How to Fight Inclusion Body Disease Affecting Your Snakes

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As a snake owner, there is nothing that you’d want more aside from keeping your snake healthy and happy. Snakes are special animals that require specific caring requirements to keep them at top shape. Despite being quite strong, it is also important that snake owners must educate themselves by being aware of everything they can know about snake illnesses.

In this article, we shine the spotlight on Inclusion Body Disease and what you should know about this disease.

What Is Inclusion Body Disease?

Inclusion Body Disease is a progressive disease that is transmissible and possibly fatal. It was first identified and described several decades ago. IBD is the most commonly diagnosed disease, and it is suspected that this problem is suspected to originate within a virus in captive pythons and boas. There are no treatments or vaccines that are available at present.

Inclusion Body Disease is an infectious and unvaryingly fatal and viral disease affecting the captive specimens of the boid family of snakes, most especially the Boa constrictor. This disease, which was made known in the 1970s, was named because of the intracytoplasmic inclusions that have been identified in clinical examinations through epidermal cells, oral mucosal epithelial cells, neurons, and visceral epithelial cells.

This disease debilitates snakes that are symptomatic with the use of uncontrollable muscle contortions. It also causes muscular disfigurement caused by IBD often progresses unrelentingly, often slowly but can be swiftly as well. Eventually, this disease just leads to death because of starvation, compromised circulation, and suffocation brought up by pneumonia.

In the 1970s and the 1980s, IBD went viral many Burmese pythons. From the 1980s, the disease has become very observed in many boa constrictors. Until the present, there is still no known treatment for this kind of disease, and when snakes are diagnosed with the problem, they are euthanized so that further infections can be dealt with.

Who Can Get Inclusion Body Disease?

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Inclusion Body Disease can likely happen to all boid snakes and are very susceptible to the disease. Because of this fact, many zoos quarantine boas as they are at risk of having this disease. Once cleared, they will be introduced to their permanent enclosures and breeding units.

Inclusion Body Disease has not been recorded to affect non-boid snakes, but the non-boid snakes can still become a carrier of the virus. Scientists have linked the disease to mites, and they have been found that they are the primary vector or at least the contributor to transmitting the disease.

Inclusion Body Disease is available worldwide, and all captive boid snakes are at risk of acquiring the disease. The occurrence of this in the wild is yet to be determined. This disease has also been recorded to happen to adults and almost adults, but it does not happen in hatchlings. Even so, all age groups of snakes are still susceptible to the eyes of the experts.

Some experts believe that retro-like virus infection is what causes IBD, but identification of highly divergent arenavirus that has been found out also suggests that it can be the causative agent of IBD.

Inclusion Body Disease is most commonly known to affect pythons and boas. Snakes that can get this include Boa constrictors, green anacondas, Haitian boas, ringed tree boas, Burmese pythons, reticulated pythons, ball pythons, and Australian pythons. A similar disease happens to colubrid snakes, just like corn snakes, Californian king snakes, and in vipers like captive palm vipers.

Clinical Signs Of Inclusion Body Disease

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Clinical signs of this disease might vary but are usually linked to neurological symptoms and regurgitation. These are the symptoms that are most prominent during the early signs and the later signs of the disease’s progression.

In boa constrictors, the first signs may include on and off regurgitation, which is followed by inappetence, and some head tremors. In rare cases, some abnormal shedding can also happen in these snakes. There are also individuals that develop anorexia, which means that they will refuse to eat, or they will eat but with a large decrease in their appetite. However, not all snakes that have been infected by IBD can be observed to do some regurgitation.  Some boa constrictors that lose weight and might develop some clogged nostrils, secondary pneumonia, and some stomatitis.

This illness can also progress to intense disorders on nervous systems. These disorders can show up as stargazing, holding their heads in abnormal positions, disorientation, and corkscrewing their neck and their heads. In some affected individuals, some underlying illnesses that show up are leukemia, lymphoproliferative disorders, undifferentiated cutaneous sarcomas, pneumonia, and stomatitis.

In Burmese pythons, it generally shows that some central nervous system signs show up, but other related signs and symptoms do not show up. These are also the symptoms that also show up in snakes that have been infected with Chlamydia.

There are numerous snakes that have also been seen to have proliferative pneumonia, with inclusions that are seen in the kidney, liver, and pancreas. In a few snakes, some have some signs of central nervous system problems, severe encephalitis, and no inclusions in their cells.

How Can Inclusion Body Disease Be Diagnosed?

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Your veterinarian will begin by start by taking a thorough medical history and give a physical examination. The snake should also have their blood taken for a complete blood count, X-rays, and plasma chemistry.

Until now, the diagnosis for Inclusion Body Disease relied entirely on looking under the microscope and seeing the inclusion bodies in the body cells and the specimens in their organ biopsy. Because of the identification of Reptarenavirus, there is now a laboratory test that is called the RT-PCR or Reverse Transcription PCR so that IBD can be diagnosed.

The most sensitive test is consensus PCR. It uses sequencing so that the type of Reptarenvirus can be identified. It uses blood samples, mouth swabs, and organ tissue samples that can be used for these laboratory testing.

Treatment of Inclusion Body Disease

The treatment of individual animals has not been effective. Because the disease of IBD can be fatal, the great majority of the snakes confirmed to have the disease should be humanely euthanized. After the process, a necropsy must be performed to verify and study the situation of the snake.

However, in some cases with a single snake in the collection, some supportive and helpful treatment that you can do for your snake is some antibiotics, force-feeding, and fluid therapy. There is no way to know if these treatments really work and if the snakes would actually respond. But, it is still great to do everything that you can to save your snake from being hurt and trying to save their life.

How To Help Your Snake Prevent Getting Inclusion Body Disease

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Any snake owner would know that prevention is always better than cure. The most important thing to do is to get quarantine monitoring. All snakes that are freshly bought should have their blood test first or their esophageal tonsils tested with PCR sequencing.

After getting a new snake, all the other snakes must be tested the same way so that you can reevaluate your snakes’ health every six to twelve months. Just a simple warning, false-negative tests that say your snake has IBD even though the result says negative is still quite possible.

For best practices, snakes that are diagnosed with Inclusion Body Disease should also be quarantined for at least three up until six months before they get introduced into established snake enclosures. For any pythons or boas caught in the wild, the recommended quarantine period is at least four to six months.

As a snake owner, the only resolution that you can go with is to be extremely vigilant in the husbandry techniques that you follow when it comes to enclosure cleanliness, snake nutrition, and quarantining your newly acquired pets. Remember, once Inclusion Body Disease enters your snake collection, there is no turning back, and you can lose all your crawling friends. Especially now that acquiring boid species are much difficult and more expensive than ever, you can never be too careful in the way that you take care of your reptile pets.

Where transmitters and vectors of Inclusion Body Disease are concerned, you should put parasite infestation prevention as your priority. Prevention will surely become much more effective if you compare it to trying to eradicate an already established community of parasites in your snake enclosure. From the moment that you have a plan on acquiring your snake, make sure that you are extremely careful and research on where your snake will be coming from. Only transact with established, well-known, reputable, and legitimate snake breeders. Ask for historical documentation as well as some client testimonials to ensure that you get the right snake for you. You should also consider setting an appointment to discuss all your questions about the snake that you will get. You should list down all the questions that you might have and raise them to your breeder. Do not worry about being too much as a respected and professional breeder will understand everything that you feel.

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