Friday, 17 August 2012

The Story of Larry the Snake

In 2009, Taryn Hook brought Larry, a Dumerils boa constrictor, a species native to Madagascar, to see Chris Sanders at his veterinary hospital in Portola Valley, Calif.

Larry was ill. Again. And this time Hook feared the worst. The snake had been sickly since she first got him in the late 1990s, when he was the size of a pencil.

"He's a member of the family," Hook said. "He even sits on the couch with us. He watches American Idol." (Hook's husband is also named Larry, although snake Larry has been in her life longer than human Larry.)

Blood tests had been inconclusive, but they showed that Larry might have IBD, an affliction that affects pythons and boa constrictors. Biopsies from animals with the disease show their cells filled up with globules of proteins — inclusions — which cause a host of weird symptoms, from projectile vomiting to an eerie behavior called stargazing.

YouTube videos shot by worried pet owners, some tender, some bizarre, show snakes of all sizes raising their heads over and over, staring into thin air, and listing drunkenly from side to side. "They kind of go crazy," one scientist said.


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