A sick pet can be a horrible and worrying experience for any animal lover, snake owners included. Unlike dogs, cats, birds, and other common pets, there's not a lot of information out there on how to care for sick snakes. There are also not a lot of people who are knowledgeable about how to treat snake illnesses. That is why, if you have a snake, it is important to know what to do to keep your snake healthy and how to take care of it if it develops an illness. Here are just a few tips to get you started.
The first and most important tip I can give you is to do everything possible to keep your snake from getting sick in the first place. This includes keeping their enclosure at the proper temperature and humidity levels (and gradients), feeding them on the proper schedule (this depends on the type of snake you have), never feeding food you caught yourself, always providing clean water, performing enclosure maintenance and cleaning regularly, and observing your snake daily for signs off illness or other irregular behavior. Hopefully, if you take special care, you can avoid ever having to care for a sick snake.
To best know how to care for a sick snake, and to properly keep your snake from getting ill in the first place, you should purchase one or more snake health manuals. This should be done when you get your snake, not when the snake gets sick. A good manual should tell you not only what to do if they get sick, but how to keep them from getting sick in the first place. A good manual should also provide information on common illnesses, signs, and how to treat them. For many illnesses, if you are able to properly identify them, you may be able to treat them at home and not have to worry about expensive and troublesome vet visits.
The most important thing you can do for a sick snake is to take it to a properly trained vet. Even if your snake is healthy, you should take the time to find a qualified vet to care for your snake in case it does become ill. You may not need the vet quite yet, but if your snake starts to show signs of illness you'll be happy you already have someone picked out. When an animal is ill, you may be worried and stressed and not want to take the time to check different vets out. Finding one ahead of time helps you make an informed decision. There are many places to find a qualified veterinarian. A good place to start your search is at The Association of Reptile and Amphibian Veterinarians.
Once you find a vet, be sure to ask lots of questions like how many reptiles they see on a regular basis, and what classes they have taken in reptile health (not just cat and dog). If you take your snake in to a vet for a check-up or because of a problem, be sure to observe how they handle and deal with your snake. If they mostly observe it and don't do a lot of hands on physical examination or seem uneasy handling the snake (unless you have told them ahead of time it has a history of biting or other problem behavior), then you may wish to search for a vet who is more comfortable with snakes. A vet who is uneasy with your snake probably hasn't had a lot of experience treating them.
If you live in a smaller area that doesn't have any vets that specifically treat reptiles, you have several options. The first is to travel a little farther to an area that does have a reptile vet. If this is not feasible, or you're worried about traveling that far with a sick snake, you should try to find a vet that has treated a lot of birds or has at least treated some reptiles. If you do have to go to a vet that does not normally treat snakes, you should be very prepared ahead of time with a book or other reference materials that provide information on what illness your snake might have, what medicines you can use to treat it, and what dosage your snake needs. This way, the vet can help confirm that you have made the correct diagnosis and simply prescribe the recommended treatment. You may also be able to talk to the breeder or pet store you got your snake from and find out where they take their sick snakes. The last option if you don't have access to a good reptile vet is to not buy a snake. I know this seems like a drastic option, but it is also unfair to your snake to buy it if you are not able to properly care for it.
These are just a few tips for keeping your snake in good health and getting them help when they don't feel so good. Remember, a healthy snake is a happy snake!