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DC Press: Ever see a snake surgery?

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Posted by: W von Papinešu at Sat Aug 2 10:33:46 2008  [ Report Abuse ] [ Email Message ] [ Show All Posts by W von Papinešu ]  
   

WTOP (Washington, DC) 01 August 08 Ever see a snake surgery? (Kristi King)
Washington: Imagine sitting still while a needle is stuck in your eye. That's tough for anyone. But it's especially tricky when the patient is a deadly, poisonous snake undergoing a medical procedure.
The gaboon viper at National Zoo ended up in the zoo's hospital because keepers noticed its left eye was swollen and looked milky.
Zoo staff working on the snake native to west Africa had anti-venom standing close-by just in case. Initially, it was difficult getting the snake sedated.
National Zoo Chief Veterinarian Suzan Murray and her team had little luck putting the snake under by pumping gas into its clear plastic traveling box.
"He's not going down as quickly or as far as we want him to."
Plan "B" was to put the viper into a tube connected to anesthesia.
Finally, the 9.9-pound snake was laid out on a surgical table.
A tube of oxygen and anesthesia was put between its 2-inch -long fangs.
"They have incredibly long fangs. They are the longest fangs of any venomous snake," says biologist Matt Evans.
A heart monitor applied to the snake's belly ensured it remained stable during the procedure.
Even under anesthesia the poisonous snake could be dangerous, so the zoo's head snake wrangler never let go of the big guy, especially while Murray used a needle to get fluid from the swollen eye for testing.
The pathologists "might see evidence of a virus, they might see evidence of a parasite. So depending on what the pathologists see we would amend our treatment accordingly," Murray explained.
Then, as Murray cut a small wedge so the eye could drain, the snake flexed its muscles and the scales on its skin rippled and popped up and down like dominoes.
But everything went well.
"We put an antibiotic ointment and a solution in there to keep that from getting infected," Murray said.
The snake's feeding schedule also will be adjusted from once to twice a month so it can be given oral antibiotics.
For now though the zoo is "awaiting test results." Most zoos don't have their own pathology departments.
Murray says the great thing about having pathologists in the building at National Zoo's Hospital is "we get really rapid responses."
Ever see a snake surgery?


   

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