Snake Bite

While the exact incidence, morbidity and mortality rates for snake bites to animals in Australia is not known, a recent survey estimated there to be at least 6200 cases of snake bite seen annually. Of these 78% were in rural areas.

The diagnosis of snake bite rests primarily on the case history and the observed and elicited signs. On the one hand, animals which have been severely envenomed rapidly become critically ill, thus it is essential to make a prompt diagnosis and give antivenom. Alternatively, in many cases little venom is injected and no significant illness develops (more likely in cats).

A recent survey found that brown, tiger and black snakes were responsible for 76%, 12% and 6% of snake bite cases (but over 50% of cases in Victoria and Tasmania were due to tiger snakes). Of these 52% were cats and 44% were dogs with other species making up the remainder. In urban areas cats accounted for 66% of cases and dogs 34%, whereas in rural areas dogs and cats each accounted for 47% of recorded snake bites.

Approximately two thirds of animals received antivenom. Ninety one per cent of cats and 75% of dogs survived with antivenom, whereas 66% of cats and 31% of dogs survived without antivenom.

This section of the site explores the clinical signs by species, differential diagnosis, laboratory investigations, first aid and clinical management.

(Reference: Mirtschin et al. 1998 Aust. Vet. J., 76: 195-198 )