many readers realize, we sometimes deal with companions
outside of the canine or feline variety, and today is
one of those times.
is a 10-year-old carpet python that has lived in a cage
in Jonathan’s house since he was born. He eats once
every two weeks, usually one adult rat, and has had no
health problems until recently.
three months ago, Jonathan started to see a small mass
developing on the right side of Stanley’s body very
close to his vent. It has continued to grow to the point
where it now is about two inches long and three quarters
of an inch wide. Stanley does not seem overly distressed
by the mass, although it can be a challenge to determine
when a snake is showing distress. The mass does seem to
compromise his motion a bit, and Jonathan is concerned
that it may soon compromise Stanley’s ability to pass
urates and stool.
is highly unlikely that Stanley’s tumor is going to
disappear on its own. Growths almost never disappear on
their own no matter what type of creature they may be
growing on. There are exceptions, but generally
speaking, don’t count on masses suddenly vanishing
from your companion.
needs to take Stanley to a veterinarian comfortable and
capable working with reptiles so he can have a thorough
evaluation followed by a recommended course of
treatment. From the information given in Jonathan’s
email, I see surgery as the likely best option.
I would advise a fine needle aspirate of the mass, a
simple procedure introducing a needle into the mass and
aspirating back some cells to be examined by a clinical
pathologist. This can be an important diagnostic step as
it often times allows diagnosis of what type of tumor we
are dealing with, thus guiding the surgeon as to what
type of surgical borders need to be achieved to entirely
remove the tumor. A fine needle aspirate is not a needle
biopsy. It simply allows examination of cell types. A
biopsy allows for microscopic examination of tissue
structure as well as cell types and generally provides
more information as to the tumor’s likely
in a snake, as in any animal, generally requires
anesthesia. Anesthesia in a snake requires techniques
that do differ from those used in our mammal patients
but when done appropriately, it works very well.
the surgery, Stanley would likely need a radiograph to
try to help determine the extent of the mass on the
inside of his body. This, along with the information
from the fine needle aspirate, will help dictate the
the tumor is removed, it will need to be biopsied. This
involves sending the mass to a pathologist who is
familiar with reptile pathology. He or she will
determine what type of tumor was growing on Stanley,
which in turn allows us to determine what might happen
to Stanley in the future. Certainly, there are cases
when a biopsy may not be possible but it can be a very
important diagnostic tool.
generally do very well with surgery and are wonderful
healers, although it can takes them a little longer to
heal, as is the case with most things in reptiles.
Hopefully, in Stanley’s case, his mass removal surgery
will be curative.