PHOTOS: King cobra battling cancer at Denver Zoo undergoes chemotherapy

Dr. Betsy Stringer examines the king cobra’s scales. / Denver Zoo

DENVER, Colo. — An 18-year-old king cobra at Denver Zoo is fighting for his life as he undergoes chemotherapy in his battle against cancer.

Zookeepers first realized something was wrong with the 12-foot long snake a few months ago, noticing a pink-purple color on his skin. He had also lost some weight.

Officials say lymphosarcoma was confirmed in the venomous snake after veterinarians performed a biopsy, x-rays and blood tests.

Lymphosarcoma – also known as lymphoma – is the third most common cancer diagnosed in dogs, according to the Veterinary Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania. Cases in snakes are not as prevalent.

Dr. Betsy Stringer, a veterinarian at Denver Zoo, developed a plan to use chemotherapy pills with the dosage based off the snake’s weight.

Zoo officials say the pill is placed into a thawed rat – the cobra’s food – once every three weeks. They believe this is the first time this has been attempted with a snake.

The cobra was given his third treatment last week.

Sean Anderson-Vie with the Denver Zoo says the snake is “showing a little improvement so far.”

As for his name, he doesn’t have one.

“Most of our reptiles don’t as we have so many and they wouldn’t answer to them anyway,” said Anderson-Vie.

“His caretakers have gone above and beyond to find a way to save him. From the largest elephant, to the smallest snake, all our animals are equally important to us and we always want to provide them the best care possible. Our goal for this snake is complete remission, but if we can’t accomplish that we at least hope to improve his quality of life,” added Anderson-Vie.

We’ll be following the king cobra on his fight for recovery. Stay with FOX21 for the latest.

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