Tortoises and other reptiles
Snakes. Now there is a word that brings fear to some people. However, snakes are usually very docile, and rarely ever do any harm, especially if handled carefully. However, they can be quite large and can sometimes pose quite a challenge, and sometimes both!
Several years ago, I was presented with a rather large Boa Constrictor, rather large in that it was approximately seven or eight feet long or about two and a half metres, if you prefer metric. I say approximately because we tried to measure her, but they are solid muscle, and there was no way that three of us could hold her still and straight enough to get an accurate measurement.
The snake was brought in because the owner thought that the snake was constipated, and she certainly had a swollen stomach, as far as snakes have a stomach region anyway. So, in order to identify the nature of the swelling, we decided to x ray; what the owner thought was a swelling made of, what shall we say, snake-poo, was, in fact, a row of eggs and an unexpected pregnancy. Anyway, a couple of injections and Bob's your uncle (or rather Bobbie Boa is your auntie), and out popped all the eggs.
We also attend to tortoises now and again, usually because they have not started eating again after coming out of hibernation, though sometimes their illnesses can be more memorable. For instance, there was the case of the ninety six year old tortoise that fell off a garden wall and cracked his shell; how do we know that the tortoise was ninety six? Because the lady that owned him still had the receipt from when he was purchased in 1900 at Covent Garden market in London! The receipt had been handed down the generations with the tortoise!
And then there was the tortoise that went off her food, as tortoises do, and as part of the investigation, we x-rayed her. As with Bobbie the Boa, we found an unexpected pregnancy with four or five old dried up eggs trapped inside; these eggs could have been there for months or even longer, they were certainly not fresh!
One of the other vets in the practice rang a reptile expert in London and he suggested that (i) we anaesthetise the tortoise; (ii) we turn the tortoise on her back and cut open her shell underneath in a three sides of a square patternâ€, then bending the flap open like a car bonnet; (iii) that we then find and remove the eggs, and while we were at it, we should spey or neuter the tortoise at the same time. Then (iv) fold the shell flap back down and (v) superglue it into place, after which it would take a year to heal back together.
We gave this idea all of five minutes thought and just decided that no way were we brave enough to try something like this. Then I remembered Bobbie the Boa, and her injections; we gave the tortoise the same injections on a consulting room table and within a few minutes out popped the eggs, one after the other, just like shelling peas. And all without surgery!
Footnote: Several years later, the tortoise-owner, who had kept the eggs, gave one of them to me as a memento, and I still have it proudly on the shelf next to where I write this tale.