Indigestion

An inter­est­ing case was the large snake that came in on emer­gency and was trans­ferred to my depart­ment that next morn­ing. He was a beau­ti­ful python that not only gulped down two rab­bits for his meal the night before, but also the elec­tric cord of an appli­ance that was near his meal. Radi­ographs revealed the skele­tons of his prey as well as the metal­lic parts and wire of the sev­ered cord that was tan­gled with the food. The plan was to sedate the snake, intu­bate him (place an endo­tra­cheal tube to hook to a ven­til­la­tor) and per­form an enterotomy–surgically open the stom­ach to remove the con­tents. Since he was such a big snake, we needed to lay out addtional tables to sup­port his full size and it took mul­ti­ple staff to restrain dur­ing the ini­tial part of the surgery. But it went well and once he was fully anes­thetized I was able to pre­pare for my first inci­sion. For­tu­nately, I was able to use not just the radi­ographs with mark­ers placed to iden­tify where to make the inci­sion, but his meal also made a nice lump along his body that iden­ti­fied where the best place to start. Inci­sions were made through the skin, mus­cle and stom­ach wall until the for­eign bod­ies were reached. The prey was removed along with the cord that was hope­lessly tan­gled with them and I was able to fin­ish up the clo­sure and pre­pare the pet for recov­ery. Most vets have a story that con­sists of ran­dom items eaten by pets. Other items removed from a vari­ety of pets (from myself and col­leagues) include coins, pieces of rub­ber and foam, hair­balls, a beer bot­tle (another vet and another snake), sta­ples, and cloth to name a few. Birds tend to ingest items like bread twisty ties and jew­lery or cloth and string. Rab­bits like to go for car­pet­ing and bed­ding. Fer­rets love rub­ber and chewy items (sneak­ers, erasers, etc) and rep­tiles eat a vari­ety of sub­strate includ­ing rocks and sand. No mat­ter what type of pet or what the ingested item is, these cases tend to be med­ically and sur­gi­cally challenging.

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