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Snake Burn Wounds

| Introduction | Medical Treatment | Complications | Related Topics | References |


Pet snake keepers are readily confronted with burn wounds. These include thermal (heat) wounds (most often), electrical wounds and chemical wounds (i.e. using a chemical product that is abrasive to live tissue. It is most often due to incorrect placed or the incorrect heating equipment. Equipment that causes the most problems include spot lights, hot rocks and acrylic heating sources. These must be avoided or properly covered to prevent direct contact.

Reptiles have a very primitive nervous system which does not respond readily or respond to sudden temperature increases.  Most problems occur when these reptiles come in direct contact with a non-activated heat source, which is then turned on, like curling around a spot light before it is switched on.

Figure 1  Snake burn wound victim. This snake was euthanased (put down) due to the poor prognoses of recovery. It had extensive burn wounds in the facial area, the inner lining of the mouth was severely damaged and both the corneas were burnt.

Burn wounds are almost always serious and most of these snakes will die, especially without medical intervention. Snake burn victims should always be assessed by and treated under the supervision of an experienced reptile friendly veterinarian. Although the treatment period can vary between weeks to months, conservative or intensive medical treatment will be life saving in most cases.

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Medical Treatment:

Medical treatment is aimed at two major things. The first is to keep these snakes alive (supportive and intensive treatment) while the healing process takes place and the second is to help the healing process along (conservative treatment).

Intensive treatment includes giving life saving fluids and antibiotics. Supportive treatment includes force feeding those that are anorexic (not eating). Snakes that need intensive and supportive treatment are usually hospitalized and carries a poor prognoses (poor change to recover or survive).

Snakes with low degree burn wounds, with an adequate appetite and habitus, which are not dehydrated, or those who survived it through the critical stages are- or can be send home for conservative treatment. This will include applying topical antibiotic ointment to the wounds and regular antiseptic baths with regular veterinary checkups.

Although it is sometimes difficult to instigate pain medication, some patients might get some while still in hospital.

All snake burn wound victims should only be handled if necessary. They should be isolated and kept in a clean, dry environment with the recommended temperature and humidity range.

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Tissue damage, especially nervous tissue damage can be a serious complication. A lot of the snakes with burns in the facial area become blind due to corneal damage. In these cases the mouth and tongue can also sustain serious non-curable injuries.

Dysectysis (abnormal shedding) or anecdysis (no shedding) is a very common burn wound complication. Because these cases take very long to heal there is always the chance for sloughing during this period. Luckily the shedding will also help to get rid of old damaged skin and some tissue scars. Most of these snakes must be aided in the shedding process during the healing process.

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"If you think I should add more information to this section or think that something is incorrect, contact me and let me know. I would love to hear your ideas or methods you might use that is different than ours."

Last updated 20 December 2008 by Renier Delport

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"Always remember only to buy healthy animals from reputable pet shops and breeders. Make sure to buy animals that are captive bred in your own country and that it is not illegally imported or caught from the wild."

Related Topics:

Reptile & Amphibian Quarantine
How To Rehydrate A Snake

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| Introduction | Medical Treatment | Complications | Related Topics | References |



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