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.