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Motleys and muscle weakness.. Is this a thing?

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  • [Health-General] Motleys and muscle weakness.. Is this a thing?

    I recently got a CA motley male (2014 baby, not sure on birth month). He seems fine health-wise no kinks, no mites, no neuro, has eaten twice and defecated once for me (seemed normal). Today was the second time that I've handled him (other than to get him out of the bag and to move him to clean his tub briefly).

    On all the occasions I've handled him, I've noticed that he has seemed slightly weak in his back third (from about two inches in front of the vent to his tail). He can still move his tail and grip with the tip, but doesn't wrap the back third of his body around my hand / arm to hold on as well as my other boas do. When I got my hypo last year (slightly larger than this guy but not by too much) he didn't seem to have this weakness. The motley also seems to grip less hard with the rest of his body.

    I was wondering if this is possibly related to the motley gene, or if it could be from simple lack of exercise. The breeder said he has 150 snakes, so doesn't handle them and I'm assuming this guy was almost maintenance fed (he seems pretty thin). I've given him a branch and hides to climb on in his tub which will hopefully help if it is due to a lack of climbing and I'm planning on moving him up to small mice from hoppers next week.

    If you guys have any experience with anything like this, I'd greatly appreciate your advice. The boa seems healthy otherwise so I'm hoping he'll overcome this.

  • #2
    Re: Motleys and muscle weakness.. Is this a thing?

    I wish I knew what to tell you (& I know zip about 'motley' gene and this condition you are seeing). I would wonder if he had some sort of back injury...like if someone pulled him from a branch, or some other spinal defect?
    An x-ray from a knowledgeable herp vet might be helpful? He may improve in time but who knows? I do hope you'll update us with the 'rest of the story'.

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    • #3
      Re: Motleys and muscle weakness.. Is this a thing?

      Hmm.. I had not considered injury. He came from a breeder with a large collection, so I'm pretty certain he was in a very small tub with a water bowl and maybe no hides (or anything to climb on) I wouldn't think he would have had access to climbing things that he could have been pulled off of. It is possible that he could have been dropped... This was the first time I've used this breeder and could not find any feedback on him on fauna, etc, so I'm not sure of his ethics, etc. He did communicate fairly well and payment / shipping went smooth.

      Lasts night, I put a branch in his tub and when I came back an hour or so later, he was climbing on it.

      I'd love to just be able to pop in to my vet, but there are zero exotic vets here and I'm not sure my normal vet would even know how to read a snake x-ray... At this point, I think I'll watch him for a week or two and see how things go.. If he stays the same or deteriorates, then a vet visit may be in order. I'm hoping he'll improve with solid feeding and exercise. I am going to try taking collection pics outside today and will try to get a couple shots of him to upload just to see if you guys notice anything. I can't see any kinks or obvious defects (like lumps, sores, etc.).

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      • #4
        Re: Motleys and muscle weakness.. Is this a thing?

        I agree with your plan: wait & look for improvement with feeding & gentle exercise (on his initiative) if there's no other concerns (-signs), but it may take a long while to change or improve. I truly hope he outgrows it.
        I take it that you didn't try asking the breeder about this? Not in an accusatory tone, of course, but just to see what he says?

        Another thing occurs to me: it's my understanding that PAM (or any toxic chemical used to kill mites) has caused neurological issues (or even death) when snakes are over-exposed to it. It's possible he is recovering from
        such a thing...and the breeder either doesn't know or isn't sharing that information (as that would have killed the sale). Just something to think about: again, I can't say whether this 'condition' is known to 'occur' in motleys
        due to genetic defects, though any time you breed animals for specific traits you also run a greater risk of such issues happening. It's one reason I love the "normals"...nature gets it right most often.

        Again, I am not psychic...I'm just trying to help you figure out what MAY have happened to this snake & where to go from there.

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        • #5
          Re: Motleys and muscle weakness.. Is this a thing?

          It may also be that he just feels comfortable enough when being handled that he's not scared of falling, so he doesn't grip tightly. I have an albino female like this - if I throw her across my shoulders and move she's liable to go sliding down my back or down one of my arms rather than stay put.

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          • #6
            Re: Motleys and muscle weakness.. Is this a thing?

            Originally posted by bcr_229 View Post
            It may also be that he just feels comfortable enough when being handled that he's not scared of falling, so he doesn't grip tightly. I have an albino female like this - if I throw her across my shoulders and move she's liable to go sliding down my back or down one of my arms rather than stay put.
            I agree, that's possible too and I so hope that's all it is. Though I wouldn't really expect a new young snake to be feeling such familiarity just yet, but who knows?

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            • #7
              Re: Motleys and muscle weakness.. Is this a thing?

              Thanks again for the input!
              I had a friend over on Saturday night and took him out to show her (she doesn't own reptiles but is interested in them). She noticed something that I did not.. She saw some loose skin on his sides... With that info along with how thin he is, I'm thinking lack of proper feeding might be a contributing factor... You have to eat to have good muscle mass. This is making me lean more towards the side of him being underfed.. I'm not saying he's starving, but my hypo that I got last year at about the same length, had a lot more weight / mass to him.

              I have not tried contacting the breeder yet. Communication was ok with him through the sale, but he didn't respond to my email when I let him know the snake had arrived safely, so I'm not sure if he will communicate back. In fairness, I should contact him and see what he says, but I'm wanting to wait and see if he improves after a slightly larger meal or two (I gave him hoppers his first 2 meals with me and want to do a small mouse this Tuesday). If he was being underfed with the previous breeder, I doubt he would admit that (and if he wasn't underfeeding, I'd hate to insinuate that).

