Stimsons python scale issues - burn? rot?

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julespules

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Hello

I'm wondering if anyone could help me identify the issue with my stimson's python's scales.

Does this look like a burn to you? Or scale rot?

How can I help him to recover as soon as possible?

Background: He's approx 4 years old, never had this issue before. I just returned home after about 10 months away, my stimmy has been in the care of my mother over this time. It seems my mum has accidentally unplugged the thermostat, and so his heat mat spot was clocking at around 39C, which may be the cause of this. I'm not sure how long his scales have been like this, my guess is about a month. Apparently he was having trouble shedding around a month ago, so my mum gave him a warm bath and helped his skin off - she said there were no visible problems with his scales then.

Any advice would be greatly appreciated, and I'm worried about the little guy!

This is my first post on this forum, but I've benefited greatly from reading others' - thanks for such a great community.

Thanks,
Julia


charles scales 1.jpg
 

Susannah

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Oh my! He's lucky he's a Stimmy - I think they're rather forgiving creatures and won't get too cross at you for getting their temps wrong!

Since moving to a heat mat, I've made sure that there are multiple hides in the enclosure - my guy loves to hide, so giving him options with different temps is always a win. Especially at the change of seasons. I ended up buying just a terracotta pot from Bunnings and drilling a hole/door in it for him and he loves it. Since then, he's been regulating his temperatures better and we haven't had any issues with his shed (ie will shed in once piece, only taking him an hour to strip off)
 

Bluetongue1

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I notice that no-one has yet commented on your posted photo yet. There are likely a couple of reasons for this. Firstly, it is difficult to assess injuries to a snake from just a photo. Secondly, people would be understandably reluctant to comment on a problem where the cause it not known for certain. Additionally, as the potential danger of burns tends to be highlighted these days and it such a readily avoided issue (under normal circumstances) probably very few keepers have had any personal experience with them. I think I’ve seen only two cases in my time, one of which was well over forty years ago.

While I have almost no experience with reptile burns, I do know a bit about the effects of burns on human skin. A bit of research revealed that exactly the same categorisation is used in reptiles to define the severity of the burn i.e. first degree to third degree, and that similar physiological processes are involved. The following comments are based on that.

The full severity of a burn (depth of tissue involved) takes a week or two to manifest itself fully. The least severe burns involves only the outer layer of skin (epidermis), which still maintains its integrity in forming a barrier which prevents water loss and entry of germs. Second degree burns damage both the epidermis and dermis. They cause blood loss into the tissue and discolouration of the affected area. They also result in body fluid (lymph) leaking through the damaged epidermis to form blisters and /or oozing fluid at the burn site. This fluid dries to form a scab-like covering.

It would help to know more about what the exact difficulties were with the last shed. Irrespective of that, enlarging the image one can see a little bit of retained shed still at the injury site. Based on this, the injury occurred prior to its last slough. So given the time lag and absence of other signs, it would appear that your stimmie suffered a superficial injury only. If it is now behaving as normal, then I’d say it has recovered OK and you have nothing to worry about. My recommendation is to NOT try and remove the little bit of retained scales, as you might do more harm than good. They will either come off on its own or should do when it next sheds. Just make sure your stimmie is well hydrated before its next shed. Once it starts to go into shed, you can further assist it by a light misting once or twice a day and /or adding a hide box with moist moss or peat as a substrate. What usually happens with superficial skin injuries is that they improve, and often disappear completely, with successive sheds.

Please keep us informed as to how it goes.

PS: I am an advocate of using the minimum wattage required for heating, irrespective of whether or not a thermostat is being used. You have provided a prime example of how the unexpected can happen and why it is wise to do so.
 

GBWhite

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Hi Julia,

From what I can make out from the photo and your description of events I'm inclined to believe that the pink discolouration and retained shed indicates to me that your snake has suffered a burn (the retained shed usually indicates that the scales have been singed) . There doesn't appear to be any blistering which would indicate a severe burn but I believe I can also see what appears to be some brown spots at the edges of some of the scales which, if it is the case, indicates the start of infection.

