people think of veterinary medicine and the scope of
species we as veterinarians serve, I suspect dogs, cats,
horses and perhaps "food" animals top that
list. There are however many different species of
animals that people choose to care for as companions and
there are veterinarians that do indeed work with some of
these more "exotic" species. Bando would fall
into this category.
is a 3-year-old, 6½-foot snake — and not just any
kind of snake. He is a wart snake or sometimes called
elephant trunk snake. Bando’s caretaker, Randy, has
had Bando for two years, having purchased him from a
California reptile dealer.
is housed in an aquarium that is temperature-controlled
and aquatic. Bando spends almost all of his time in the
water, including feeding time. His diet consists of
goldfish and he is feed once a week. Randy reports that
Bando has had no problems in the past two years but
recently appears to have developed an issue with his
the past few weeks, Bando’s eyes have become more and
more opaque. They are now to the point where Randy
suspects Bando cannot see.
Randy thought Bando’s eyes were clouding over as they
normally do right before he sheds his skin but even
after a shed occurred, the opacity in Bando’s eyes
remained. Randy has yet to find a veterinarian to
examine Bando so he took to the internet and eventually
got me involved.
understand what might be going on with Bando’s eyes,
it helps to understand a bit about the natural history
of his species. For you aficionados, wart snakes belong
to the genus Acrochordus, which includes three species
of snakes. I suspect Bando is a Java wart snake because
of his large size.
snakes are native to parts of southeast Asia and spend
most of their time in water. Their diet consists of
aquatic life -- especially fish -- and they have a rough
scale pattern, which aids in gripping fish as they coil
around them when eating. In my clinical experience,
these are very rare snakes in captivity. I personally
have only worked with them in zoo collections.
are many possibilities that could cause Bando’s eye
issues. But it is my suspicion that Bando’s eye
problem is directly related to his captive environment
and, more specifically, the water he is kept in. In
their natural habitat, wart snakes live in water that is
brackish. This type of water is between fresh and salt
water in its salinity, and occurs in areas where salt
and freshwater mix.
such as the mouths of streams and rivers are prime
habitat for this snake. In captivity, it is sometimes
difficult to maintain the proper salinity of the water
in which these snakes are housed and often times people
will simply use fresh water. Overtime, this can lead to
an eye problem called corneal edema. I believe Bando has
developed corneal edema.
back in school when you learned about osmosis? It is a
term given to the movement of water across a membrane
from an area of greater concentration to an area of
the case of Bando’s eyes, the concentration of water
is higher outside the eyes than inside and the water
molecules then move across the corneal membrane into the
eyes causing the observed opacity and swelling as well.
This condition is completely fixable if addressed in a
timely manner by making sure Bando’s water is
can be done by adding a proper amount of salt mixture. I
recommend the products used for saltwater aquariums, but
at two-thirds the normal concentration. Once the
salinity is balanced, Bando’s eyes will clear as the
water that has swelled and clouded his eyes moves in the
other direction, again by osmosis, out of his eyes.
is very important to address this water change as soon
as possible otherwise, left untreated, Bando’s eyes
will become permanently damaged.