A pet snake was left tong-tied this after it swallowed a pair of barbecue tongs in the owner’s home in South Australia.
The woma python named, Winston, are native to southwest Queensland, central and western Australia, but this one was presented in a box that needs to undergo surgery at Adelaide University Hospital after he had swallowed the tongs his owner had left the cooking utensils in his tank.
According to the snake’s owner Aaron Rouse, he had used the tongs to lower the mouse into Winston’s tank when the snake grabbed them and refused to let them go. Unable to retrieve the tongs, Rouse gave up and left the tongs in Winston’s tank.
Hours later he returned to find that Winston had swallowed the metallic cooking utensils.
Snakes can swallow very large prey items because of their flexible lower jaws. In most animals, the lower jaw is fused but snakes have an elastic ligament which allows the mouth to stretch open very wide,” says Funnell.
The snake will then engulf the prey or in this case the tongs using what has been called the ‘pterygoid walk’, where the teeth are ratcheted over the prey as it is pushed into the snakes gastrointestinal tract,” he added.
Thus, he decided that Winston must undergo surgery.
Operating on Winston proved to be an exercise fraught with a number of challenges. The first was anesthetising him, as snakes are cold-blooded, which makes their drug metabolism slower. To combat this, the team used two anesthetics, allowing them to pass a catheter into Winston’s trachea so he could breathe and be anesthetised throughout the operation.
Although some of the general principles apply, when surgery is performed on a snake, there are some important differences, says Funnell. One of these is that because a snake’s ribs extend from most of the animal’s vertebrae (rather than having a distinct rib-cage).
The location of the incision is important. The incision should ideally be made below the ribs so that they do not need to be cut… (and) between the scales and not through them,” he said.
The team made an educated guesstimate that the tongs were lodged in the oesophagus and stomach, but they couldn’t be sure. They cut open the snake at the larger end of the tongs so they could pull them out before sowing Winston up.
Skin closure is slightly different from mammals as the scaled skin tends to roll under,” says Funnell.
After four weeks, Winston’s stitches will be removed, but so far things are looking good. The vet said that at the follow up appointment, the snake was acting normally and had been seen drinking. He’ll eat again in two to four weeks, and Funnell and Rouse are hoping he’ll keep tongs out of his diet from now on.
via Science Alert