Can cancer show up in snakes? This may seem like a hard question, but scientists have been asking it for a long time.
If you have a snake as a pet, you may want to know about the problems your snake has. There are also worries about its health and well-being.
Some health problems, like cancer, could be bad for your pet. That’s why it’s important to know if snakes can get cancer.
Can Snakes Get Cancer?
Snakes and other cold-blooded animals can get cancer, which is most likely caused by things in the environment like dirty water and foreign chemicals.
We don’t know very much about how often snakes get cancer, but we do know that they have cancer and other health problems.
Snakes’ skin and the organs inside their bodies often get bumps and lumps. There are many things that can cause these bumps, which are usually big. Most bumps and lumps on the outside of the body are caused by infections, which are often called abscesses.
But bumps and lumps on the skin can also be caused by growths called tumours, including malignant ones.
Cancer can also cause lumps and masses to grow inside the body. Other things that can cause tumours to grow inside the body are holding on to eggs (in snakes that lay eggs) or being unable to go to the bathroom. Also, a mass inside the snake could be the food it just ate.
If you see a lump or mass on your pet snake’s skin, you should take it to the vet right away. Your vet will order specialized tests, such as an X-ray and blood tests, to find out what caused the lump.
If you have a mass in your body, you might be able to find out what it is by looking at your skin. In that case, you will also need to work closely with your vet, who will suggest different tests to find out what’s causing the mass inside the body.
After the initial checkup and finding out where the lump or mass came from, your vet will decide if your pet needs medicine or surgery to get rid of the lump.
Most lumps are harmless and rarely cause death. However, some lumps can be cancerous, so it is important to have your pet checked out as soon as possible so that your vet can start the right treatment.
What Other Health Problems Are Common Among Snakes?
Even though snakes can get cancer, there isn’t much information about how often this happens. There are, however, a number of other health problems that snakes often have. Here are a few of these health problems:
But the illness can also be a sign of other health problems, such as a new or changed environment, not enough light, or a diet that isn’t enough or is the wrong size.
Anorexia can also be caused by health problems, like a blockage in the digestive system, liver or kidney failure, or even cancer in the body.
If your pet won’t eat when it’s not pregnant or shedding, you should take it to the vet to find out why it’s not eating.
Once the cause of your snake’s not eating has been found and fixed, it will probably start eating again.
Difficult Ecdysis (Difficulty in Shedding)
A healthy snake will shed its skin in one piece that looks like an upside-down sock. Snakes that are young, healthy, and well-fed shed their skin more often (almost every month), but this happens less often as the snake gets older and grows faster.
During the shedding process, called ecdysis, the snake prefers a rough surface to rub against its skin.
The old skin comes off in one piece from head to tail. Some snakes, on the other hand, may have trouble shedding their skin. This is called dysecdysis.
Increasing the humidity in the snake’s environment can often help, but it’s best to talk to a vet about the best way to do this so your pet snake doesn’t get hurt beyond repair.
Salmonella, a type of bacteria, is also a common cause of stomach infections in snakes. Even though snakes may have these bacteria as part of their normal gut flora, they can cause blood infections and stomach problems that can kill.
Many snakes may have the bacteria in their gut, but they may not have any symptoms. But the bacteria are in their waste, which could make other snakes sick if you have more than one pet snake.
Good hygiene is the best way to cut down on the chance of getting Salmonella. When the snake’s cage gets dirty, clean it well. Also, you should always wash your hands after handling your pet’s food or cleaning the cage.
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Dystocia can also be caused by old age, poor health, and any kind of bulk or physical blockage in the reproductive canal. It’s important to know that a snake with dystocia will be slow, tired, and won’t eat.
If any of these things happen to your pet, you should make an appointment with your vet right away. Before recommending screening, your vet will look at your pet’s body.
Screening may include blood tests and X-rays. Your veterinarian will decide if your pet needs medicine or surgery based on where the problem started.
Prey Wounds and Bites
Many pet owners may be surprised to learn that prey that is often given to pets as food can bite your pet badly and hurt the snake so much that it could die.
For instance, if you put a scared mouse in front of a snake that isn’t hungry, the mouse can bite the snake very hard and kill it.
