July 20, 2006 in Nation/World

Big gulp puts python on operating table

Associated Press The Spokesman-Review
 

KETCHUM – It took surgery to save a 12-foot Burmese python after it swallowed a queen-size electric blanket along with the electrical cord and control box.

The blanket must have gotten tangled up in the snake’s rabbit dinner, owner Karl Beznoska said. He kept the blanket in the cage to keep the 60-pound reptile, named Houdini, warm.

“Somehow, he was able to unplug the electric cord,” Beznoska said Wednesday. “He at least wasn’t hooked up to the power. It might have been pretty warm there.”

Veterinarian Karsten Fostvedt conducted a two-hour operation on the python Tuesday, and said afterward, “The prognosis is great.”

Neither Fostvedt nor fellow veterinarian Barry Rathfon had operated on a snake before. “We just basically called a couple of specialists and they told us where to go in,” Fostvedt said.

X-rays showed the tangle of the blanket’s wiring extending through about 8 feet of the python’s digestive tract. The surgery to remove it took an 18-inch incision.

Specialists at the University of California-Davis School of Veterinary Medicine told them it probably would have taken Houdini six hours to swallow the blanket and the snake likely would have died without the operation.

Beznoska, a retired ski instructor who now works as a draftsman and carpenter, is from Austria and moved to the resort area in 1965. He has had Houdini for 16 years and takes him to local schools for show-and-tell.

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