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Last updated : 01/04/2007

This page is indexed on our home page under Aspect: 4. Information & care sheets and the Section: Health Issues

Regurgitated meal causes skin damage.

I have recently had my first loss of a snake in 6 years and I would like to share this experience with others, even though in retrospect I am a bit embarrassed by the whole affair. I have had many snakes in my possession and the worst problem I have had till now was a mite infestation. I have always taken good care of my animals and made sure there enclosures are kept clean. I was not prepared for this!!

On the morning of the 28 July I came into my snake room and it smelt awful, I then found that my two Burmese, who had been housed (see note) together for years, were covered in vomit that the one snake had regurgitated. During the night they had smeared this mess all over the enclosure, I suppose in their effort to get away from the awful smell. I then had the messy task of cleaning the snakes and disinfecting the enclosure, which took me around 3 hours. We first took the snakes outside and cleaned off the main mess and then took them inside for a warm bath and a good cleaning. The vomit was very oily in texture just like cooking lard and was hard to get off. So warm water and dishwashing liquid, followed by a good rinse, which was repeated until their skin felt normal to the touch and not covered in an oily film.

Three days prior I fed the normal phase Burmese (Chestnut) four big and extremely fat rats. They were male rats that looked like very pregnant females. I think the meal was rejected because of the high fat content or other reason. The lesson here is never feed items of prey that do not look normal, clean and in good condition. 

After a few days I noticed that the albino had a strange  discoloration that was appearing under the scales on parts of its body.  These marks became more prominent on both animals throughout the week, becoming brown. I thought that the snakes would just shed their skin a few times and it would be ok. We reasoned that this time that the stomach acid had got under the scales and was causing the discoloration, but never anticipated how much damage was still to follow.

The Albino only had the skin discoloration with no other visible skin problems. Chestnut's skin was however, in a bad way. After about 11 days the skin started to crack off in thick pieces . Underneath the scales the skin was very white and smooth. I noticed the albino was looking very thin. Three days later and from one day to the next the albino could not even move. I took the snake to the Vet and we had to have him put down. The Vet said that internal organs were infected and have pretty much shut down because of septicemia. In retrospect, I think the albino deteriorated so quickly  because the albinism genes contributed to a lower resistance and ability to fight the infection.

The normal phase's skin condition was now looking very bad as well. So took him to the Vet and I had to treat it with injections of antibiotics daily for 2 weeks, antiseptic bath daily with Hibi Scrub for 3 weeks and applying Betadine to the affected area.

The treatment was a bit of work and painful for both partyís, but it paid off. Chestnut is grumpy at the best of times  and didnít want to be handled and injected each day, so he let me know and attached himself to my hand. It became a bit harder for me to tackle the daily treatment from then on. I must stress that I know snakes are very sensitive to pain. I have seen a Burmese that bit itself and which left an open wound, and if these where the sort of pain levels that I thought were being endured, I would have had rather put Chestnut down. The raw areas were sensitive when touched but no sensitive reaction was displayed when loose pieces of skin were removed. 

Chestnut started to shed almost every two weeks and some of the first sheds were three times as thick as normal. Feeding didnít take place for around two months.

These are the picture from just before the incident 28/07/2006 up till 31/10/2006, ending with a current picture (2 December 2006)


12 days you can see the scales coming away and the pale skin beneath it. Red color due to reflection from infrared light. 28 days  During  an assisted shed. Smooth and moist due to daily baths and Betadine and voluntary soaking in water bowl.

Burmese pyhon at

42 days and healing fast 90 days  At 2 December 2006


The Burmese is now feeding again and looking strong. The healing process has now slowed as he is shedding at normal intervals and the last picture was taken on the 2 December 2006.

So this was a big blow to me but I have learnt from it and I wanted to share this experience so others can learn and maybe prevent this from happening to them and to see if anybody has some constructive advice of what to do in a situation like this.  This article will be posted on various forums in an attempt to elicit some suggestions on methods to wash a snake so as to prevent or at least reduce the the negative after effects, in an incident like this.

What I have learned from this is:

Note :

Enclosure is 2.4m X 60cm  X 90cm (8' x 2' x 3') (L X B X H)  (return to reading)

Note 2

Battery acid (H2SO4 sulphuric acid ) has a pH of 1. Digestive juices of a snake have been tested at a pH of 1.5. Thatís acidic enough to cause a problem.


Some data on The pH scale of acidity and alkalinity, Acids, Alkalis, Salts & Neutralisation

Note 3  

Posts on Reptile Forums had a reply with one other reported incident with exact same oiliness followed by a heavy shed but none of the severe after effects we experienced.

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Last update : 01/04/2007