Feeling let down by vet

So… full disclosure: I used to work as a veterinary technician. I know how difficult it can be to work with animals. I know the pressure that happens in the back. So maybe that’s why I feel so conflicted.
I think I mostly needed to get this off my chest and potentially seen if others have felt similarly.

I lost one of my favorite ball pythons last night and my partner feels like the vet is responsible. I’m feeling a bit similarly and sadly, we both agree that there really isn’t anything else we could have changed.

About 2 weeks ago, I noticed my boy wasn’t interested in food. He was almost 5 but very rarely skipped meals, only when he was getting ready to shed. He had been in breeding rotation as well, but that had never put him off food in the past. His color looked a bit off so I assumed maybe shedding was the right call.
A couple of days later I noticed discoloration around his vent. It was very dark. I expressed a bit of thick brown from his scent glands. His belly was still a bit off color and not the same color pink he usually turned during shedding. I worried about a scent glands impaction or possibly really early septicemia.
We made an appointment and had him seen last Monday. In that 2 days of waiting for the appt, he began to look a little dehydrated.

The practice owner has been away, so we saw an associate vet. This was at the most prominent reptile vet offices in the area that pretty much everyone goes to for exotics.
When we got there he had some nasty chalky color diarrhea. The vet ran a test and it came back positive for flagellated protozoa. I know there’s some debate on how harmful they can be, so since he seemed under the weather we decided to treat for it no questions asked. We also ran virals on him, all negatives. They kept him overnight to get the freshest sample to send out for the testing as well.

Because he seemed dehydrated, I was giving him daily soaks. During one he passed some more of the chalky stools with some pink. Okay… a bit of blood isn’t that unusual when treating for parasites. No big deal.
Then Sunday night he passed a lot of chunk bloody diarrhea. Definitely a big deal. We called to make an appointment as soon as the vet office opened. They were able to see us on Yesterday (Tues). They called before the appointment to say blood in stools can be normal with parasite meds, so we can cancel because of stressing the snake and weather. But I insisted I wanted to do bloodwork now and sent a photo of the stools over as well. They didn’t argue the bloodwork when we got there. He also lost some weight between the two appointments. A week apart.

It took them a while to get back to the room. I feel terrible for not checking on him first because the nurse was still holding him in the doorway while the vet said he was a bit difficult to get blood from. I mentioned feeling he was more dehydrated and they said they can definitely give him some fluids.

After another long wait… My boy who was alert, actively tongue flicking but quiet was handed back to me limp and slow. They told me that he was probably exhausted and really stressed out. I honestly didn’t know what to say or do since I think both procedures needed to be done at the time… So maybe I was just kind of in shock? And that was why I just kind of agreed and brushed it off. My partner told me during the ride home, “I’ve never seen a snake just give up on life”.

We left the vet office at 6p. He died before midnight.

Aside from the nasty bloody stools and the sudden dehydration, he didn’t appear that ill… And I KNOW how easily they hide things. I just can’t help but feel like it’s my fault even though rationally I know I did everything I could. But maybe I should have insisted on blood work the first visit as well?

I asked them to cancel the bloodwork from last night since it wouldn’t be completed for a couple of days…I asked to put the money towards the necropsy I’m waiting to hear back on now.

I’m just kind of in shock now I guess because it’s hitting me harder now that I dropped him off. He was the first male I picked up specifically for breeding projects and as a personal gift because of the start of a new chapter in my life.
I don’t want to falsely accuse the vet of mistreatment… I just don’t understand how he went in quiet and alert but out on death’s door…

I guess I just need to vent and hear some other opinions or suggestions? No one else in my friend circles really understands reptiles. So here I am.

Thanks for taking the time to read through this guys.


I am so sorry for your loss, he’s a beautiful boy and to have something happen like that so suddenly has to be incredibly upsetting.

While I don’t have enough expertise in this area to know whether the vet is or isn’t responsible, could he have had a reaction to the treatment? Maybe if he was aleady weakened by parasites, the combination of stress/parasites/treatment was just too much. From my experience with goats/sheep, I’ve definitely encountered animals who responded badly to anti-parasitic treatment and experienced increased blood loss, rather than the expected improvement.

