Snakes with pneumonia may have nasal discharge, gurgling, bubbling or open mouth respirations. They are usually anorexic and often rest with their heads elevated. You might see the snake rubbing his nose on the cage walls to clear discharge out of his nostrils or gasping for air.
Poor husbandry conditions such as low cage temperatures and inadequate nutrition predispose snakes to developing pneumonia.
The diagnosis of pneumonia in snakes starts with a good history and physical exam. The history often includes an episode of decreased cage temperature or exposure to pathogens. The physical exam should include looking at the nostrils, a thorough oral exam and auscultation (listening to the heart with a stethoscope). Although auscultation is frequently unrewarding, it should be done, because positive findings are highly significant. Thin bodied snakes can be trans-illuminated to check for lung mites. Other tests may include:
Snakes with pneumonia need to be treated quickly and aggressively. Pneumonia is a serious disease in snakes and may cause death if not promptly treated. They should be physically separated from other reptiles as many causes of pneumonia are contagious to other snakes. The treatment of pneumonia in snakes is dependent upon its cause.
Snakes with pneumonia may be dehydrated and some antibiotics are more likely to cause side effects if the snake is dehydrated so additional fluids may be prescribed for the snake. These fluids may given orally or under the skin. Consult your veterinarian if you are unsure how to give the fluids.
Home Care and Prevention
Often, increasing part of the cage environment to the upper end of the preferred optimal temperature range will help the snake fight off the infection. You should monitor the animal closely for any signs of heat stress. In addition, do the following:
The best way to prevent pneumonia is to maintain a healthy environment for your pet. Many respiratory infections can be prevented by good nutrition and husbandry practices. In most cases, providing a range of environmental temperatures that include the upper end of the preferred optimal temperature range will help prevent respiratory infections.
Whenever possible, all new pet reptiles should be quarantined for 90 days prior to exposing current pets to the new animals. Examine the animals closely several times during the quarantine period to make sure that they are healthy. Have your veterinarian perform a quarantine exam on all new arrivals prior to exposing your current pets to the new arrival.
Have your pet reptile examined on a regular basis by your veterinarian to make sure that he is healthy and does not have a respiratory infection. Treat any parasites found on routine examination, as some parasites potientially damage the lungs, thus making respiratory tract infections more likely.