How We Diagnose Snake Bite in Pets
During summer we treat numerous pets with snake bite. It is a downside to living in Australia. In the Melbourne region, the most common snakes are Tiger snakes. Brown snake bites also occur but are less frequent. Tigers and Browns are very deadly. Bites from these snakes may kill pets within minutes. They have a mixture of toxins depending on the snake. Toxins may include: Neuro Toxin (affects nervous system and causes paralysis); Myotoxin (destroys muscles within the body); Coagulant Toxin (causes massive internal bleeding); Renal Toxin (affects kidney function).
To treat snake bite we use specific anti-venom therapy. While some pets may survive without anti-venom, the length of recovery and complications including death is much greater for these pets. Often these pets have had a minimal bite if they do survive.
Sometimes it is very easy to identify a snake bite – the pet was seen with a snake, starts vomiting and collapses. Other times we need to run specific tests to identify a snake envenomation.
Within our 24Hr Pet Emergency Centres we keep a range of tests to identify snake bites. We have specialised laboratory machines so that we can identify a snake bite quickly. Sometimes there is not one test that we use, but a range of tests.
One of the most important tests is the Snake Venom Detection Kit (SVDK). The SVDK was developed by CSL and is specific for all Australian venomous snakes. The test looks for free venom in urine (or blood). If you have been bitten, then within a short period of time, there will be free venom filtered into your urine by your kidneys. The SVDK identifies this venom and tells us what type of snake has bitten the pet. It means that we know that the pet has been bitten and what type of anti-venom should be used.
Some pets can play with a snake and not be envenomated. The SVDK can be used to identify such pets and if the test is negative, we can avoid giving anti-venom which is very expensive.
We also use the SVDK to guide therapy. If after receiving anti-venom, the test is still positive, it indicates that further anti-venom will benefit the pet. If it is negative, then we know that giving further expensive anti-venom is not required.
We stock numerous vials of anti-venom as well as SVDK at both our Melbourne Animal Hospitals. Vets now Open with immediate treatment for Snake Bite. If you need further advice, please contact any of our 24Hr Pet Emergency Centres:
Essendon 9379 0700
Point Cook 8368 7400