Snake Doctor

By the time a snake or other reptile appears ill, it is usually too late to treat it.  Because their metabolism is slow, they don’t react quickly to medication.  So when our gartersnake, Karma, developed a lump near her stomach area, we debated whether or not to take her to the veterinarian.

Since we rescued Karma several years ago from under our lawnmower when we owned a house, we have no idea how old she is.  Yet we were alarmed to discover the nearly two-inch mass that could indicate trouble for this excellent education animal.  She deserves our best efforts.

“It’s probably an enlarged organ,” Chuck said after examining her and feeling the bulge.  “She doesn’t appear to be in any distress.”  Nevertheless, although this is not an uncommon condition in snakes, we decided to take her to Desert Veterinary Clinic in Yuma, Arizona.

At the Vet’s Office

“I love snakes!” declared Dr. Alison Wapples when she entered the operatory where we waited with Karma, at once putting us at ease.  After all, not everyone is comfortable around slithery reptiles.

Dr. Wapples gently lifted Karma from the plastic tub that contained her.  Holding her aloft, the doctor examined the snake visually before pressing gently on the swelling a third of the way down her body.

Dr. Wapples


“It probably is an enlarged organ,” she said.  “We could x-ray the lump, but even if it shows a problem, it could be more damaging to go in surgically to remove it.  Has her behavior changed?”

We assured her that Karma still ate and behaved normally, and the doctor assured us that this condition is not uncommon.  She advised us to monitor the snake and keep using her unless or until her behavior alters.

The Future

We have yet to lose any of our snakes, but we know that day is inevitable.  Although many people think the only good snake is a dead snake, we know we’ll suffer their deaths as we might grieve any other pet or family member.

Karma in Weighing Tub:

Checking Karma:







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