Chloe is a beautiful 2 year old domestic shorthair who presented to Dr Chiew Cheng at our Adelaide Hills Clinic, with a very concerned owner, worried that Chloe had gone missing overnight and returned home the next morning not quite herself.
Dr Chiew assessed Chloe carefully, observing how quiet Chloe was, when usually she would be very active in consult, however on this day she was very reluctant to move around. Dr Chiew suspected that Chloe may have found herself in trouble over night as her findings on clinical examination were consistent with early signs of a snake bite. These included difficulty walking and a reduced gag (swallow) reflex. Chloe’s owner confirmed that there were known snakes in the area.
Dr Chiew immediately admitted Chloe into hospital so she could receive emergency treatment. This included blood tests, urine tests, intravenous fluid therapy, pain relief, a strong antibiotic and antihistamine injection, two vials of snake anti-venom and a dedicated nurse carrying out constant one on one monitoring to ensure Chloe did not deteriorate or suffer a reaction from the anti-venom.
Chloe’s treatment was successful and the Veterinarians on duty Dr Chiew and Dr Nina, along with Chloe’s nurses were able to see her improve rapidly. In fact by the next day, after a stay in hospital, she was obviously feeling much better. She was bright and happy and able to move around as normal again, she was even enjoying a good feed.
Chloe’s owner was happy to be able to take her home that evening with instructions for her to ensure Chloe had strict rest for three weeks and was only fed soft foods.
Chloe was very lucky that her owner was so vigilant and was able to get her to the clinic so quickly for treatment, ensuring a happy outcome.
In clinic, we see a lot of snake bite patients, cats more so than dogs, as they are able to sneak up on a snake more effectively. Cats react differently to a snake envenomation than dogs and therefore have a higher survival rate; however they can spend days, even weeks, in hospital requiring treatment and supportive care while they recover and a range of signs may be present. Neurotoxins in a snake’s venom can cause balance and mobility issues, leading to paralysis. This can sometimes even affect the respiratory muscles. Snake venom also contains a pro-coagulant that can cause problems with clotting in the blood, which could lead to haemorrhage.
In a typical snake bite case, these toxins result in a patient being unable to swallow, move around, control their bladder and bowels and they are very painful. Treatment and supportive care includes, as in Chloe’s case; blood and urine tests, anti-venom administration, intravenous fluid therapy, strong pain relief, antibiotics and antihistamines. For more severe cases the addition of constant turning to prevent pressure sores, joint massage and manual limb range of motion, urinary catheterisation, placement of a feeding tube and eye lubrication may be required.
Owners of snake bite patients need to ensure their pet has strict rest and is in no way at risk of being bitten again, specifically within a 4-6 week period, as this will most likely prove to be fatal.
Chloe is getting back to normal at home, her dedicated owners, Steve and Ruth, continued her pain relief and reported back to us that she is doing really well.
Picture attached: Chloe and Dr Nina