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4 wild adult rat snakes (Pantherophis alleghaniensis) were evaluated after ingesting spherical or ovoid foreign bodies.


Physical examination revealed a large, firm mass at the level of the stomach in each snake. Radiographic findings were consistent with ingestion of a golf ball (3 snakes) or an artificial egg (1 snake). Signs consistent with prolonged impaction included scale loss, dermal abrasions, and apparent loss of body condition in one snake and regional skin ulceration, dehydration, and generalized muscle atrophy in another.


Nonsurgical removal of the foreign body was attempted in anesthetized or heavily sedated snakes by external manipulation in the orad direction. A golf ball was removed through the oral cavity without complications in 1 snake. In the other 3 snakes, tension caused by the advancing foreign body resulted in full-thickness skin rupture in the cervical region. The procedure was completed with the use of a balloon catheter to aid foreign body advancement for 1 of the 3 snakes, and the skin defect was closed. The procedure was converted to esophagotomy for the other 2 snakes. Three snakes recovered and were released; 1 died of complications from prolonged impaction and esophageal perforation.


The described nonsurgical techniques for removal of ingested round or ovoid foreign bodies were associated with substantial complications in 3 of 4 treated rat snakes. Although a nonsurgical method for removal of ingested objects such as golf balls could benefit snakes, the methods used for these patients did not appear to be more beneficial than traditional gastrotomy.

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in Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association