              I'm not seeing any neuro issues... so I don't think over-exposure to PAM would fit.

              I'm also not sure about the "too comfortable while being handled" theory... Although some of his behavior (not gripping with most of his tail) reminds me of my kenyan sand boas, who don't grip at all and would basically fall off while being handled. .. Is it possible that he just doesn't "know" how to climb? I would think that would be instinctual in all boas, but perhaps a neuro issue could cause him to "forget" how?

              Thanks again for your help guys... I know that it is impossible to tell exactly why this is happening, but your theories have helped me determine a course of action.

              Comment


              • #8
                Re: Motleys and muscle weakness.. Is this a thing?

                Being unable to grip you may be a "neuro" issue but with another observation on this snake (loose skin) I think he is under-fed too, & just plain weak. Be careful that he doesn't get any skin tears...(make sure there is nothing

                in his cage like a sharp branch that could tear his skin): I say this because chronic underfeeding of a snake can result in skin that tears EASILY...I once took in (rescued) a boa like that...it was just awful, the owners had

                used some force to remove her from her basking branch to stuff her in a pillow case & drop off to me. I had made a house-call initially to assess her & agreed to take her in, but was planning to return for her with vastly

                different tactics planned. Her skin tore in multiple places & took "forever" to heal over; she was an adult boa though & it takes time to get to that point. Later I read about this condition...I NEVER want to see it again.


                It is also possible that your snake has some abnormality where he doesn't digest his food well that would prevent him from gaining weight. (tip-offs might be unusually-smelly or oily stools etc) This would not be as common

                an issue as simply being underfed...just another possibility to keep in mind. One thing you don't want to do (to fix this) is to "power-feed" him (& I'm sure you know that); just be very patient, a "few extra meals" won't fix this.

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                • #9
                  Re: Motleys and muscle weakness.. Is this a thing?

                  Thanks! I went to check on him today and noticed that he was curled around himself while resting in his hide... I'm thinking that if it was a neuro issue, he wouldn't be able to bend his tail like that (even to curl around himself).

                  I think that a small mouse would be the appropriate prey size...But I'll try to find one that is just a little larger than a hopper. I plan to keep him on a 7 day schedule, so don't worry, I won't be pumping food into him. He has already defecated once for me and it appeared normal (no weird smell or texture) but I'll keep that in mind to check for the next time he goes.

                  He has a branch in his enclosure, but I don't think there are any sharp edges on it. I will be careful if I need to remove him, but so far, he tends to stay under his hide, so that shouldn't be an issue.

                  Thanks for your help! I really appreciate it.

                  Comment


                  • #10
                    Re: Motleys and muscle weakness.. Is this a thing?

                    I've heard of muscle issues with some motleys. Some arabesques have this too.

                    The muscle weakness is most pronounced/devastating in the super form of the motley mutation, but it can also be present in the heterozygous form. I would be more inclined to say the issue is genetic rather than neurological or due to an injury.

                    There is no reason the animal can't live a long, full, healthy life. Arabs and Motleys with this kind of muscle weakness are more prone to regurgitation than their well-muscled counterparts, and therefore more care should be taken to space out their feedings and always err on the side of smaller prey items. Granted, this is good practice with any boa.

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                    • #11
                      Re: Motleys and muscle weakness.. Is this a thing?

                      Thanks for your advice! I'm still hoping he's just underweight, but it's good to know that boas with a genetic form of muscle weakness can live and do well. I guess if there are no signs of improvement after 2-3 months of appropriate feeding, then I can assume it is genetic and plan accordingly.

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                      • #12
                        Re: Motleys and muscle weakness.. Is this a thing?

                        I wonder if there is some sort of physical therapy you could try for this boa; which of course, may take a couple of years. Maybe strength training on some sort of jungle gym that is low to the ground would help him build up muscle so he can climb better. That's what I would do if her were otherwise healthy, but of course I have only ever had two to three snakes at a time that were purely pets so I had time to actually do something like this.

                        It would be cool to see if something like this would actually work. Its a long shot, yes, but it would interesting to record if there is improvement.

                        Physical therapy for a snake.. haha

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                        • #13
                          Re: Motleys and muscle weakness.. Is this a thing?

                          That's a good idea.. I've heard people mentioning having their snake climb stairs if it was overweight... Something like that might help this guy too. Until I get a few more meals in him, I'll take it very easy in terms of handling.. Once he's doing ok food wise (and hopefully has put on a little weight) then I will start taking him out for exercise sessions. The most I have been doing up to this point is taking him out and holding him for about 5 minutes.. His preference seems to be to crawl on the ground (or any flat surface) over climbing.. Which is understandable given his condition.

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                          • #14
                            Re: Motleys and muscle weakness.. Is this a thing?

                            For what it's worth I have a female motley, nearly 2 years old, who has definite muscle weakness in the rear of her body--she's perfectly fine in every other respect, but seems unable to hold on with her tail and is kind of "floppy" when you handle her...I didn't know about this tendency in motleys when I purchased her and would worry about her ability to birth a litter normally...anyhow, I'm probably going to re-home her since I don't feel comfortable using her in a breeding program...that's just me though, and clearly lots of people successfully breed this morph and experience no problems...again, other than the muscle weakness she's fine--eats, sheds, and defecates normally and, I have no doubt, will live a long and healthy life...

                            Comment


                            • #15
                              Re: Motleys and muscle weakness.. Is this a thing?

                              Good to know someone else has seen this.. My boy is a CA motley, so I'm not sure if that changes the likelihood of this occurring or not. I was not planning on breeding him, but you're right, this might eliminate that possibility.

                              Thanks for your input and experience!

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