Snake Bite: Unusual
In early December, late in the afternoon, we were presented with a 6 year old female kelpie, Molly who was slightly off colour and had a mild left head tilt and a throaty gag. Her left eye had a sluggish, poor response to bright light (the pupil was slow to constrict) and the eyelids did not blink when I pretended to flick her in the eye with my finger. When I put my hand down Molly’s throat, she did not have a gag reflex. Everything else was fine. Her reflexes in all 4 legs were normal and she was not weak in the hindlegs. Her vitals were all ok and her colour good.
All the symptoms suggest an issue with the nerves that supplied the left head and neck area. Our main concerns were a paralysis tick or mini-stroke (even though she was a young dog). Because her leg reflexes were ok, we ruled out a stroke. That left us thinking a tick until proven otherwise.
Well, after several extensive tick searches and an after hours clip, we had not found a tick or crater. On my final tick search, I was running my fingers very tightly down the edges of Molly’s left ear flap and felt a tiny area of swelling and heat approx. 1 cm in diameter. On shaving the area very closely, we found 2 tiny snake bite marks surrounded by some bruising.
We immediately setup two IV drips with a bottle of snake anti-venom in one and fluids in the other. We ran the anti-venom in over 60 minutes and had adrenaline drawn up and ready to inject IV in case of an anaphylactic allergic reaction to it. The IV fluids ran all night to flush toxin out of the body.
While the fluids and anti venom were running in, we drew up some bloods and ran them on our in-house laboratory. The kidneys and liver were fine and her blood picture normal. However, when we spun the blood down in our centrifuge, the serum (the watery part of the blood) was tinged red rather than being clear. This was due to the snake toxin damaging red blood cells and causing them to leak their contents into the blood stream.
At 11.00pm, I came in to check on Molly, and lo and behold, she was sitting up and wagging her tail. After checking her vitals were all ok I put another litre of IV fluids on her drip. The next morning, she was up and out for a walk, but still had a slight gag. She was definitely on the mend.
We sent her home that afternoon. The owners mentioned they had found some piles of vomit in the yard which I suspect was the dog’s initial response to the snake bite. It looks like she got just a small amount of venom when bitten and it only affected the local nerves near the bite wound, but the discoloured serum was a warning to more serious things on the way.
At recheck 2 days later, Molly was bouncing around and looking for her treats. What a champ!