Abscess in a Boa Constrictor
An adult female Common Colombian Boa (Boa c. imperator) presented with a history of a swollen face near the area of the right nostril (Picture 1, 2, and 3). According to the new owner who rescue the boa, the swollen facial region has increased in size in the last two weeks. The boa appears to be in good weight (11.0 kg). Upon physical examination, the boa appears to have difficulty breathing by the presence of wheezing and other sounds. The right aspect of the mouth, in the area of the gingival lining, was covered in a yellow diphtheritic membrane. A fine needle aspirate from the swollen area reveals the presence of mixture dead and dying inflammatory cells called heterophils (They actively participate in inflammatory lesions and are phagocytic). A presumptive diagnosis of an abscess was evident at this point.
Pictures 1, 2, and 3
What is an abscess?
Abscesses are localized infections that generally occur in conjunction with systemic infections. Abscesses are relatively common in reptiles and frequently cause a slowly developing swelling in a variety of locations. Reptiles lack the inflammatory mechanism “lysosomes” (cellular organelles that contain acid hydrolase enzymes that break down waste materials and cellular debris) to liquefy pus. The reptile abscesses are usually full of a dry inspissated material.
Predisposition to the formation of an abscess:
1. Traumatic injuries
2. Bite wounds
3. Foreign bodies
4. Poor husbandry parameters
5. Stress related problems
Common opportunistic bacterial organisms include the following but are not limited to: Pseudomonas sp., Aeromonas sp., Serratia sp., Salmonella sp.,Citrobacter freundii, Morganella morganii, Proteus sp., Staphylococcus sp.,Streptococcus sp., Escherichia coli, Klebsiella sp., and Dermatophilus sp. have been recovered from reptilian abscesses, often in combinations. Anaerobic pathogens are also a common finding in conjunction with aerobic bacteria in reptilian abscesses.
1. Survey Radiographs
2. Culture and Sensitivity Testing
What to do…
As with abscesses in other species, they need to be opened and drained for effective treatment (Picture 5, 6, 7, and 8). Removal of the abscess entails an incision and then “scooping out” the pus from the cavity. The lining of the abscess must be aggressively scraped to remove as much material as possible. It is best carried out under sedation.
Picture 5, 6, 7, and 8
Appropriate systemic antibiotics are also indicated. Anaerobic bacteria are common in these lesions, and an appropriate antimicrobial agent may need to be used or added to a current regimen.
The primary culprit in this case was the presence of two teeth embedded within the abscess (Picture 9 and 10) probably from a previous traumatic injury.
Picture 9 and 10 (Metric System measurement = mm)
Owner compliance played a major role in the outcome of this boa. After antibiotic treatment and wound flushing the boa facial area improved dramatically. Here is a picture of the snake one month and one week after initial presentation (Picture 11 and 12).
Picture 11 and 12
Ref. upon request
Thanks for looking!
OrlandoOrlando Diaz-Figueroa, DVM and Joel Diaz, CVT
www.legacyreptiles.com (UPDATED 2010)