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Just Another Day at the Office

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Tags: living collections, reptiles

Created: 1/4/2013      Updated: 8/10/2016

We try by all means to keep our programming animals fit and healthy at all times but of course occasionally despite our best efforts, they get an ailment that requires treatment. So how do you give a snake medicine? Well, if it is an injection it is relatively easy to insert a needle between the scales but if they actually have to swallow the medication it takes a little more than a teaspoon and the request to ‘open wide!’

An array of tools for giving a snake medication, including a guitar pick, syringes and tubing

These are the tools required. The best item for opening the snakes’ mouth is a guitar pick (yes really!) then a nice long tube to get the medicine down and some water to flush the medicine through the tube.

The guitar pick is inserted into the snake's mouth

The guitar pick is slid carefully into the snakes’ mouth. As I said, it is perfectly designed for the job. It has smooth rounded edges so it doesn’t harm the snakes’ mouth and it covers the snakes’ glottis, which is in the bottom of the mouth. This ensures that when the tube is inserted it doesn’t get accidentally pushed into the glottis, which would essentially ‘drown’ the snake.

The tube is inserted into the snake's mouth

The tube is then gently inserted and pushed down the snakes’ esophagus. The tube should go approximately one third of the way down into the snakes’ body before the medicine is administered.

the syringe pushes medicineinto the tube in the snake's mouth and down its esophagus

Of course, don’t expect any gratitude from the snake for this treatment. You will notice there is a second person involved in this process holding the body of the snake. Although they don’t have to negotiate the teeth they do sometimes get the benefit of the snakes displeasure in a far more odiferous manner when the snake deploys its’ musk glands to full effect. When the medication has been administered and flushed through the tube with a little water, the tube is carefully removed.

Gently removing the tubing

And there you have it – job done! And if all goes well, after a little time off, we have a healthy snake ready to resume its work entertaining our visitors.

Celeste Troon, Director of Living Collections

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