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White Muscle Disease

Discussion in 'Rainbow Boas' started by giveuptheghost, May 8, 2012.

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  1. giveuptheghost

    giveuptheghost Well-Known Member

    I started a new thread since it doesn't seem to be a skeletal issue. Does anyone else on these boards have any experience with White Muscle Disease in snakes?

    Mercutio is getting worse it seems. The deforming muscles are progressing. But he is still quite active and alert, so the vet doesn't think it's a nervous system problem. But he can't really be certain.

    Alright, so initially presenting as abnormal and fairly severe kinks in the tail, and an apparent sensitivity to the area, I took him to the vet 3-4 weeks ago to find out what was wrong. I had taken him to the local reptile shop first and the owner pointed out some abnormalities in his spine and ribs on the lower half of his body, leading him to believe this wasn't a simple break, but a bigger issue.

    The first vet I talked to diagnosed it, tentatively as White Muscle Disease with the possible explanation that he'd been fed pinkies without enough nutritional substance in their guts, leading to a Vitamin E deficiency, which causes White Muscle Disease. This didn't make a whole lot of sense to me since corn snakes are fed pinky mice that are just days old and can't have that much nutrients in them either. Plus, he was eating mostly mouse hoppers, which had definitely had time to eat, with a few rat pinkies. So my thinking was more along the lines of a genetic issue, wherein he in particular cannot absorb all the nutrients he needs properly. We started a 2 week course of Baytril to rule out bacterial infections (encephalitis, etc.) and then she wanted me to pump the mouse hoppers and/or rat pinkies when I fed him with science diet a/d dog food.

    It went well enough and he ate the first two pumped rodents in the weeks that followed. The third week came and he had started doing this strange twitching thing. The best way I can think to describe it is as a sort of full-body hiccup. Anyway, that week (which was last week, incidentally), he didn't eat. Not eating normally wouldn't concern me since he's a snake and that's what they do, but with everything going on, I was worried. Besides, he's never not eaten for me before. I was worried that he was constipated or something since he hadn't had any solid waste in at least 3 weeks.

    So I scheduled another vet appointment for him. It was with a different vet this time (same practice though), and this one is one of the better options for snakes in my understanding. He agreed with the White Muscle Diagnosis, but he said it was bizarre because the history is just not consistent with the disease. He said White Muscle is most commonly seen in people who breed their own rodents and overfeed them, so the snakes are then being fed obese rodents on a regular basis. This is an issue because Vitamin E is used to breakdown fats and constantly consuming obese rodents causes the snakes to deplete their Vitamin E supply and develop this condition, which typically starts from the tail and works its way up. But since Mercutio is little and has been eating mouse hoppers and rat pinkies, both of which are likely too young to be obese since all their nutrients go into growing at that stage, it just didn't make sense how he developed the condition.

    He talked about some other possibilities-- protozoic parasitic infections and such,-- and so we gave him some Panacur, which is basically a broad-spectrum dewormer for snakes and I should see improvement in 7-10 days IF a parasite is the issue. Otherwise, we're going to try pure Vitamin E doses to help him absorb it better.

    If neither of these work, a biopsy of the affected muscle tissue might need to be done, but even then, he's not sure if it would tell us much. Basically, his diagnosis was that it was very strange and he called it weird enough that it might even be worth writing a paper about. Why oh why couldn't he just have gotten a respiratory infection or something like most snakes get? Not that those are good, obviously, but at least we'd know how to go about treating it.

    For now he's just got the temps in his tank raised and will attempt to feed again tomorrow. Wish me luck!
  2. Terp91

    Terp91 Elite Member

    In addition to Vitamin E levels, be sure to check his selenium intake. Also, have you noticed any discoloration of his stool? Put up a couple pics showing him before the symptoms appeared and now if possible.
  3. giveuptheghost

    giveuptheghost Well-Known Member

    No, no discoloration of the stool that I could tell. And the vet pooped him while we were there and he didn't say anything about the stool being abnormal.

    How do I check his selenium intake?

