José complex chronic respiratory illness

José Jalapenio is experiencing another major respiratory episode. This episode reminds me of the first one he initially had when i bought him 6 years ago. He has been taken to the vet twice since it started and has been on a rigorous treatment plan for a month and a half with no results.

I’d like to take this time to discuss chronic respiratory illness and what it looks like with my José as the example.

I have on multiple accounts explained José and his history on MMRC, but for anyone in the future who believes they may be battling something like this with one of their snakes, I will touch on it again here.

José was bought at 2.5 years. He was kept in a 20 gallon fish tank with sodden cocoa fiber, a flukers water bowl, and a grapewood jungle gym-like decoration on a heat mat without a thermostat. It is my understanding that he had lived in that setup for all of his life up to that point. He had one home before me that I know nothing about except that he wasn’t doing well with them. We later discovered that his grape vine jungle gym and water bowl were infected with black mold. These two items being in his enclosure for all of his life up age 3.5. His substrate was constantly molding despite f10 cleanings, bleach soakings, frequent spot cleans, etc.
My vet strongly suspects this long term exposure to be the cause of his chronic respiratory distress. As i have been all but certain of myself for a number of years.

The symptoms of his condition are:
Long term reoccurring respiratory infections without husbandry or stress based cause. Treatment resistant. Chronic and intense sensitivity to temp/humidity fluctuations, sanitation, and stress.
Constant pacing in enclosure, obvious distress, refusing food, and visible red nose in early stages.
Wheezing, mucus build up in the throat, gaping, facial sensitivity, flinching to touch, and lethargy in later stages.

He was given ceftazidime injections every three days initially with f10 Nebulization twice daily.
The meds did not work. His condition continued to worsen. So we are testing for the presence of fungus living in the airways, what to treat with, and for Josés medical resistances. We placed him on Azithromyacin Nebulization and continued the ceftazidime while awaiting results which should come in two weeks.

The difficulty of this illness that José has is how much more difficult he is to care for than a ball python should be. It seems sometimes like trying to prevent him from getting sick is impossible. Like all ot takes is holding him 5 minutes too long one time on a Tuesday. Like, if you can’t catch the most subtle warning signs and jump on it right away, he will decline FAST. It’s like I am caring for something between a Panther Chameleon and a dragon snake. Not a ball python. And with the resistances, if an episode progresses too far like this most recent one he is experiencing, thanks to the situation my animals and I are in, it feels like getting him back to health is next to impossible.

The vet he is seeing now thinks that this is all happening because while the infection flare ups may have been treated in previous mini-episodes, the actual fungus that started it is still living, IN his lungs. And the episodes will not stop until that is removed. Except that with the number of infections he has had over the years, there may be so much scar tissue in there even after the fact that he very well could continue to have respiratory issues and return infections for the rest of his life. Had this been caught sooner, maybe he could have been cured.

At this point, the plan is to wait for the results and go from there. If i can find a med/antifungal that will remove the mold from his lungs, i will try that. If i can get him to health again i will be thankful. But if he does not respond to the final treatment, or if he has one more of these major episodes after the fact, then I am going to look into my options for euthanasia.

In any case, he is not going to live to be 35 like he should. He will be very lucky to live to be 15. I am at least hoping to see him live to be 10. But there is no way to tell until we see the results of this last test and treatment.

If he does pass, I would think that his body could be used to contribute to medical research. I cannot afford an autopsy in the event of it happening, but I would be open to letting someone take him to dissect if they would be interested in using him to learn more about chronic respiratory illnesses in snakes. I think it would almost be worth it to have his condition put to use to help save the lives of future exotics.
I would like his remains back at some point to be cremated, that would be my only catch.

Let this be a reminder of the dangers of mold. Cleanliness is next to godliness.

If you have an animal that struggles with frequent respiratory infections, frequent health problems of any kind, don’t stop at initial treatment. Keep going until you can get answers. The biggest barrier to getting my animal care was the veterinarians telling me that it’s got to be SOME kind of husbandry issue. I wasted so much time trying so many different things with his setups. He’s been to almost everye exotics vet in 50 miles of me. If you honestly don’t think it’s a husbandry problem, or that it’s a quick fix, and you have double triple checked every parameter, listen to your gut. Don’t let inexperienced vets talk you into mistrusting yourself. Try a different vet as many times as it takes and insist to get the care that your animal needs

I love José. I’m going to miss him when he’s gone. Let’s hope his new vet and i can get this under control and give him a couple more good years before it’s time.

You can see the red nose he gets earlier on here.


I’m very sorry you’ve had so much trouble, I know what it’s like to experience chronic health issues both as a human and on behalf of my pets.

Forgive me, I am new to Jose’s story so you may very well have been asked this before - has he been tested (ideally multiple times) for nidovirus? This is also unfortunately one of the primary underlying causes seen in chronic RI cases with ball pythons, with similar symptoms - recurring respiratory distress despite treatment and without obvious triggers. My concern is that if it is indeed nidovirus rather than a fungal infection, that same virus could be transferred to any other snake you own or plan to own in the future, and if it is nidovirus, it is incurable and probably a safe and humane choice for him to euthanize in that case.


