Mouth rot, also known as canker, infectious stomatitis, or ulcerative stomatitis, is a disease observed in all orders of reptiles, including snakes. It is a condition in which the reptile’s mouth becomes inflamed. This disease is commonly caught by snakes in captivity and can become deadly without medical intervention. Fortunately, the signs of mouth rot are easy to notice, and the disease can be safely and successfully treated.
Mouth rot comes from the natural bacteria in a snake’s mouth, thriving due to a weakening of the snake’s immune system. Early detection is vital for your snake’s health and survival. Symptoms of early mouth rot include lethargy, dead tissue and a cheesy substance in the snake’s mouth, and swelling or reddening around the mouth.
It’s important to be aware of mouth rot in snakes and to know what you should do if your pet gets this disease. We’ll look at what mouth rot is and the symptoms you should watch out for. We’ll also recommend some trusted products you can use to treat mouth rot in snakes at home.
Table of Contents:
- 1 How To Treat Mouth Rot in Snakes
- 1.1 What Causes Mouth Rot in Snakes?
- 1.2 How To Tell If Your Snake Has Mouth Rot
- 1.3 Snake Mouth Rot Products
How To Treat Mouth Rot in Snakes
According to The American Biology Teacher, mouth rot is a bacterial infection localized in the snake’s gums.
In serious cases, the infection can develop into a more deeply rooted inflammation of the snake’s jawbone and oral cavity. Snakes are the most common victims of mouth rot, while cases have also been diagnosed in other reptiles such as lizards, tortoises, and crocodiles.
Mouth rot can come in two forms, one which is chronic and long-lasting, and one which can cause the snake to die within days. The chronic form is, fortunately, more common. The infection may last for several months until the snake, with proper care, fully recovers.
Mouth rot appears as a small pinkish white patch in the snake’s mouth. This patch is made of dead cells, also known as necrotic cells. This patch of dead cells will gradually expand, and it can grow to completely obstruct the snake’s mouth cavity.
This can lead to an infection in the lungs which will, unfortunately, kill the snake. Therefore, early diagnosis of this condition and frequent, regular treatments are essential for your snake’s wellbeing.
What Causes Mouth Rot in Snakes?
Mouth rot is rooted in a weakening of a snake’s immune system. Bacteria is a normal and natural part of a snake’s mouth.
Normally, a snake with a strong immune system keeps these bacteria under control, so it does not harm the snake. If the snake’s immune system becomes weakened, however, the bacteria will spread uncontrollably, causing an infection in your snake’s mouth.
A snake’s immune system loses its ability to properly function in response to stress. Multiple factors can cause stress which can compromise your snake’s immune system, including:
- Injuries to the mouth
- Poor or insufficient diet
- Enclosure temperature is too high or low
- Enclosure humidity is too high or low
When the snake’s immune system fails, it no longer keeps the bacteria in the snake’s mouth in check, and the bacteria will multiply in greater numbers to create an infection.
Additionally, viruses or fungi can also cause an infection which leads to mouth rot when a snake’s immune system is not up to the task of combatting them.
How To Tell If Your Snake Has Mouth Rot
Researchers at Konkuk University in Korea report that signs of a snake’s mouth rot can vary in degree. This all depends on the stage of infection.
These symptoms are early warning signs, telling you that it’s a good time for early intervention before the disease becomes more serious.
All snakes are sometimes reluctant to eat a meal. However, if your snake will not eat at all, and this extends for longer than that species of snake should go without eating, this could be a sign of mouth rot.
Be aware of how much your snake normally weighs. If it is losing a lot of weight, it might be skipping too many meals.
Get to know your snake and its usual activity level. Even the quietest, laziest snakes will move around their enclosure from day to day.
If you notice that your snake is not moving around as much, this could be a sign of mouth rot. Also, if the snake hangs limply from your hands when you handle it, this is another sign of an unhealthy level of lethargy.
Pus or Mucus in The Mouth
Snakes with mouth rot often have a substance in their mouth that resembles cottage cheese. This cheesy matter can be yellow, white, or gray.
