Respiratory infections: treatments, care, your experience?

As kicked off from another thread.

Although pretty much all animals covered by this forum can technically get an RI it seems like ball pythons are A) more popular of a pet and B) a bit more prone to catching them and/or displaying “RI like” behavior.

There is no at-home cure for an RI

With that said you may hear or see people making warm+humid temporary enclosures (“hot box”) for snakes with suspected RI. Some are just quarantine tubs with a few extra degrees of heat and more humidity. Some people build a sort of at-home nebulizer up to and including putting disinfectant in it.

This has been around for a very long time (a quick Google with the right terms will get forum posts from 20 years ago). The effectiveness is questionable at best and can cause some serious damage if attempted incorrectly. Ball pythons subjected to 95F for extended periods can develop significant internal (“invisible”) injuries. The disinfectants used by some are not meant or even tested for exposure directly to the lungs.

How an RI should be treated

Schedule that vet appointment first.

Slightly increasing the heat, using a quarantine tub, and increasing the humidity all do comfort a snake with an RI. The humidity makes it easier to breath and allows the mucus to collect and be removed by the snake’s natural mechanisms. This can also help eliminate symptoms of stuck shed, dust, and particles.

When at the vet they will ask to culture (somewhat expensive and takes up to a week) a sample of the mucus your snake is producing. This can help isolate it down a specific bacteria for treatment. They may also want to swab for nidovirus.

If an RI is diagnosed the usual treatment is to begin a broad spectrum injectable antibiotic. Nebulizers can also be used but generally are reserved for specific treatments and extreme cases. On a side note, you can usually rent a nebulizer from a “human” medical supply store and coordinate with your vet. This can be extremely expensive.

Have a trained person show you how to perform injections and ask lots of questions

Follow instructions carefully

One last note on Baytril:
Baytril is a very common broad spectrum antibiotic for use with nearly every small animal. It can cause severe reactions especially if administered incorrectly.

Ask for an alternative. If they don’t have one then ask if they can coordinate with another vet.