Snake Impaction

 

This page shows a snake that is so constipated that surgical removal of the impacted feces (fecalith) was necessary. The symptoms in this case are a lack of appetite along with lack of bowel movement for many weeks. This is a serious condition that could result in the death of the snake if not treated. Medical therapy, consisting of warm water baths, lubricants, and fluids have not helped at all. Surgery is a last resort in these cases because of the potential for post operative complications.


Diagnosis

Most snakes that are impacted will not be eating or passing any feces. We use radiography to help us in our diagnosis.

This is the radiograph of a Burmese python that has several fecaliths in its intestines. They are the large circular and whitish objects in this view.


Treatment

We anesthetized it and made an incision over the fecalith on the underside of its body. In this picture we are carefully dissecting through tissue to get directly to the intestines.

 


We have completed our dissection and have adequate exposure of the bulging intestine filled with hard stool.

 


The intestine is brought out through the incision in the scales and two stay sutures (the blue sutures) are placed to allow gentle handling and placement. An incision has been made into the intestine and some of the dry and hard fecal material is being removed with a hemostat.


There is so much impacted stool in this intestine that we need a sterile spoon to scoop it out. We spend 30 minutes of this procedure scooping stool out of intestines.


This is the appearance of the inner lining of the intestines (called the mucosa) after all the feces have been removed. It is inflamed and fragile, and is a major part of why this snake is ill.


Prevention

This case illustrates the importance of proper husbandry and observation. If this snake had been kept in an enclosure with adequate humidity and temperature there is less of a chance that this problem would have occurred.

In addition, if it had been brought to us sooner we probably would have been able to treat this problem medically. This brings up the importance of daily observation of reptiles concerning normal health parameters like appetite, activity level, and bowel movements. Reptiles do not show obvious signs of disease like mammals, so careful observation of daily habits is important in order to notice subtle changes.