Snakes can suffer from many diseases, just like other kinds of pets can. One of the more serious diseases that pet boas can develop is inclusion body disease. Here are three things boa owners need to know about inclusion body disease.
What are the signs of inclusion body disease?
Inclusion body disease causes very serious symptoms in boas, although these symptoms vary based on the age of the snake. If your boa is still a juvenile, they’ll develop flaccid paralysis suddenly and then die soon after. If your boa is an adult, you may notice some or all of the following symptoms:
- Star gazing, meaning that your boa holds their head in an unnaturally raised position;
- Chronic regurgitation of food;
- Extreme weight loss;
- Dysecdysis, which means abnormal shedding;
- Neurological symptoms, including abnormal tongue flicking and seizures;
If you notice these symptoms, take your boa to a veterinarian that handles exotic pets. The vet will perform a blood test to diagnose the condition. In sick snakes, inclusion bodies (dense groupings of proteins) will generally be visible on the red blood cells.
How do boas get this disease?
Inclusion body disease is a viral disease. Boas can be infected with the virus for many years without becoming sick, and during this time, they can pass the virus to other boas. The virus can spread through the air, through direct contact with infected snakes, or even on your hands if you’ve handled an infected snake. Snake mites have also been reported to spread the virus in some cases.
The virus is able to cause disease when an infected boa becomes immunocompromised. This can happen for many reasons, including becoming malnourished, becoming stressed or getting a bacterial infection.
Can it be treated?
This disease can’t be cured, and due to the extremely contagious nature of the disease, veterinarians generally recommend euthanizing infected snakes. However, if your boa is your only pet snake, and you won’t be in contact with any other snakes, you may choose not to euthanize them.
If you decide against euthanasia, your boa will need supportive therapies to manage their symptoms. Force feeding can be used to help them maintain a healthy weight. If they’re shedding abnormally, you can help them by placing a warm, wet pillow case on top of them or soaking them in a shallow tub of warm water. Boas with this disease may also develop secondary infections like pneumonia or enteritis. These infections can be managed with antibiotics.
For more information, consider contacting a professional like those at the Animal House Veterinary Hospital.