Hopefully a necropsy will shed some light on what happened, and while it may not ease the sadness and loss, I hope it will at least give you some answers and a sense of peace


We were using panacur, but yeah… Still could have been a rare reaction. It’s one of the safest ones but you never know.

I have my fingers crossed for the necropsy having answers.
He’s been with 3 girls this year, so I’m really hoping it was some weird fluke. I’m also hoping one of his offspring this year looks like him because that will definitely be a holdback. I do have one of his girls from 2 years ago, but she’s very white and patternless compared to him.


That’s heartbreaking… I’m so sorry for your loss armiyana. I hope things get figured out and that everything goes better for you :pensive::two_hearts:


Oh man, I’m so sorry you lost your boy. I was really hoping you’d figure out what was going on with him and be able to treat him.

I have no idea if the vet is to blame, but you are definitely not to blame. You did everything you could. Sometimes “everything” just isn’t enough. I hope you get some answers with the necropsy. :heart:


@armiyana Christina, so sad to hear of the passing of that handsome boy of yours. Second guessing and a guilty “what if” conscience usually plagues pet owners after unique circumstances such as this. The not knowing is always worse than the knowing. Hopefully the necropsy will answer some questions and ease your spirits.

Agreed that non reptile owners do not associate love/feelings for animals such as snakes as being normal. It’s a shame because these individuals miss out.

However you are fortunate, Christina, that the people in this community appreciate the angst you are experiencing from losing your precious biy, myself included.


That is a tough loss I have so much empathy for what you’re going through.

I hope the necropsy reveals a cause for the illness. Both for your peace of mind and for biosecurity among your other animals. In the meantime I think it is wise to quarantine any animals that were in contact with him for the last month or two. Just out of an over abundance of caution.

Whatever hit him sounds really nasty and you have no way of knowing if it’s communicable or how long it could take for symptoms to develop.

I’m hoping for all the best and for you to get through the grief of losing your beloved pet


Definitely. I already have them locked down and away to one specific rack and so far so good but I like to do 90 days for my new aquires, so gonna do the same for these girls. Thankfully just 3 of them.

I actually got a message earlier with the gross necropsy results… And the vet so far says it all seems to be isolated to the gastric system. Of course they call AFTER the office closed so I couldn’t call back. So I’ll be confirming more details with the vet office tomorrow and sending samples out for deeper analysis. That’ll hopefully get the exact ID on the little gastro buggers too.
Then possibly a round of fecal tests in my collection.


I am so sorry for your loss. He was beautiful and I think we can all understand your pain, and the guilty conscience. You should not feel guilty at all, you went and continue to go above and beyond for him.

I hope to say this eloquently as I don’t wish to lay blame. I’ll preface this with I also have experience at an exotic vet, not as a tech but rather reception. I commend you by the way for being able to hold that job, it’s not an easy career by any means.
I remember a small handful of patients, all beardies, that had a reaction like what you describe. Not to the treatments specifically, but the compounded stress of parasite load dying off and being restrained for something like a blood draw. They would come in alert and active, then suddenly nonresponsive after a “trigger” (blood draw, oral meds, fluids etc). With your boy being dehydrated it’s also likely he had to have a cardiac stick, which is even more stressful.
Where my concern lies is that the staff seemed to brush off the behavior. The protocal for the vets and techs I worked with is the reptile would immediately go under heat, or on a heating pad, while checking vitals. They would not send home an animal in that condition unless the owner specifically wanted to after having full disclosure of the current condition.
All that to say, I’m not trying to bash your vet or their staff and even if they had done the above things it’s highly likely the outcome would have been the same. But it’s concerning they didn’t acknowledge the signs of a crashing animal.

I hope you get some clarity from further tests and that this was an isolated case, and I’m sorry that you are going through this.


@ghsaltie thank you for the insight on your practice. It sounds like they have some wonderful protocols in place.

They actually didn’t do cardio stick, they went with the tail vein. He wasn’t treated to a vital check or heat as far as I know or what the notes say of the situation with fluids.

I actually just spoke to the practice manager about the situation as well and she’s going to check with the nurse and doc involved and also the practice owner/head vet. Because even in the chart she read off the notes which only said ‘animal became stressed during sq fluids, advised owner’ but did not mention the severity of it. When I told the manager my partner got to the car and asked, “is he still alive?” She was a bit upset to hear that because that does sound like a ball may have been dropped somewhere.