    I'll post pics and soon as I have access to my laptop (which has my pics on it) again.
  4. Terp91

    Terp91 Elite Member

    Okay, the vet would hopefully notice if there were something wrong with the stool. You should just ask the vet to check it while taking a biopsy if it becomes necessary. In production animals (cows, sheep, etc) selenium deficiency would be caused by inadequate soil grown crops/forage being fed. If the breeding facility that produces the mice you purchase feeds grain that is deficient this deficiency would be passed on to the young mice and effect your snake's health. You could try purchasing some feeders from a different company/source and see if this helps alleviate the problem at all.
  5. mld

    mld Subscribed User Premium Member

    Best of luck with the feeding!
    I admire your determination one trying to figure out what is causing this.
    Sending healing thoughts and prayers your way
  6. giveuptheghost

    giveuptheghost Well-Known Member

    Well, I've fed him mouse hoppers from "Gourmet Rodent", since that's what's at Petco, and also rat pups from a local reptile shop (not sure where they get them from). Since Petco is a national chain, and I think they all carry that brand, I would think this would be a more common issue if those rodents were deficient in some way. But I'll keep the selenium thing in mind if a biopsy becomes necessary.
  7. giveuptheghost

    giveuptheghost Well-Known Member

    So the vet just called after talking with his pathologist. The pathologist thinks there is a central nervous problem and that it could be either parasitic or viral. If it's the latter, that's it. If it's a parasite, I should see some improvement soonish from the anti-parasitic given on Monday. Fingers crossed, but my hopes aren't high. :(
  8. justor

    justor Elite Member

    Sorry to hear about the iffy prognosis. Hoping for the best!
  9. giveuptheghost

    giveuptheghost Well-Known Member

    Here's Mercutio when I first got him, back in the first week of February:

    First week of April, his tail looked like this:

    By rhcastaway at 2012-05-10

    And today it's this:
    By rhcastaway at 2012-05-10

    By rhcastaway at 2012-05-10

    It seems like he's mostly paralyzed in the lower half of his body. If I uncoil it, it just automatically starts coiling up like that again. It's all still soft, except the very tip of the tail, which is more rigid now. Whatever this is, it's progressing very rapidly now. I'll be shocked if I don't have to put him down. I feel so bad for him. I can't imagine what this has to feel like.

    Attached Files:

  10. Terp91

    Terp91 Elite Member

    I'm very sorry to hear how things are going, but I'm glad you haven't given up on him yet and are doing everything you can! Is he still keeping weight in the end portion of his tail? I'd be very interested in seeing a ct scan of his full body if you have one. The pictures along with him starting twitching as it's gotten worse makes me wonder if it may be a snake analogue of ALS?
  11. giveuptheghost

    giveuptheghost Well-Known Member

    Back to the vet today. At least 2/3rds of his body seems paralyzed now. Still twitching at regular intervals. And he lost 30 grams of weight over the course of the last week, dropping from 185 to 155. So he's obviously not responding to any of the anti-parasite drugs. I decided to put him down. He's not getting better and I just couldn't keep him around any longer in the state he's in. The vet is going to perform a necropsy and take tissues to send to a pathologist. I'll let you guys know if he gets a better idea of what happened here. :(
  12. justor

    justor Elite Member

    I'm very sorry to hear this. Must be such a difficult decision to make. :( I'm thankful I've never been in a position to make such a decision. Lets hope you get some decent answers from the necropsy!
  13. mld

    mld Subscribed User Premium Member

    Sorry to hear that he wasn't responding to the medications! Definitely the hardest decision to make, and hopefully the necropsy will show what this was.
    Take care in knowing that you did your best from day one and I'm sure he is forever grateful for that as he slithers across the rainbow bridge free of pain and suffering.

    Again I'm so sorry for your loss :(
  14. missabrat

    missabrat Elite Member

    So sorry to hear this, but personally I feel you made the right decision,which is not an easy one.
  15. xViLLaiN

    xViLLaiN Banned User

    I'm very sorry to hear about your herp. I know it's a nightmare to go through when you have a sick loved one (herp or not). I too believe you made the best decision and Its just good to know you gave it all you could.
  16. Dragoness

    Dragoness Elite Member

    was IBD ever ruled out?
  17. Merlin

    Merlin Administrator Staff Member Premium Member

    PLease be sure and update us on what the necropsy finds!
  18. giveuptheghost

    giveuptheghost Well-Known Member

    No, but the vet said he'd never seen it present like this if it was. The pathologist will be able to tell if there are any inclusions though. Should be at least a week or so before I hear from him though.
  19. Dragoness

    Dragoness Elite Member

    the muscle paralysis doesn't seem like IBD, but the "hiccuping twitch" you described made me wonder. I'd be very cautious with any other herps you have, just in case.
  20. giveuptheghost

    giveuptheghost Well-Known Member

    The only other one is a Box Turtle, kept in a completely different part of the house-- not even in the house, actually, on the back deck.

    What the vet found most strange about his twitching was that it was very regular. It wasn't random or anything. It was like clockwork, most obvious in his head, but with his whole body following suit.
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