The substance may also look more like pus or an excessive amount of salivation. Snakes usually do not drool a lot, so excessive drooling may be a sign of an infection, especially if it’s paired with other symptoms on this list.
Inflamed Mouth Tissue
You may notice that the lining of your snake’s mouth appears eroded or damaged. There may be swelling or reddening tissue around the mouth.
If this swelling is severe, your snake may be unable to close its mouth, and you may be able to see the patch of dead tissue from the infection inside the snake’s mouth.
You may notice your snake is not flicking its tongue as often as it usually does, or not flicking it at all because of the pain in its mouth.
Signs of Advanced Cases
If early symptoms go uninvestigated, the snake’s mouth rot can advance to more alarming symptoms:
- Gum tissue cracking and bleeding when the mouth opens
- Head swelling from the infection spreading to the jaw and skull
- Teeth coming loose or falling out
- Eyes swelling from the infection
- Symptoms of pneumonia develop from the snake inhaling bacteria
Snake Mouth Rot Products
If you suspect that your snake may have mouth rot, it is vital that you go to a reptile veterinarian. They can diagnose your snake’s illness and give you important advice about what to do next to give your snake the best possible care. The vet may prescribe antibiotics for your snake.
However, there are also treatments that you can give your snake at home to help them heal from mouth rot. Here are some proven products for safely treating a snake’s mouth rot.
Amber Technology Reptaid XL Immune Support
Reptaid XL is an herbal immune system support. It is high in antioxidants which help a reptile’s body fight out of control bacteria.
In addition to supporting immune system functions, it also supports a snake’s upper respiratory system and promotes appetite and vitality. Reptaid XL is meant for reptiles larger than 250 grams, while there is another Reptaid product for smaller reptiles.
This treatment is given orally to your snake up to 2 times daily in 10-day periods. Paired with a veterinarian-prescribed antibiotic treatment, it can perk up your reptile and get them eating healthfully again after a mouth rot problem.
Its ingredients include a proprietary blend of organic mustard seeds, olive leaf, wildcrafted jatoba, and cloves. Each bottle of Reptaid XL comes with thorough dosage instructions based on your snake’s weight as well as a cc/mL syringe.
You can order Reptaid XL Immune Support through Amazon.
Nature Zone Rot Guard Enhance Immune System
Rot Guard promotes the healing of tissue, helping reptiles, including snakes, maintain healthy gums and teeth. It can be given to your snake in either liquid or paste form. As a paste, you can spread it on the affected area, such as the edges of its mouth. Be gentle with your snake while handling its head.
The active ingredients of Rot Guard include calcium carbonate, kelp, thyme, garlic, clove, and turmeric. These all-natural ingredients do not include any preservatives and help your snake’s immune system fight back against bacteria. Rot Guard is used for treating tail rot and other infections.
You can order Nature Zone Rot Guard through Amazon.
Betadine First Aid Solution
Mouth rot can originate from a wound in your snake’s mouth becoming infected. Betadine is a trusted antiseptic for wounds, working on a broad range of germs and microbes to keep infections at bay. This product helps you keep your snake’s mouth clean.
You can apply a small amount of this solution to any minor cuts or scrapes in or around your snake’s mouth with a cotton swab to prevent and treat mouth rot. Betadine does not contain any alcohol or hydrogen peroxide, so you do not need to worry about these harsh substances further injuring your snake’s sensitive mouth.
When using betadine, be sure not to be too overzealous when cleaning the affected tissues. A reptile vet can advise you about how much of this treatment is necessary.
You can order Betadine First Aid Solution through Amazon.
Along with these treatments, you can comfort your snake with warm baths. These help the snake remove old skin which may contain traces of the bacteria. Be careful while bathing your snake as an ill snake can be a little irritable and prone to bite when handled.
Keep your snake’s enclosure sanitized, to get rid of any bacteria. Your snake depends on you to take care of it, especially when it’s sick. Learning how to treat mouth rot in snakes is absolutely essential.