"Scale rot" or septaecemia?

Hobbyists commonly refer to any lesions seen on a snake's integument as "scale rot", whether the cause is bacterial, fungal, viral or neoplastic. It can be hard to differentiate between the symptoms of necrotizing dermatitis and hemmhorrhagic petechiations that indicate a generalized septaecemia from massive systemic infection.

This cottonmouth was severely septic and died in short order despite our efforts with antibiotics. These lesions on its ventral scales are the result of a massive bacterial infection in its bloodstream and its internal organs.

The appearance of this animal is similar to that of necrotizing dermatitis, a superficial bacterial condition caused by wet or unsanitary conditions in the cage. Necrotizing dermatitis is easily treatable; septaecemia is much more serious and potentially fatal if allowed to progress.

   Return to index