Fifteen snakes representing seven species with segmental, proliferative osteoarthritis and osteoarthrosis of the spine were presented for examination. All the snakes were captive, privately owned, and fed domestic rodents. Physical examination, radiography, blood culture, bone culture, necropsy, and histopathology were performed on each snake. All the snakes had similar physical examination, radiologic, and necropsy findings. There were three histologic types of lesions: active bacterial osteoarthritis, predominantly noninflammatory osteoarthrosis with multifocal inflammation suggestive of chronic bacterial osteoarthritis, and noninflammatory lesions consistent with osteoarthrosis without evidence of inflammation or bacteria. These findings suggest that all these snakes represent a single disease process, bacterial infection of the vertebrae. The different histologic lesions observed in these snakes may be a continuum of lesions, from acute to chronic. Gram-negative bacteria were isolated from the blood or bone lesions of 8 of the 15 snakes. In six of these eight snakes, Salmonella species were isolated. Gram-positive bacteria (Streptococcus sp.) were isolated from two other snakes. Blood and bone culture results were well correlated, so blood culture may be effective for detecting active bacterial osteoarthritis.
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Vol. 31 • No. 1