Many problems with snakes are caused by poor care and blister disease is one of the most common. If the snake is not kept clean and dry and is forced into long contact with damp conditions, then blister disease is an almost inevitable. Blister disease is also known as vesicular dermatitis, necrotizing dermatitis and most commonly, scale rot. This explains very well what is happening to the snake; the damp and dirt of a badly maintained environment causes the scales to literally rot and die.
Prevention of Blister Disease is Better than Cure
Blister disease is very easy to prevent. Give your snake a well ventilated, clean, dry environment and check it every day. Do not allow the snake to come into long contact with urine, faeces or rotting food. Do handle it frequently so that you can check for the early signs of blister disease, which are quite easy to spot.
First Signs of Blister Disease
As its name implies, the first signs of this disease are blisters, filled with a clear watery fluid. When these burst, the bacteria which thrive in them will possibly be transferred to the snake’s internal organs, causing septicaemia and death. If left untreated, the skin around the blisters will rot away, leaving the snake more susceptible to invading bacteria. Mites can also invade the site, bringing more bacteria and even after a shed, the blister site will remain as an ulcer. This progression can happen very quickly.
Treatment of Blister Disease
Early treatment is essential and the animal must be seen by a specialist vet. Other conditions can present in ways which may be mistaken for blister disease and so it is very important that the diagnosis is made correctly. The vet will remove any rotting skin and will treat the cleaned area with a local antibiotic. If the disease is still in its early stages, the whole snake can be washed – or better still, soaked – in Betadine or similar compound, being careful to avoid any going into the snake’s mouth.
When all of the blisters have been cleaned and treated by a vet, it is vital that the enclosure is scrubbed out and dried thoroughly, with new bedding. Whatever the usual substrate is, it would be a good idea to replace it for the recovery period with towels or unprinted paper. In very bad cases, it would be a help to line the environment with lino for the recovery period, as it can be cleaned daily. If the cage is usually heated from below, it would help the animal’s recovery if the heat source was from above until the blisters have all healed.
Outlook for the Snake with Blister Disease
As with most diseases of reptiles, it is vital to spot this early. If the snake is still eating, drinking and active when the first signs are noticed, it is very likely that it will make a full recovery. When the treatment has been completed and the snake is well, it is very important that the environment is kept clean and dry at all times, with especial attention being giving to keeping it free from rotten food. If the snake is off its food and listless, recovery is less certain, as the septicaemia which often follows blister disease is very serious and usually fatal.