Eastern Ratsnake #17-2722

Admission Date: 
December 11, 2017
Location of Rescue: 
Augusta County
Cause of Admission / Condition: 
Severe wounds
Died January 26, 2018
Patient Status: 
Patient Archive

In early December, a private citizen found a wounded Eastern Ratsnake in her basement. She believed the snake’s wound wasn’t significant and released the snake into her barn. A week later, she discovered the snake again and the wound looked worse; on December 11, she brought the snake to the Wildlife Center for care.

The veterinary staff examined Eastern Ratsnake #17-2722 and identified multiple lacerations on the lower third of the snake’s body; the wounds were so severe that muscle and ribs were exposed, and the tissue surrounding the wound was necrotic.

During the first week of care, the staff flushed, debrided, and treated the snake’s wounds daily, but they left the site uncovered to prevent trapping infection against the wound; the wound was too large to suture closed. There was concern for osteomyelitis (bone infection) due to the exposed bone and systemic infection, so the snake was put on a course of antibiotics, as well as daily pain medication.

By December 22, the veterinary staff identified a potential tool to help the snake’s wound heal more efficiently; in 2016, the KCI company loaned the Wildlife Center a negative-pressure wound therapy system that uses a wound vacuum dressing --also known as a wound V.A.C. The wound dressing consists of mesh and a special bandage, both of which are sealed over the wound. In the center of the bandage, there is a hole to attach a vacuum tube, and the machine intermittently suctions the wound via the tube, sealing the dressing against the patient’s wound.


Before putting the vacuum dressing in place, the staff debrided the wound and removed dead tips of the exposed rib bones. The vacuum remains on consistently, but the dressing is removed and replaced every few days, at which point the staff is able to debride the wound and assess healing.

The wound V.A.C. is intended to promote healing to the wound site by increasing circulation, removing bacteria and fluid, and increasing the growth of healthy tissue. This is the first time the Wildlife Center’s staff has used this system on a snake’s wound; it’s possible the snake will need the specialized treatment for at least another month, due to the severity of the wound and because reptiles tend to heal slowly.

During a bandage change on January 8, the veterinary staff noted that the smaller wounds appear to be healing well, and the largest wound is showing smaller, incremental signs of healing, as well.

The snake is not consistently eating on its own, so the staff is force feeding and giving subcutaneous fluids when necessary. Despite the severe wound, the snake remains bright and feisty.

The snake will remain at the Center until at least May 1, when reptile patients can legally be released back to the wild in Virginia.

Your special donation will help the Center provide specialized medical care to this injured snake ... and to the other 2,600+ patients that the Center will treat this year.


January 30, 2018

Following changes to the care plan for Eastern Ratsnake #17-2722, the snake’s condition failed to improve and the patient still had a poor appetite.

On January 26, the veterinary staff sedated the snake to clean and re-bandage the wounds. The snake appeared to recover appropriately from the procedure and was placed back in its enclosure; however, when the veterinary staff went to pick up the snake for treatments later that day, they found the snake dead in its enclosure.

January 22, 2018

The veterinary team made the decision to remove the wound vacuum bandage from Ratsnake #17-2722. Overall, the system made a difference in the healing progress of the snake’s wounds; there is noticeable improvement in all of the wounds. However, the machine causes vibration and limits the snakes movement, and the staff believed it was causing additional stress on the patient. The staff hope that a break from the vacuum system will help the snake gain weight and encourage him to eat in his own in the weeks to come.

On January 19, Dr. Peach removed the wound V.A.C. and sutured a wound dressing over snake’s wounds to protect them from infection and to help them heal. Once a week, the staff will clean the wounds and replace the bandaging.

For now, the veterinary staff will help the snake regain some of the weight that he’s lost while recovering by force-feed him every other day. Soon, the staff will try to offer the snake food in his enclosure, giving him the chance to eat on his own.