Wednesday, December 3, 2008


As I have mentioned previously my work is not your average kind of stuff. One of the numerous species that comes under my care are snakes. Occasionally people will ask me, 'how do you give a snake medicine if they need it?' So that got me thinking maybe it would be a fun post to do for my blog! If an injection is required it is usually just a question of inserting the needle between two scales on the side of their body about one third of the way down from the head. If we actually have to give them something orally that is a different matter. Can't trick these guys with a sugar cube or a dab of butter!
We do regular fecal exams on our snakes so we can monitor any parasite problems. A number of our snakes are adoptions and they almost invariably come to us with a heavy parasite load. Once we have cleared them we only occasionally have to re dose them, usually for pin worms. Today it was time for Godiva, one of our Fox Snakes Elaphe vulpina to be wormed.

Not a great picture but she is a constant wriggler! This is a two person job, one person to hold the snake, in this case Marina was press-ganged into service! She has snakes of her own so is not bothered by anything much.

This is the equipment all ready to go. And what, you may ask is the guitar pick for?

It is the perfect implement for opening the snakes mouth. It has nice smooth edges and a round tip so it won't harm the snake. I always do this part, I figure it is one thing to ask someone to hold the snake but quite another to be messing around with the biting end! (By the way, this is only done with our non-venomous snakes!)

Once the snakes mouth is open, you insert the tube over the top of the guitar pick and then flick the pick out of the way. Then gently slide the tube down the snakes throat. Sometimes this is easy and sometimes not, depending on whether they decide to bite down on it. Usually if I slide in one corner I can get it down without any problem. The tube is 15 inches long and you need to get about 10 inches into a snake of this size.

Pop the syringe of medicine into the end of the tube and down it goes! There are two different syringes of medicine administered and then a larger syringe of warm water to ensure that all the medicine is washed through the tube and into the snake.

Then you very slowly and carefully slide the tube back out. It is vital not to rush this process as you risk doing internal damage to the snake if you do. Patience is the key.

Once the tube is out, gently rub the underside of the snake to encourage peristalsis. And that, is how you give a snake medicine!
Thanks to Marina for holding the wriggly end and to Jamie for taking the photos! (I work with such great people.)

Photo Credits - Jamie Stubis.


ramblingwoods said...

I guess I won't complain about having to give the cats their medicine or Elliott his allergy shot every 3 weeks. I guess I had never thought about how to give a snake medication. This was very interesting and I like snakes...Michelle

sonia a. mascaro said...

I fear so much snakes... This one is venous?

Louise said...

Who knew? I can honestly say it never occured to me at all about giving medicine to snakes.

Kathiesbirds said...

I have never heard of nor seen anything like this. What a great post! I did not know snakes could get parasites. What would happen to a snake in the wild that didn't receive help for this problem? Can people get worms from handling snakes?

I also like snakes and my children used to have some when they were young. My favorite was a green smoothy we had. Very pretty and gentle. My young son fed it too many crickets though and they overwhelmed the snake and killed it!

gtyyup said...

Well don't that beat all...I never realized that snakes got parasites...and never even thought about them needing meds...but, I'm not a snake person...eek! I just leave 'um where they lay... ;~)

Judy said...

thank you so much for enlaging my world! i had never considered whether snakes require meds!!

ivy said...

Great post! How do you know for sure the tube is not in the trachea?