Remember that wounds and bites from the snake’s prey need to be treated quickly, or your pet could get hurt so badly that it could die.
To keep your snake from getting bit or hurt by the prey, only give it dead prey. If your snake has trouble eating dead animals, you can teach it to do so to make it less likely to hurt itself.
You can also make sure that the animal was just killed and is still warm when you give it to your pet.
If you feed your snake a live prey and then find that the prey bit or hurt your snake, you should take it to the vet right away.
Is it safe to keep my pet while I’m being treated for cancer?
Taking care of certain pets could make you more likely to get sick. Not every pet is the same, and not every way to treat cancer is the same either.
You should also talk to your pet’s vet to find out what kinds of illnesses your pet might give you if your immune system is weak.
When getting treatment for cancer, it is best to stay away from certain kinds of dogs (see below).
There is a big difference between taking in a sick stray and caring for a healthy pet who is getting treatment for cancer. Stray animals often have more pathogens and may not have had their shots.
If precautions are taken, well-cared-for pets that live inside the house are much less likely to cause trouble. Still, pets can get infections that don’t make them sick, but a person with a weak immune system can get sick if they come into contact with any of these germs.
How can you get an infection from a pet?
Bites and scratches
When getting treatment for cancer, it’s best to stay away from cuts and bites. If your pet is acting up, you might need to stop it until your immune system gets better.
- Keep your dog’s or cat’s claws trimmed so you don’t get scratched.
- Scratches need to be cleaned and kept safe until they are fully healed.
- If a scratch is red, swollen, or filled with pus, you should see a doctor right away.
- If your pet bites and breaks the skin, you should call your vet. Even if you have a healthy immune system, any bite can make you sick, and you may need to go to the hospital. Depending on where the bite happened and how bad it was, you may need antibiotics and other care. Cat bites are especially likely to get infected because their long, thin teeth can cause deep, hard-to-clean wounds.
Feces and urine
- Keep litter boxes away from places where food is being made or eaten.
- Let someone else clean the litter box or bird cage every day and throw away the waste the right way.
- If a pet has an accident inside, it is best to have someone else clean it up and sterilize the area.
- If you have to clean up, wear waterproof disposable gloves and wash your hands afterward.
Licking, saliva, and vomit
Since some infections can be spread through saliva, it’s best not to let your pet lick open wounds or get close to your lips.
- Wash it off with soap and water if you get pet saliva on your skin.
- If you can, have someone else wear disposable waterproof gloves and clean up any vomit.
Some germs can be passed from an animal to a person by touching or petting it. Because of this, it is very important to wash your hands after touching a pet.
Protecting your health during cancer treatment
Here are some ways to stay safe while you are being treated for cancer.
- Don’t get too close to your pet, such as by kissing, cuddling, or sleeping in the same bed.
- Visit your vet to have your pet(s) checked for conditions that could cause infections and to get medicine to prevent heartworm, flea, or tick infections.
- Check to see if your pet(s) have all of their shots. Ask your vet if there are any “live” vaccines, and talk to your cancer team before giving any “live” vaccines.
- Check your cat(s) for feline leukemia (FeLV) and feline immunodeficiency virus (FIV).
- Even though these viruses can’t spread to people, they weaken the immune system of cats and make them more likely to get other infections that can.
- If you think your pet(s) are sick, you should take them to a vet.
- Keep your dogs’ sleeping quarters tidy.
- Feed your pets only high-quality canned or dry pet food or well-cooked table food. Don’t give them old or broken food, raw meat, or its juices.
- When you clean the fish tank, bird cage, cat litter box, or dog poop, wear waterproof disposable gloves.
- Bird cage liners should be cleaned every day.
- Don’t touch the outside of your gloves after you’ve used them. Pull the gloves off at the inside of the wrist and throw them away.
- Wash your hands after caring for, petting, feeding, or cleaning up after a pet (even if you wore gloves).
- Wash your hands before you take medicine or touch food, dishes, or other things in the kitchen.
- Ask other people to clean your fish tanks and cages for birds or other pets.
- Stay away from animals you don’t know, especially stray ones or ones that look sick.
- Avoid getting in touch with reptiles, their cages or terrariums, and things from their cages.
- Wear gardening gloves to avoid getting animal poop on your hands.