I wouldn't panic but it mightn't hurt to truck it off to a vet just to get their view. Either way, in the meantime and as a precaution can I suggest you treat the area with a diluted betadine bath and a topical ointment because if it is a burn, as it appears to be to me, even minor burns can have severe consequences if not treated promptly.

The recommended treatment is to bath the snake in a shallow solution of a diluted betadine (50/50 betadine/water). You only need enough solution to just cover the snakes ventrals and let it soak for around 30 minutes. Remove the snake and lightly dry before applying a topical silver sulfadiazine ointment. This should be done daily for at least a week but preferably two. It is important that the snake has access to some type of heat source during the treatment period as it will need to be able to thermoregulate and it is equally important to make sure the substrate is changed to paper towel (or similar) to reduce the possibility of further infection. In addition it is also important that the snake is provided with drinking water to prevent dehydration. Both betadine and topical sulfadiazine ointment can be purchased from a chemist.

Cheers,

George.
 
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Bluetongue1

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George, I totally agree with the advice you have given to treat a recent burn. However, the retained scales indicates that the injury occurred prior to its last slough, which was stated as a month ago. Had any further burning occurred since then, IMO the retained scales would have been the first to go. Given the timing based on that, any injury would have sealed by now. If infection had set in before the wound sealed, then the area would be inflamed and producing pus by this stage.
 

GBWhite

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Hi Mike,

I've seen and assisted with treatment of a lot of burn injuries to the ventral surface of snakes over the past 25 odd years and it seems to have become more common since the use of heat mats, hot rocks etc have become the norm, especially when the heating device is either not connected to a thermostat or the thermostat fails. So the treatment method I've suggested is pretty stock standard for what would be considered a superficial burn.

I don't believe that the retained shed is a result of on going or a further burn injury. What I have noticed on previous occasions is that the retained shed appears to be a result of the singed outer epidermis being fused to the developing secondary layer at the time of the burn. In addition burn injuries can take days and sometimes weeks before they become apparent and naturally the severity of infection depends on the severity of the burn. The risk of secondary bacterial or fungal infection is high where the injury involves a burn to the ventral surface of a snake due to ongoing direct contact with the substrate and while the initial burn may only appear to be superficial any secondary infection may not become noticeable in the form of inflammation or puss for a month or more post injury. In consultation with vets and from what I've observed over the years it seems that when the injury is not severe (2nd or 3rd degree) any secondary infection usually presents in the initial stages as small brown and/or black dots at the edge or corners of the injured scales from a fortnight to a month post injury and can progress quite quickly if not treated. This is why I've suggested the OP get the snake checked by a vet to 1. Confirm if it is a burn and 2. Treat any diagnosed secondary infection with antibiotics.

Cheers,

George.
 

Bluetongue1

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The one point I do not agree with is the lumping together of the timeframes for the effects of different degree burns to become visible. The effects of less severe burns (1st and even mild 2nd degree) develop and can be seen fairly quickly. Deeper 2nd degree and 3rd degree take some time to show up. This difference is due to both the relative proximity to the surface and the actual nature of the tissues involved.

I stated in my original post, in the absence of other signs, it would appear that only the epidermis was affected. Given the time lag involved and the apparent superficial nature of the injury, one would expect it to have all but healed by now. This advice is based on the assumption that the OP’s mum correctly observed that there was nothing else abnormal about the snake’s skin other than a poor shed. Another assumption that this discussion has made me aware of is that the healing I have assumed the snake is otherwise healthy snake, with its immune and repair systems working normally. If this is not the case, then healing could be delayed. If these two assumptions are not correct, than I’d agree with you that a vet check would be prudent.

@julespule. Julia, one thing I would suggest, if you have not already done so, is just to check the slough to make sure the spectacle scales covering the eyes were shed and not retained – just as a precaution. That aside, I hope your stimmie continues to improve and you can relax and enjoy it as you should. They really are very engaging little critters.
 
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