Sooty, a one-year-old kitty, is owned by one of our nurses. He presented to the clinic late last year on a Sunday afternoon. He lives on a property in the country a few hours away where there is no after-hours or emergency vets. Up until this Sunday, he was a perfectly healthy cat with no health conditions.
His owner found him lying on the ground and unable to move. She called the clinic to let us know she was coming but told us she was worried he wouldn’t make the trip to us alive as he was very cold. Due to where he lives, she was concerned he had been bitten by a snake. Finally, they both arrived and we were able to assess Sooty. He was just lying down and unable to move. Occasionally Sooty would meow but that was all he could do. Luckily when Sooty presented he was still breathing on his own, but he couldn’t urinate due to the effects of the snake venom. The veterinary team manually expressed his bladder for him. He also had a mild gag reflex, which many animals often lose when they are bitten by a snake. The gag reflex must be present in order for us to offer animals food because otherwise they cannot swallow their food.
Sooty was provided with some pain relief and some bloods were taken. Bloods allow us to check different values which can indicate whether or not there has been trauma. Unfortunately, they do not tell us the exact cause or give us a definitive answer like they do on television, they only point us in the direction to investigate. Based on his results and his clinical presentation in addition to the time of year it was highly likely he has been bitten by a snake and so specific treatment was provided. He received snake anti-venom intravenously through a drip that had been placed in his foreleg and was monitored closely. This medication has to be administered slowly and animals need to be monitored closely as they can have allergic reactions to the medication. It also takes time, generally a couple of days in hospital, for the full effects of a snake bite to have resolved and for an animal to be able to go home safely. During this time the veterinary staff monitor various different signs including the gag reflex and their ability to urinate. We also have to monitor the animals’ ability to blink, and if they cannot
blink we need to stain their eyes for eye ulcers which are extremely painful.
Luckily Sooty responded quite well to the anti-venom and he did not develop eye ulcers, however, he could not blink on his own so his eyes needed to be lubricated by the veterinary team on a regular basis. By the next day, he had regained the ability to urinate on his own and was able to lift his head. We continued to provide pain relief as well as snake bites are very painful.
Luckily for Sooty within a couple of days, he had regained his ability to move around and his gag reflex which meant he could safely eat and drink and was on the road to recovery. He was well enough to be able to go home and continue his life as a farm cat. Hopefully, he does not have any further altercations with snakes in the future.