.
A healthy appetite is always a good sign that your pet boa constrictor is healthy. Young boas eat at least once a week, while adults can be fed two to three times a month. A healthy boa will likely accept both frozen and freshly killed rats or mice -- which should be smaller than the girth of your snake at mid-body. If yours is ignoring the food you place in the tank or cage, it might be sign that something's amiss.
Chronic regurgitation is a rather common problem in which your boa regurgitates partially digested food. Because it can lead to dehydration and potentially kill your snake, it's important that you always check the habitat to make sure there are no bits of regurgitated prey around. Although it can happen anytime, the most common time for regurgitation is between three and five days after you offered food. A healthy boa should not regurgitate, ever -- so if you notice this, a visit to the vet is in order to determine what's causing the problem. Regurgitation could be caused by anything from stress to bacteria, including the presence of a serious retrovirus that causes inclusion body disease (IBD), which is not only fatal but also contagious to other snakes.
Boa constrictors have smooth skin with bright browns and blacks. Lumps could be an indication of everything from cancer to scarring, which often appears after a bite from a live prey. Peeling, scale rot or skin discharge could indicate the presence of bacteria and might require antibiotics, which are usually applied directly on the skin. A healthy boa constrictor will shed its skin easily and completely. Partial shedding could be an indication of dysecdysis, an abnormal form of peeling that's caused by parasites, acute stress or nutritional problems.
A healthy boa will breathe softly and quietly, so you won't be able to hear it. Difficulty in breathing is often a sign of a respiratory infection. If your boa is wheezing, has difficulty breathing or you see any discharge coming out of his mouth or nostrils, your boa is either sick or very distressed.
Tammy Dray has been writing since 1996. She specializes in health, wellness and travel topics and has credits in various publications including Woman's Day, Marie Claire, Adirondack Life and Self. She is also a seasoned independent traveler and a certified personal trainer and nutrition consultant. Dray is pursuing a criminal justice degree at Penn Foster College.