During this time of the year there is a definite increase in snake bites as the snake spends more time out in the open soaking up the sun. Snakes are cold-blooded animals that raise their body temperature by lying in the sun or lower it by crawling into the shade. So this means snake bites will be less likely to happen in winter time as the snakes are hibernating. Also something to think about is all of the fires we are currently having; you find that most wild life will move to safer areas, this could be your back garden or even your house.
At Tygerberg Animal Hospital in the last two months we have seen a number of patients presenting with cobra or puff adder snake bites. It is very important for us to know what type of snake it is as that will indicate the direction treatment will go. There are three types of toxins but the two main ones we see are;
Neurotoxin (Cobra) – This attacks your Nero system which results in repertory tract distress and will need treatment by giving the patient anti-venom and placing the pet on a ventilator to assist breathing. Pain control, fluids, anti-biotics and a lot of TLC (Constant observation, bed turning, catheter control, temperature checks and affection from staff) from veterinary staff is vital to help fight for the patient’s life.
Cytotoxins (Puff Adder.) – This attacks the cells of the body which means that the area bitten will show signs of blood under the skin as the cells breakdown. This can spread throughout the body if not immediately treated. Treatment will consist of anti-venom, Blood transplants, pain control meds, fluids and TLC (Constant observation, bed turning, catheter control, temperature checks, wound cleaning and affection from staff)
Both treatments are maintained until the patient’s body is rid of the toxins and the veterinarian is happy with the patient’s body function. (Breathing, eating, urinating and defecating.)
Majority of the time if a pet pulls through from such an attack there are hardly any after effects, but possible scaring or muscle loss from dead tissue has been seen. You won’t see it very often but if a patient was bitten on an extremity and to save the pet’s life amputation can be an option.
We have seen some heart breaking cases where the outcome was death. In one case we had two Rottweilers that were bitten by the same snake and both dogs were put down due to their state.
If your pet is bitten by a snake, it is helpful to find out what type of snake it is, but in saying this please do not put yourself in danger of being bitten as well as remember your pet needs to be at a vet as soon as possible. Phone the nearest Veterinary hospital and find out if they stock anti venom and have the facilities and equipment to deal with a snake bite, if they do not they will refer you to a practice that does have what is needed. (Tygerberg Animal Hospital Bellville is a 24/7 emergency animal hospital that has anti venom on hand at all times.)
The anti-venom we have on stock is the same used on Humans – Please note that it is a very expensive medication.