I don’t WANT to blame the vet… Because it’s a tough job already and especially harder dealing with exotics. And according to the manager, the necropsy photos do not look good, so sadly this outcome wouldn’t have been avoidable in the end… But if anything I just hope that another owner doesn’t have to go through a similar process. I don’t want someone else to be handed back limp coils after he had been comfortably wrapped around my wrist earlier and just told, “keep him warm”.

The manager is going to look into it for both of us. That way they can pinpoint where the main issue was, because if he was already stressed, we both would have preferred the vet had stopped and considered a new plan. Not just pushing through because I wanted it. They poked him multiple times for the SQ fluids, so it wasn’t like a 1 stick and oops situation like a rabbit or bird.
Just a grounding reality check of sorts for the hospital and peace of mind for me.


Just wanted to pop back in and say that when I was a vet assistant, the associate/partner vet at the clinic should never have been a vet, this even spoken in said vet’s own words. This was relayed to me by another assistant, when said vet almost killed a perfectly healthy dog during a simple procedure.

Even though your outcome has already been determined it is certainly worth your pursuing as much information as possible. If this assistant/partner vet is administering sub par treatment/services, it needs to come to light if only to prevent another episode such as this. Imho, I believe the stress of all the sticks could have resulted in a cardiac arrest of some sort of your boy that could very well have contributed to his death in addition to his weakened system.

I am sure others will disagree but this is my opinion.


@caron I did a working interview with a vet that was a walking timebomb like that. They’re scary.

The manager stepping up and immediately being on board with looking into it instead of just repeating a canned response is definitely good.
I’m really hoping it was just an issue with a doctor trying to avoid confrontation with the owner on care that can be easily workshopped and improved. I know how nasty some clients can be… But personally I always want the animal’s needs taken into consideration first and foremost and the manager agrees


I’m very sorry to hear about what happened to your boy. It sounds like both you and the Vet office did everything you both could to try and save him based on your post.

Like you mentioned I also worked at some vet clinics, although a long time ago, as well as have kept in communication with a bunch and knew many people that went through vet school. My experience is that there is not much attention in Vet school focused on reptiles, they might have 1 class out of all 4 years unless you specialize in reptiles only. I also worked at a clinic that said they worked with exotics and reptiles. However, I never saw a reptile that came in to be seen survive. I’m sure there is a reptile specialist out there I just have not seen one. Just because a clinic says they work with reptiles it doesn’t mean they know any more than you can research.

I also used to handle veterinary insurance claims. Proving malpractice differs in each state but in my claims it was not likely to be proven if there was malpractice. Occasionally the clinic in question would not charge for their services to the claimant but not usually.

I don’t post on chat boards but feel bad about what you went through here. We all know too well about the what ifs so please don’t let them get to you. It’s never easy when something unexpected happens.


Spoke to the office manager and the vet. Feeling a bit better over the situation. Still sucks but pretty much we all did all we can do.

Gross necropsy results are everything appeared normal except for the gastro system.
-the portion of the intestine directly behind the stomach was wrinkled and kinda bunched up in appearance, so not normal at all
-the colon was very inflamed looking and friable. So basically ready to tear and become the full on septicemia risk I was worried about. Which is strange because there was only soft stools, not a blockage stretching it out.

So samples are now being sent out to specialists to see exactly what’s up.


Got my necropsy results back on my boy.
It’s a little inconclusive because the root cause is still not really known.

Severe necrotizing colitis with bacteria.

The bit of small intestine that the vet was concerned about was within normal ranges and no concern. The colon was the issue.

We’re thinking that it could have been an autoimmune issue that let the parasite load or bacteria load become opportunistic. Which breeding season stresses could have made worse.

The vet also sent over the photo they took of the colon tissue and it was such a a mess. There really wasn’t anything that could be done. So maybe the way he passed wasn’t as bad as having him suffer through more.

Going to be holding onto one of his daughters from 2022. They have his sweet personality.
Maybe hold another from this year if eggs look good.
But at least I still have a little bit of him to hang onto with them.