Dr David Neck, Director of Cottesloe Vet, spends most of his time treating humankind’s favourite furry companions. But he believes it’s important to be prepared for anything. Here he shares his research on the mythological beast Medusa so that, when the time comes, you’ll know what to do.

“Perhaps the single most memorable feature of Medusa is her ability to turn anyone who looks at her into stone,” David explains.  

And let’s not forget she has snakes for hair. But don’t worry. David would like to reassure practising vets that they are unlikely to ever meet, let alone treat, Medusa.

“She is dead,” he explains. “However she has two remaining sisters, both immortal, and with snakes for hair. Neither is likely to be pleasant.”

So what’s an unlucky vet to do?

“The snakes are at risk of any disease afflicting snakes,” David says. “Unfortunately we don’t know if the snakes are venomous or not. We do know that they hardly live in ideal conditions for keeping reptiles.”

David reminds all vets to recall the five freedoms of animal welfare: freedom from malnutrition, freedom from thermal and physical discomfort, freedom from injury and disease, freedom to express most normal patterns of behaviour, and freedom from fear and stress.

“We don’t know what the snakes eat, but being crowded onto a head can’t be good for providing the other four freedoms.”

Diagnosing illness in the snakes won’t be easy. Let’s not forget Medusa and her sisters can turn anyone who looks directly at them to stone.

“The exam will have to be done via mirror or other indirect imaging,” David says. “In taking down a clinical history, it should be established if the snakes are provided with their own nutrition, or if they receive nutrition via the sisters.

“If the snakes need to eat for themselves, then their medicines must be given orally or parenterally. If their nutrition comes via the sisters, then medicine can be given to the sister in question and will end up in the snake. Thankfully, we don't have to worry about toxicity of medicines to the hosts as they are immortal.”

Well that’s a relief. But don’t get too comfortable. David says treating the sisters could still prove life-threatening.

“Of greater concern to the vet would be if the snakes required surgery,” David warns.

“There would be two dire consequences should the surgeon fail to maintain exquisite control of blood flow during surgery. Should a single drop of blood touch the floor, and should the sister be pregnant, we could expect an instant, adult-sized version of her offspring to materialise. Imagine the consequences of a full-sized adult horse, with wings, bouncing around the surgery theatre!”

David expects the results would be fatal for the surgeon in question.

“You could not take cover on the ground, due to the snakes,” he says. “I cannot emphasise strongly enough the importance of meticulous haemostasis.”

Don’t miss Dr David Neck’s life-saving expertise on Medusa, the Phoenix and other mythological beasts at FASAVA Congress, 11 – 14 August 2017.

Register now.