Snake Inclusion Body Disease (IBD)

Snake Inclusion Body Disease (IBD) is a viral infection found in certain snake species that can cause a range of serious health issues. The disease is caused by the IBD virus, which is a RNA virus belonging to the family Herpesviridae. It primarily affects snakes kept in captivity and has been seen in many popular snake species including boa constrictors, pythons, and corn snakes.

IBD has no known cure and affected animals should be separated from other snakes and kept in a separate enclosure to prevent the spread of the disease. Proper sanitation measures should be taken, such as regularly cleaning and disinfecting all surfaces that come into contact with infected snakes. Snakes should not be handled by people who have open cuts or sores on their hands as this can increase the risk of transmission.

If a snake is suspected to be infected, they should be taken to a veterinarian for diagnosis and treatment. Treatment can include antibiotics or antiviral medications, as well as supportive care such as fluids and nutritional supplements. Vaccines are available for some species of snakes, but they don’t prevent infection from the IBD virus.

Symptoms of Snake Inclusion Body Disease (IBD)

The most common symptoms of IBD in snakes are:

  • Appetite loss
  • Weight loss
  • Difficulty moving, especially climbing or extending their body when trying to move
  • Swelling at their head and/or neck
  • Uncoordinated movements
  • Bright yellow or orange coloration on their skin (especially around their eyes)
  • Inability to shed properly
  • Stomatitis (inflammation of the mouth)

If you think that your snake might have IBD, it’s important to take them to a veterinarian immediately for diagnosis and treatment. The earlier the disease is caught, the better chance your pet has of surviving and recovering.

Diagnosing Snake Inclusion Body Disease (IBD)

In order to diagnose IBD, a veterinarian will need to perform a physical exam and take a sample of tissue or fluid from the affected area for testing. The sample will then be sent out for laboratory analysis. Tests such as ELISA (Enzyme-linked Immunosorbent Assay) or PCR (Polymerase Chain Reaction) can detect the presence of virus particles in the sample.

Stages of Snake Inclusion Body Disease (IBD)

IBD in snakes typically progresses in three stages.

Stage 1

The first stage is an asymptomatic period where the snake has been infected but their symptoms aren’t detectable yet. During this time, the virus will be replicating inside their body but won’t cause any serious health issues.

Stage 2

The second stage is when the symptoms start to become more noticeable and the infection begins to take its toll on the snake’s health. This is typically when a veterinarian will diagnose the disease and begin treatment.

Stage 3

The third stage is the most serious and can lead to organ failure or even death if left untreated. At this stage, the virus has caused extensive damage to internal organs and tissues, and recovery is unlikely without medical intervention.

Treating Snake Inclusion Body Disease (IBD)

Unfortunately, there is no cure for IBD. Treatment focuses on easing symptoms and keeping the snake as healthy as possible while its immune system fights off the virus. This includes providing a proper diet, good husbandry practices (such as keeping the temperature and humidity levels in the enclosure consistent), and avoiding stressors such as handling or overcrowding. Some experts believe that supplementing with vitamins and minerals, as well as providing antiviral medications, can help reduce the severity of symptoms and slow the progression of the disease.

It’s important to note that due to the contagious nature of IBD, infected snakes should be quarantined from healthy animals in order to prevent further spread of the virus.

Preventing Snake Inclusion Body Disease (IBD)

The best way to prevent IBD in snakes is to buy from a reputable breeder who tests their animals for the virus and takes steps to ensure that their animals are healthy. It’s important to practice proper husbandry and quarantine new animals before introducing them to your collection. Be sure to take any sick or injured snakes to the veterinarian immediately for diagnosis and treatment in order to prevent the spread of IBD.