To summarize the anesthetic events of snakes seen at a large university hospital, identify challenges with record keeping, and assess patient and anesthesia-related morbidity and death.
139 anesthetic events were performed; only 106 cases had detailed anesthetic reports available for further analyses.
Medical records of snakes that underwent general anesthesia between October 2000 and January 2022 were retrospectively reviewed. Only cases with complete anesthesia records were used to assess anesthetic parameters. Collected data included general patient details, diagnoses, procedures, premedication, induction, maintenance, monitoring, and recovery.
A thorough review of the records identified issues or scenarios that resulted in poor record management as well as highlighted the most frequently used anesthetics in snakes. For premedication this was alfaxalone, butorphanol, and hydromorphone, whereas isoflurane, alfaxalone, or propofol were the most common with induction. Lastly, with maintenance, isoflurane was the most popular choice. Of the 139 cases performed, 127 animals recovered, 8 were euthanatized due to poor prognosis, and 4 failed to recover. All snakes that failed to recover had preexisting disease identified pre-, peri-, or postoperatively at necropsy.
General anesthesia can be reliably and safely undertaken in snakes without severe preexisting disease. Efforts should be directed at identifying preexisting disease and maintaining and completing anesthesia records, and we recommend an auditing system to identify and correct issues as they arise.