Sometimes referred to as mouth rot, infectious stomatitis is a very common disorder that can affect pet lizards, snakes, and turtles. When a reptile is under stress, its immune system becomes weak and unable to keep the bacteria that are normally present in the mouth in check. The resulting infection leads to mouth rot.
Symptoms and Types
Signs of mouth rot can include:
- Loss of appetite
- Reddened oral tissues
- Thick pus and/or dead tissue within the mouth
- Drainage from the mouth and nose
If left untreated, infection can spread from the mouth into the rest of the digestive tract or into the lungs, causing pneumonia.
Improper temperature gradients or humidity levels within the terrarium can lead to a poorly functioning immune system and mouth rot. In some cases, an improper diet, or oral injuries that result from a reptile attempting to restrain live prey, rubbing against cage walls, or chewing on bedding material can also play a role.
Mouth rot is generally diagnosed by observing the reptile's clinical symptoms, conducting a thorough physical exam on the animal, and reading over its medical history.
Treatment for mouth rot usually includes a course of antibiotics and a cleaning of the reptile’s mouth with an antiseptic. Surgery to remove badly damaged oral tissues may be necessary in severe cases. Animals that are unable to eat and drink while they are recovering will need fluid therapy and nutritional support. Any husbandry oversights must also be addressed or the condition is likely to return.
A healthy diet, proper temperature gradients and humidity levels, and a clean environment are all essential to preventing mouth rot.