- Keep your cats and dogs inside as much as possible to keep them from meeting other pets and animals, like birds and rodents.
- If you get sick or need to go to the hospital, make sure someone can take care of your dogs and their homes. If you need to, keep written instructions on how to feed, clean, give medicine, use the bathroom, and contact a vet on hand.
- Getting a new pet while getting treatment for cancer is usually not a good idea. But if a family wants to get a pet, an older dog or cat in good health is likely to be less of a risk than an animal less than a year old. A veterinarian should look at the animal before you bring it home. Adult pets are less likely to hurt you than young ones. They also play rougher, bite more, and have more “accidents” at home that need to be cleaned up.
- Talk to a vet right away if your pet has a runny nose, cough, loss of weight, diarrhea, vomiting, or a stuffy nose. He might have a disease you can catch. People whose immune systems aren’t as strong may be more likely to get an infection from their sick pet.
- Don’t let your pet eat animal waste, trash, or other “found” foods.
- Let your pet drink from the toilet or anywhere outside where water is standing.
- Don’t let sick pets, wild animals, or stray animals visit your pet.
- Keep an eye out for signs that rats or mice might be living in your home and take steps to stop them. Let your pet hunt them, and keep pets out of areas where they are. After the rats are gone, a mixture of bleach and water should be used to clean the area well.
Keeping pets healthy
Check with your vet about heartworm preventives and medicines to keep fleas and ticks away from your dog or cat. Pets and the places they sleep will also need to be cleaned.
During some parts of your cancer treatment, you may need help taking care of your pets. It’s a good idea to find one or two helpers before you start treatment.
Help your pet avoid infections
- Keep your dog inside, except for short trips to the bathroom, and walk it on a leash in places where it won’t meet other animals.
- When cats are let outside, they are more likely to chase birds and other small animals.
- This is a common way for cats to get an infection caused by a parasite called toxoplasmosis. It rarely makes the cat sick, but someone with a weaker immune system could get very sick or even die from it.
- Keep your pet away from “outside” animals whose health you don’t know. If you can help it, don’t put your pet in a kennel.
- Dog parks and pet stores that let pets inside are other places where pets can get sick.
Pets you shouldn’t be around during cancer treatment
Reptiles should not be kept by people with weak immune systems, especially those who are getting a stem cell or bone marrow transplant. Salmonella is a disease that can kill people with weak immune systems.
Snakes, turtles, lizards, and iguanas often carry it. This germ can live on surfaces and things the animal touched for a while. It can be hard to stay away from this germ because you don’t have to touch the reptile to get it.
Chickens and ducks
Rodents and pocket pets
Salmonella is often found in animals that look healthy, like hamsters, gerbils, mice, guinea pigs, and ferrets. People can get sick from these and other microbes that cause diarrhea, skin infections, and other things.
People who come into contact with wild rats or sick animals can get very sick from the viruses they carry. People may not be good candidates for cancer treatment for these reasons.
If you decide to keep them, keep them inside and away from other animals that may be infected. Habitats shouldn’t be in kids’ rooms.
Cages, toys, bowls for food and water, and other things should be cleaned outside and kept away from places where people eat and drink.
Take the above steps when petting, feeding, cleaning their cages, or playing with their toys. Make sure that the vaccinations for ferrets are up-to-date.
Other exotic pets
People with weak immune systems shouldn’t be around wild animals. They can spread rare diseases that are deadly.
Monkeys, chinchillas, primates, and other unusual animals that people keep as pets may also be more likely to bite.
Children with cancer and pets
Children are more likely than adults to get sick from pets because they crawl around on the floor with them and put things in their mouths.
All of the information about pets and cancer in adults also applies to pets in homes where a child has cancer.
If a child is too young to understand the safety rules, he or she shouldn’t play with a pet. Even older children may still need your help.
- Adults should watch how a child plays with a pet.
- Don’t let people kiss, share food, or roughhouse.
- Let little kids put their fingers or the pet’s toys in their mouths. Make sure the child’s hands are clean before eating, drinking, or taking medicine, and afterward as well.
- Make sure the oncology team for your child knows about your pet and ask if there are any other steps you should take.
- Keep your child away from stray animals, wild animals, pet zoos, and other people’s pets.
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