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How to give a General Anaesthetic to a snake

Every morning during the week your veterinarians anaesthetize animals to perform procedures. Dogs, cat and rabbits follow a well rehearsed protocol – but what happens when a snake needs an anaesthetic?

Here is Dr Juliet with one of her patients. Romeo the snake.

Romeo arrives in a sac. Dr Juliet needs to find her tail to inject her, while leaving the pointy end in the sac.

Her tail is located and held firmly while an intravenous injection is inserted in a gap between her scales.

The anaesthetic takes some time to slow her down.

The snakes head is then carefully located and grasped firmly just behind the angle of the jaw. She is still squirming and is very strong.

The snake is only mildly sedated. She opens her mouth and Dr Juliet can see her larynx. An endotracheal tube is placed into the larynx and down her trachea (airway) to control her breathing.

The snake is still quite awake. Anaesthetic gas in gently pumped into her lungs. At the gas becomes absorbed into her blood stream, the snake slowly and safely goes to sleep.

It is very important that the tube does not fall out as she may wake up suddenly. Usually tubes are tied in around the back of the head. With a snake we take a different but very effective approach involving sticky tape and a ruler.

The airway is secure. Our snake is asleep and now needs to be carefully monitored.

The heart is located and marked with permanent marker so the heartbeat can be monitored.

Romeo is now asleep and can be prepared for the procedure. To ensure her ventilation is adequate throughout the procedure she is manually ventilated by one of our dedicated veterinary students.

For more information, please visit Pittwater Animal Hospital.

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