Snake Necropsy

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Organ positions © RVC

External examination

  1. Measure and weigh the snake and examine the external features.
  2. Check the skin for bite wounds, bruising, bleeding, ulcerations, burns, swellings, scars, retained shed and ectoparasites.
  3. Examine the nares, spectacles, eyes, oral cavity and cloaca.
  4. Assess the musculoskeletal system for body condition and palpate for pathology of the vertebra.

Internal examination

  1. Open the coelomic cavity. Split the fat body in the median line to expose the organs. Check for fluid.
  2. Examine all organs in a systematic manner - liver, gall bladder, spleen, pancreas, heart, large vessels, thyroid, lung, oesophagus, stomach, small intestine, large intestine, kidneys, gonads, adrenal glands and eventually the brain.
  3. Open trachea, lungs, heart, oesophagus, stomach and the intestinal tract, and section other organs as necessary.
  4. Take swabs as appropriate including heart blood, liver, spleen and kidney.
  5. Take sterile smear of heart blood for staining.
  6. Put liver, lung, kidney, spleen and intestine in both formal saline (transfer to 70% ethanol after 48 hours) and frozen in sterile container.
  7. Make impression smears of different parts of intestines.
  8. Take a sterile sample of any abnormal gut contents, make a smear in saline.
  9. Wash the gut contents out in saline, examine for signs of parasites.
  10. Inspect the gonads to sex definitively

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Reptile pathology: getting the most out of pathology. St. Leger, J.; The North American Veterinary Conference, Gainesville, USA, Small animal and exotics. Proceedings of the North American Veterinary Conference, Orlando, Florida, USA, 16-20 January 2010, 2010, pp 1714-1716, 5 ref.

The reptile necropsy: collection and submission of pathologic samples. Garner, M. M.; Eastern States Veterinary Association, Gainesville, USA, Small animal and exotics. Proceedings of the North American Veterinary Conference, Volume 19, Orlando, Florida, USA, 8-12 January, 2005, 2005, pp 1275-1277