Yes, he has been nido tested.


Now, I’m not a vet, but this bit here seems…Odd based on the fact that this is a recurring problem with suspected fungal infection. Antibiotics/antimicrobials are going to do very little against anything fungal. I’m also kind confused, despite knowing he had long-term mold exposure, has he never been tested or treated for fungus? Obviously I don’t know his entire medical history, but if he’s only now being tested for a fungal respiratory infection, I’d be questioning the quality of previous care.

There’s also the fact that F10, while used for nebulization, is not FDA approved and is technically just a disinfectant that contains ingredients known to cause respiratory irritation/pulmonary toxicity (Benzalkonium chloride). Here are some threads discussing its use:

That said, checking the Merck Veterinary Manual:
“Suggested treatments for deep fungal respiratory infections include amphotericin B, itraconazole, fluconazole, and voriconazole.” I’d say that’d probably be the direction your current vet will go in depending on results.


Wow I am truly sorry for the misery this poor little guy has suffered through for so many years! Tbh I don’t understand or am familiar with the technical terms and verbiage in your post because it is over my head but I do know that you and Jose are fighting a clearly uphill battle so I am sending you all the love :heart: and hugs :people_hugging: you can possibly imagine as well as all my best Auriea…….


Wow i appreciate you looking into the antifungal meds out there! Any you are not wrong. The treatment he received has been off. With this vet especially.

This ties back into the issues I have experienced with the rescue that boarded my animals for a month who almost lost their vet privileges by claiming José was their snake.

José is being seen at that vet under my name now.
The event that led to the owner being caught for a false claim of ownership was me calling them after receiving his initial exam invoice to question the plethora of issues with his medical history, treatment, and physical assessment. (As i was not made aware of him beginning to wheeze and generally worsen while he was in her care.)

When he was initially taken in by the rescue owner, the severity of his illness was downplayed.
The test was offered right off, but she declined to do it without consulting me because, i can only assume, it was expensive. Due to those circumstances, the vet could only treat it like an average R.I.
I predicted right off that the shots weren’t going to work and i was right.
I had hope for the f-10 because they described it as being anti-fungal. As far as that goes, they do prescribe the Nebulization. With prediluted f-10 in a med bottle and everything. I know it is an out of pocket treatment, but i hear good and bad about it’s efficacy that has been very confusing. I had no idea it had chemicals that can CAUSE respiratory irritation/pulmonary toxicity. That’s very concerning to hear now that he’s already been treated with it.
It could explain then why he only seemed to be getting worse since treating him.

I’m now hopeful to see something change with Azithromyacin in place of the F-10SC. I have never heard of Azithromyacin being used in Nebulization, but I’m not a vet, this stuff goes wayy over my head, and that’s a big part of the difficulty with managing his treatment and determining who’s competent vs incompetent. I wish i could just take it on their authority without having to worry about how much of what they are saying is semi-educated spitballing vs actual tested medical knowledge.

I imagine that after this test comes back we will get to pinpoint one of those meds to actually treat him with. At this time, i don’t think either of the meds he’s on are intended to do much more than fend off the infection while we find the right med to treat the cause.


This is a very frustrating issue when trying to seek vet care, especially for exotics. I recently had a bad experience while trying to seek treatment for a relatively minor issue with my chinchilla. This vet came highly recommended as the best in the area for small mammals, but I knew I made a big mistake going to her when she started berating me for not feeding my chin fresh fruits and veggies (which chins do not process well and can cause them all kinds of health problems). :roll_eyes: But when you start dealing with more medically complex issues involving pathogens and tests and drugs and dosages, it’s often really difficult for pet owners with no formal medical background to know if their vet is doing right by their animal.

I’m so sorry to hear that Jose isn’t doing well. I hope this current vet does know what they’re talking about, and that you’re able to figure out what’s going on and treat him effectively. It does sound like you might be on the right track. :crossed_fingers:

And thanks for sharing this. I think it’s really helpful and important to share stories like Jose’s, both for those who may be facing similar issues with their animals, as well as just general education for the community. You’re an incredible snake mamma. :heart:


I’m really sorry that this is continuing and continuing and continuing. I got that you get good answers from the final tests. Fungus is so potentially horrible, potentially so terribly difficult to treat in animals and in humans. People just don’t realize.

I couldn’t say it better.


I am so sorry you and José have gone through all of this, I’m glad you’ve been able to take back control over his care. It’s great that you’re sharing his story so that it might be able to help others. Hopefully testing will reveal a solid course to follow, treatment wise.

While he may not have had the best or most accurate care up until this point, it seems like the vet is doing their best to look into a deeper fungal infection now. It’s incredibly hard knowing what treatments to approve or not, especially with as little is known about reptiles in a veterinary setting and the lack of information available to us as owners. Sometimes you’ve just got to put your faith in someone and with skill and some luck, hopefully a more successful course of treatment will be found and he’ll get some long term relief. You’re doing the absolute best for him, and I’ll be wishing you both brighter days ahead. :people_hugging: :blue_heart: