Sasha a very brave 1 year old Burmese cat was recently brought into our clinic as her owner suspected that she had been in a car accident. Sasha had been hiding under the house for a few hours and wouldn’t come out. Her owner crawled under the house, retrieved her and found that she was unable to walk and was not interested in eating or drinking.
When Dr Andrea examined Sasha she found that her hind legs were weak, floppy and not working. Whilst she had a good heart rate and pulse and no areas of pain, Sasha had a very low body temperature of 37 C (normal 38-39 C). These signs suggested a snake bite so we admitted her to hospital.
Sasha’s owner confirmed that her property backed onto the Merri Creek and she had seen snakes in her backyard last summer. A blood sample was collected, intravenous fluids were given (a drip), and she was placed into a heated kennel. We were able to confirm that Sasha had been bitten by a snake by testing her muscle enzyme (CPK) count. The count was high this indicated that muscle damage had occurred, a symptom of snake bite.
Meanwhile Sasha started to deteriorate- she was now unable to sit on her chest and instead laid onto her side and started to complain when handled due to pain. We needed to start the snake antivenom soon! We gave her some medication to reduce the risk of an allergic reaction to the antivenom and pain relief. We chose to give her a mix of brown snake and tiger snake antivenom as these are the most common snakes in our area. One vial of antivenom was given in the fluid drip over 30 minutes. Sasha had a mild reaction to the antivenom about one hour afterwards when her ears swelled up a bit- but this settled down over the next 24 hours.
Over the next three days Sasha steadily improved. Over the first 2 days some of her hind limb function returned but she had poor bladder function due to the nerve toxin in the snake venom. We assisted her to urinate several times a day. Pain relief was given regularly to help her recovery and she was confined to reduce further muscle damage and she was kept on the drip.
On the third day she was able to move around her hospital cage by herself and went to the toilet by herself. She also started eating -small meals were offered frequently as damage can occur to the oesophagus in these cases. Her legs no longer hurt when they were touched so we started to reduce her pain relief and slow down her intravenous fluids.
On the fourth day Sasha was looking great, she was moving around well, didn’t need any more pain relief and her CPK levels were back to normal. Sasha felt so good she pulled her drip out and she was ready to go home.
Sasha went home that evening to a much relieved family. She was to be kept quiet for the next few days and will be kept inside over the summer season to avoid any further snake bites.