Bandit, a 3 year old male domestic cat, came to us one Tuesday morning unable to move. Normally an incredibly affectionate and active cat, Bandit’s owners were obviously concerned. He was rushed into the treatment area of the hospital paralysed, his pupils dilated, struggling to breathe and his gag reflex all but absent. These signs are all typical of a snake bite!
For beloved Bandit, this repeat visit to the veterinary clinic must have seemed a little like déjà vu. Poor Bandit had a run in with a Brown Snake earlier in the year which he luckily survived after treatment with two vials of antivenom. Unfortunately, a repeat bite increases the susceptibility of death. In the Adelaide region, the most common snake bite we see is Brown Snake. The venom has toxins that affect the nervous system, blood clotting and the kidneys.
On discussion with Bandit's owners there was no question as to saving Bandit so Dr Warren immediately started treatment. Unlike dogs, cats typically don’t show symptoms immediately after being bitten but more likely within 12-24 hours and this means given how sick Bandit was we couldn’t waste any time. Snake bite victims often present in shock with reduced blood pressure and Bandit was no exception.
Bandit was placed on intravenous fluids to protect his kidneys and raise his blood pressure. He needed antivenom to survive. It is not as simple as just injecting the anitivenom because it’s a foreign protein and the body doesn’t react kindly to such substance being injected into the blood stream. In order to prevent an anaphylactic reaction Bandit was given injections of adrenalin, antihistamine and steroid. Then as much antivenom is given as required to improve signs. As a general rule of thumb, for mild envenomation normally one vial is sufficient but in more severe cases two or even three vials may be required. Bandit was as severe as they get. He was given one vial over 15 minutes to minimise the chance of reaction but there was no significant improvement in his condition within half an hour. A second vial was started. Before finishing the second vial Bandit suddenly collapsed and his breathing became shallower and slower. Something had to be done and it had to be done now! Bandit was immediately intubated to allow us to ventilate for him and supply oxygen. As the venom had reached the nerves that stimulate respiratory function, it was up to us to breath for Bandit, providing the oxygen his body so desperately needed. But this wasn’t going to be enough, more antivenom was needed. He received a third and then following this Bandit still needed a fourth vial. For two and a half hours our nursing team breathed for him and it wasn’t until 8 hours later that Bandit could maintain his oxygen concentration at adequate levels on room air by himself.
In the following days Bandit showed slow but gradual progress. Initially he was paralyzed, unable to swallow or blink and unable to urinate. He was kept on intravenous fluids, given regular pain relief, his bladder expressed manually, physiotherapy was performed on him and his eyes lubricated to keep him comfortable. Within 48 hours he was showing promise of improvement. His reflexes were starting to return, and although still not able to stand and walk, Bandit was gaining strength back in his muscles. Our veterinary team continued supportive care with plenty of physiotherapy and commenced feeding highly nutritious slurry via syringe.
Five days later Bandit had drastically improved, eating by himself, able to support his body weight and walk, and had became almost too wriggly to hold! You don’t normally find the bites on the patient, but in Bandit's case we found two small scabs about fang distance apart on his head. When reflecting on this, I don’t think the saying ‘sometimes you just have to dive in head first’ is quite what they mean here.
Once Bandit was given the all the clear, he could go home to his loving family and feline companions. Needless to say, Bandit is now an indoor cat. Unfortunately, when it comes to repeat snake bite offenders, they never learn. We have advised to keep him inside permanently, next time he won’t be so lucky. If what they say is true, Bandit has definitely used two of his nine lives.
From Bandit's owner:
"Bandit is a second-time snake victim with bites eight months apart (one in summer and now one is spring)! So please, pet owners, be very vigilant around your pets, not just in the summer months. And don’t think that your cat will learn a lesson from the first bite.
I found Bandit as a stray kitten with three siblings. I find most strays timid, but he has a beautiful and gentle nature. My two younger strays love him as he takes the time to play with them, he brings them home rats and mice. Fun with Bandit is now only in the winter months as from now on, Bandit is strictly an indoor cat for six months of the year. Sorry Bandit.
I would like to thank you ALL (Adelaide Animal Hospital) once again for the wonderful care and attention you gave my precious Bandit, especially, Cale and Warren (and others behind the scenes that I did not meet). I have lots of cats (six now and I have had eight) so I have had a bit to do with the Adelaide Animal Hospital and I can’t speak highly enough of them. The professionalism and the personal touch that you show to both patients and owners alike is outstanding!! (This includes the girls on the front desk). I know first hand from when I was out the back visiting Bandit!! You are all amazing!
Bandit is doing well and has a hearty appetite but I am not letting him get too gutsy at this early stage. I also have to remember that he is now an inside cat with little exercise, so his diet will need to be monitored.