D. E. Larsen, DVM
I looked around as I stood in the middle of the exam room. There was nobody with me to lend a hand. All the girls in the office were suddenly gone, they were nowhere in sight. Not even watching from the far side of the clinic.
In front of me, a near life or death struggle was unfolding. Mike and Don were trying to extract my next patient from a large dog kennel that they had sat on the exam table. The patient was making it clear, in no uncertain terms, that she was not coming out of the kennel.
These were a couple of big boys. Actually, young men, they were both well over 6 feet tall, with broad shoulders and muscular, athletic bodies. You would think that they could handle any contents of the kennel with no problem.
Don had assumed the lead role. He was in front of the open door to the kennel. Sort of making little sways, to and fro, following the head of the soon to be patient, Sonja. Finally, Don took a deep breath and plunged into the kennel with both hands outstretched. He had her by the head, and she didn’t like it. There were loud hissing coming from the kennel. Don pulled back with the head in his hands.
I could see the muscles on her massive head bulging, her mouth wide open and hissing. Don began to pull her out of the kennel. The kennel bouncing and banging in all directions as she struggled to stay inside. Mike moved in to try to control her body.
“She is really pissed!” Mike said as he grabbed her body.
Mike’s assessment was pretty accurate. Sonja was no small snake. At twelve feet long and over 50 pounds, she was a fine specimen of a Burmese Python. Don had managed to pull her head out of kennel two or three feet. The remainder of her body was coiled in a large mass in the kennel. She continued to bang the kennel up and down on the table with forceful throws of her coils, and she had no intention of coming the rest of the way out.
Don managed to get her head out far enough to where he could turn his body and put more pressure on extracting her.
“Don’t let her get on my back!” Don screamed at Mike. There was real excitement in the air now.
“I have her!” Mike replied equally loud and excited.
Mike had one arm around her body about six feet behind Don, and he was trying to push the kennel back with his other hand. Joleen had peeked out of the back to check on the screams.
And then it happened!
Sonja shit a brick, literally. Big snakes eat about once a week and have a BM on about the same schedule. This BM was a white block, about four inches square and nearly a foot long. It was last week’s rabbit.
The odor was overwhelming. Veterinarians are said to lose their sense of smell by the end of their second year of school. For the most part, that is true. But this was unlike anything I had ever smelled before.
Jolene turned and disappeared again. Mike turned his head away and gagged.
Don looked at me and said, “That really smells bad. That means she is really mad.”
A few more minutes, and they had her out of the carrier. Here were two large, strong young men, honestly struggling to maintain control of the giant snake. I began to appreciate the power that this snake possessed. It was all of a sudden apparent that if we messed up, someone could be in real trouble. The thought brushed my mind, what would happen if this snake got loose in the clinic.
Finally, they had her under control enough that we could talk about her problem. There, on top of her head, was a large festering wound. It extended deep into the muscles of the head. It was the result of a bite from a rabbit, just before dinner time.
Snake abscess always looked different from what I was used to seeing. The exudate is dry, almost laid down in layers, reminiscent of an onion.
I swabbed this wound with some Betadine and started scraping the exudate out, one layer at a time, beginning in the center. After all the accumulated debris was removed, I found a good bed of new, healthy, granulation tissue.
I cleaned the wound thoroughly and disinfected it with Betadine. After cleaning, it was about the size of a dime and a centimeter deep. The good thing was the outer opening was the widest part. This would should heal uneventfully at this point.
Antibiotic use in the reptiles is not without some significant risks. My thought was with this wound cleaned out, and with healing underway, we would forgo any antibiotics. I layered some NewSkin over the wound.
I handed the kennel off to be cleaned in the back. Getting the brick out to dumpster made the working environment much more pleasant. Now our only problem was to get Sonja back into the kennel.
With the kennel sat up on end on the floor, with the door looking up, Mike began stuffing her into the carrier. I think when she realized where her body of going, she sort of relaxed. Finally, with only her head to go, Don threw her head into the kennel, and they slammed the door closed.
Everyone relaxed, you could feel the tension drain from the room. Mike and Don were both sweating and looked like a couple of guys who just stepped off the wrestling mat.
“I think we should probably recheck this wound every day for a few days,” I said with a smile on my face.
The expression of the faces was worth the joke. I think everyone was happy to load the kennel back into their truck.