The ball python (Python regius) is a medium-sized snake of the family Boidae and is native to West Africa. Because of its gentle nature, moderate size, and variably attractive skin patterns, this snake is a popular species maintained in captivity. The respiratory system of snakes has been extensively reviewed.1 The trachea is long and narrow and composed of incomplete cartilaginous rings that are supported by a dorsal ligament. The trachea terminates into 2 short primary bronchi because ball pythons, like other boids, have both left and right lungs. Each bronchus continues a short distance as an intrapulmonary bronchus before terminating in the cranial portion of the lung. Each lung is composed of 3 areas: a highly vascular faveolar region in which gaseous exchange occurs; a short semisaccular (transitional) zone; and a larger saccular area, which is thin, semitransparent, and poorly vascularized.
As in other species of captive snakes, bacterial and fungal respiratory diseases are common in ball pythons and are often related to suboptimal temperature, humidity, or ventilation.2 In addition, paramyxovirus-associated respiratory tract disease in boids and tracheal chondromas in ball pythons have been reported.3 Given that specific treatment requires accurate diagnosis, the collection of exudates and tissue samples from the respiratory tract is important.4 Although various sampling techniques have been described, endoscopy provides the least invasive means of direct lung examination and biopsy and has been described for snakes and other reptiles.5–8 The long narrow trachea of snakes makes it difficult to impossible to use most rigid and flexible endoscopes to evaluate the distal portion of the trachea and lung via an endotracheal approach. Consequently, transcutaneous insertion of a rigid endoscope directly into the lung has been advocated.5,7 The purpose of the study reported here was to establish a safe and effective technique for transcutaneous endoscopic examination and biopsy of the lungs of snakes by use of a 2.7-mm rigid endoscope.
Torbugesic (10 mg/mL), Fort Dodge Animal Health, Overland Park, Kan.
Propofol (10 mg/mL), Abbott Laboratories, North Chicago, Ill.
VT-5000, BAS Vetronics, Bioanalytical Systems Inc, West Lafayette, Ind.
Temperature therapy pad TP22G and temperature therapy pump TP500T, Gaymar, Orchard Park, NY.
ETCO2/SpO2 monitor, CO2 SMO, Novametrix Medical Systems, Wallingford, Conn.
Ultrasonic Doppler, Parks Electric Laboratory, Aloha, Ore.
V3301 Pulse Oximetry, SurgiVet, Waukesha, Wis.
Precision Thermometer, Tandy, Fort Worth, Tex.
64018BSA, 67065C, 201320-20, 69235106, 9291-B, 20094002U, and 67161 Z, Karl Storz Veterinary Endoscopy America Inc, Goleta, Calif.
PDS II, 2 metric, Ethicon, Somerville, NJ.
Metacam (5 mg/mL, injectable), Boehringer Ingelheim Vetmedica Inc, St Joseph, Mo.
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