How to ID a snake bite and what to do if your cat was bitten
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If you live in a region known to have poisonous snakes and your cat is allowed outdoors, it’s important to know what to do if your cat is bitten by a snake.
Pit vipers, a group of venomous snakes that includes rattlesnakes, copperheads, and cottonmouths/water moccasins, are responsible for almost all venomous snakebites in the US and Canada. Identifiable characteristics of these snakes include retractable fangs, heat-sensing “pits” below the eyes, and elliptical-shaped pupils. (Thanks for the nightmares.) Rattlesnakes are responsible for most snakebite fatalities in North America.
How to Know if Your Cat was Bitten by a Snake
Bite locations tend to differ between dogs and cats. In cats, snakebites are more common on the front limbs, as cats are more likely to bat at snakes with their front paws. Dogs, in contrast, are more likely to sniff the snake, and thus are often bitten on the face or head.
Symptoms can appear right away or 12 – 24 hours after being bitten, and include:
If you think a venomous snake bit your cat, seek immediate veterinary assistance. Call your vet to tell them you are en route. Try to keep your cat quiet and limit activity. Attempt to keep the bite site below heart level if possible. Do not attempt to treat your pet with tourniquets, suction, hot or cold packs, incisions, or anything else—these approaches are ineffective. Urgent, intensive veterinary treatment is necessary to limit long-term effects of the venom. Once at the vet, treatment recommendations may include administration of antivenin and supportive care (IV fluids and pain management).
If you live in a region where venomous snakes are common, check to see if your vet carries Rattler Antivenin from MG Biologics. It neutralizes venom from rattlesnakes, copperheads, and cottonmouths/water moccasins. Pre-mixed and ready-to-use, it counteracts the snake venom, decreases swelling, minimizes pain, and decreases temperature. Ask your vet to stock this in case of emergencies. (mgbiologics.com)