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Reptile With Blisters On Its Underbelly

About a week ago my snake began the pre-shed process, and yesterday I noticed blisters. What are they?

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I have a rather large Burmese python that I have noticed to have blisters on her underbelly.  I am reluctant to take her to the vet due to her size and local city laws.  However, I do not want her to suffer if she is in need of serious medical attention.  About a week ago she began the pre-shed process, and yesterday I noticed the blisters.  Her caging conditions have not changed, but she does tend to spill her water often.  I have thoroughly cleaned the cage and have removed her water dish for the time being.  We recently moved her to a new house approximately a month ago, and I am wondering if any part of the move could have caused her to become ill.  The move was only about a mile, and we put her in a new plastic garbage can.  I do not notice any differences in her behavior with the blisters, but she usually is not active before a shed.  I called a local vet, and they just recommend changing her bedding.  Is there anything else I can do without having to take her to a local vet?  Does she need immediate medical attention? 


You’re probably not going to like my answer because it does appear that your snake is in need of veterinary care. If she is rather large, perhaps you can locate a herp veterinarian who will make a house call. This may be the solution for your problem.

It sounds as if your python has what is commonly called “blister disease.” Blisters usually form as a result of the snake being housed in too moist of an environment, which is what you were describing by her spilling her water often. She needs a much more substantial crock or tub that she cannot tip over and still allows her to drink and soak when she desires.

Early on, the blisters are full of liquid and cellular debris, but after a time, the blisters will become infected with bacteria. So if you catch the blister problem early, and you remove her to a clean and dry environment before the lesions become infected, then that action should be curative. However, if the blisters have become infected, the disease may progress rapidly, causing a bacterial infection in the bloodstream (septicemia) that progresses to death.

A herp veterinarian can easily aspirate some fluid from the blisters to be examined microscopically, stained and even cultured to see what’s brewing in there. Blood tests can also be performed to ascertain if she has signs of an infection. You said she is not active, and she normally is like this prior to shedding. However, what if this is the beginning of a bacterial infection and not just pre-shed blahs? Is it worth the risk of ignoring this and hoping she gets better? Only you can answer that.

If you do keep her warm and dry, and the blisters clear up, then you and your snake have effectively dodged the bullet. But what if she doesn’t get better? Then valuable time may have been wasted by not seeking a veterinary opinion sooner. It’s a tough call in your situation.


Make sure you are keeping your snake within the proper temperature range of 77 to 86 degrees Fahrenheit. If she is kept too cool at this time, it may speed the process of her developing a bacterial infection.

Now, you have the information, and you must make the decision about what to do about her condition. I hope you can locate a qualified herp vet who is willing to come to your home and examine and treat her. Many exotic animal veterinarians are amenable to performing house calls due to the nature of their practice.

Margaret A. Wissman, DVM, DABVP has been an avian/exotic/herp animal veterinarian since 1981. She is a regular contributor to REPTILES magazine.

Need a Herp Vet?
If you are looking for a herp-knowledgeable veterinarian in your area, a good place to start is by checking the list of members on the Association of Reptilian and Amphibian Veterinarian (ARAV) web site at www.arav.com. Look for DVMs who appear to maintain actual veterinary offices that you could contact.