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Successful and unsuccessful nonsurgical removal of ingested golf balls and an artificial egg in four rat snakes (Pantherophis alleghaniensis)

Gregory Scott MA, DVM1,2, Bradley J. Waffa MSPH, DVM1, Ryan S. DeVoe DVM, MSpM3, Craig A. Harms DVM, PhD1,2, and Gregory A. Lewbart MS, VMD1
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  • 1 From the Department of Clinical Sciences, College of Veterinary Medicine, North Carolina State University, Raleigh, NC 27606.
  • | 2 Center for Marine Sciences and Technology, North Carolina State University, Morehead City, NC 28557.
  • | 3 Department of Animal Health, Disney's Animal Kingdom, Lake Buena Vista, FL 32830.

Abstract

CASE DESCRIPTION

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

CLINICAL FINDINGS

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.

TREATMENT AND OUTCOME

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.

CLINICAL RELEVANCE

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.

Abstract

CASE DESCRIPTION

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

CLINICAL FINDINGS

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.

TREATMENT AND OUTCOME

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.

CLINICAL RELEVANCE

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.

Contributor Notes

Dr. Scott's present address is Six Flags Discovery Kingdom, Vallejo, CA 94589.

Dr. Waffa's present address is Family Veterinary Group, Glenview, IL 60026.

Address correspondence to Dr. Lewbart (galewbart@ncsu.edu).