Snake Bites & Pets

DaisyLou BeforeThere will be times when people and pets come into contact with one of the six species of venomous snakes that live in the State of Florida. Our first suggestion is the obvious, leave the snake alone should you encounter one, they don’t won’t to bite you anymore then you want to be bitten, so if at all possible just walk away. Attempting to harass, handle, or kill a venomous snake greatly increases your chances of being bitten, nevertheless, accidents will happen and where do you go when it does?  We found out the answer the hard way.

One day while walking on our six acres farm at Raffle Rescue Acres as we do everyday with rescues DaisyLou and Daphne and enjoy the tranquil environment, listening to local farm animals and birds. DaisyLou and Daphne began barking and running around, they sometimes do this at the squirrels who endless tease them from the trees, we know it’s a game they all usually play, but this time things seemed a little tense, the girls were no further from the two of us then 10 feet away and franticly barking at the ground, first thought was, oh no they found a turtle, also common on the farm, we usually pick them up and place them in a safe location, but as we approached the spot, help became fear, it was not a turtle they encountered but a Rattle Snake, about four feet in length, it was apparent that they had killed it, but, had they been bitten?  What are the signs of being bitten by a rattle snake?  We did not know.  We quickly started to examine the girls for any signs of bites, we saw none – meanwhile, we retrieved the dead snake knowing that the veterinarian would more then likely need to see the exact one that bit them if that happened.  Caution here-do not pick up the snake with your hands or get near you even if it appears dead-keep the snake away from you -use a stick like we did or something else to pick it up or put it into.  So, not seeing apparent signs of any bites we began to head back to the house so we can check on the computer for signs of snake bites, while on our way back DaisyLou began to  become excited, pacing around instead of walking, a fear came into my stomach, I knew there was a possibility  she had to be bitten.  We now began to run back thinking the worse.  We quickly searched the web for answers and calling the vet at the same time we came upon the symptoms:

Rattlesnake bites are immediately painful and signs and symptoms such as those listed below usually begin immediately:

Cottonmouth and copperhead bites are immediately painful and signs and symptoms such as those listed below, usually begin immediately:

  • body as a whole
    • swelling
    • pain at site of bite
    • thirst
    • weakness
    • tiredness
    • shock
    • tingling
    • numbness
  • respiratory
    • difficulty breathing
  • skin
    • discoloration of skin
    • destruction of tissue
  • gastrointestinal
    • nausea, vomiting
  • heart and blood vessels
    • weak pulse
    • low blood pressure
    • bleeding

Coral snake bites can initially be painless. In fact, major symptoms such as those listed below may not develop for hours. DO NOT make the mistake of thinking you will be fine if the bite area looks good and you are not in a lot of pain. Untreated coral snake bites can be deadly:

  • body as a whole
    • pain at site of bite
    • swelling
    • drowsiness
    • weakness
    • slurred speech
    • headache
    • shock
    • paralysis
    • numbness of the affected area
  • respiratory
    • breathing difficulty (change in the pattern of breathing)
  • eyes, ears, nose, and throat
  • skin
    • discoloration of skin
    • destruction of tissue
  • gastrointestinal
    • nausea, vomiting
    • stomach or abdominal pain
  • heart and blood vessels
    • low blood pressure
    • weak pulse
  • nervous system

_____________________________________________________________

These did NOT happen immediately, only the pacing, within about 5 minutes while in the house did two more symptoms begin, salivating and swelling – on her face !  The snake had bitten DaisyLou on the mouth !   Later we found out that this is the common area that dogs to get bitten because they try to bite at the snake, for Cats it is their paws because they tend to swat at the snake.

So, the vet is on the phone asking questions as well, once we confirmed the other signs he said, yes, she had been bitten – take her immediately to the emergency animal hospital in Tampa.  Tampa we said?  Why?  That is too far, and she is getting worse, how long do we have to get her treated?  Depends he said, how much venom she received, really it varies, but no more then 2 hours.  The reason she had to go there and no where else is because that hospital was the ONLY one within 100 miles that carried the anti-venom she needed !!   That is crazy for a state that does have poisonous snakes !   Now during this time, we had been talking on the phone with the vet, getting directions to this hospital over an hour away, packing up the car with DaisyLou and Daphne, Daphne was not showing any signs but we were taking her too just in case, the dead snake in a box in the trunk – so off we went as quickly as we could to the hospital, hoping a police would pull us over so we could be escorted to there quicker – but no, from Hudson to Tampa and hours drive not one police came our way !!  Go figure.

We made it there, our vet phoned them and they were waiting for us.  They immediately took DaisyLou in and began treatment of anti-venom, antibiotics, pain medicine and steroids, in i.v. form as well as blood samples and full examination.  They then took back Daphne, since she was not showing signs, a blood test would determine if she had been bitten – 20 minutes later they came out to say she had.  But, the snake must have bit DaisyLou first and released all it’s venom in her, Daphne did not have enough to harm her, if anything it will make her own antibodies stronger against future bites, build a slight immunity, but don’t count on that protecting her or saving her, you have to be bite quite a bit and survive for that to happen, thankfully she would be fine without any treatment.

DaisyLou was doing okay, they would not know if the FIRST dose of anti-venom would work until a few hours, they continuously take blood samples that show if it is working.  We went back in the emergency room to visit DaisyLou, we did not expect what we seen, she did not look this way when we arrived 3 hours ago – she had continued to swell, which they said is normal, to the size of a little seal – her entire face, neck and chest was swollen four times it’s normal size – she could not open her mouth, that is where she had been bitten.  When she saw us she started to get excited, they didn’t want that – so we quickly gave her a kiss and left the room – then the crying started… we couldn’t help it – this is our little DaisyLou who is no more then two…that is her favorite song we always sing her, even though she is over two years old, she loves to hear us sing that to her, her tail wags she even moves around like she’s dancing.  And now here she is fighting for her life.

Five hours into her stay, the nurse came out to say that they will need to give her another shot of anti-venom, the first one did nothing.   Another dose was administered and we waited.   By 11pm it showed signs of working !  Yeah !   But, not in the clear yet – she must stay of course and they will call if anything changes.

As we drove back home without DaisyLou, the car was so quiet, even Daphne was lying down silently – we did not talk, it was like a dream.  Once home, the house seemed still, vacant, lifeless, it was strange – DaisyLou was always playing with her toys, Daphne, under our feet, but not this night.  Slowly we all settled in but no one slept, you couldn’t, we were waiting for the phone to ring.   At 7 am it did – our hearts were in our mouths – please, please be good news.  The nurse started off that DaisyLou was fine, but, she will need yet another dose of anti-venom, there is no choice of yes or no, it is yes of course, but they need your permission because, since anti-venom is so costly for them as a hospital and a very perishable product for them to carry the cost for each dose was $1,500.00 and they must ask before they administer it, this would be DaisyLou’s  third dose.   There is no telling how many an animal may need, this depends on the type of snake, how much venom they received and the size of the animal.   For humans it would take up to 25 doses of anti-venom.

The hospital did not want us to come visit just yet, they did not want her to get excited to see us, she needed to remain calm and rest, they will call back to let us know if this dose worked.

At 2pm that day the call came, DaisyLou was showing signs of improvement, the dose worked !!   But, she will need to remain there for continued treatment of i.v. antibiotics and pain medicine plus fluids, there was no way for her to eat with her mouth all swollen plus it was painful for her as well.

We hated just leaving her there, she did not understand why we weren’t there, her pack, but it had to be done at least just for a short time, the main factor is, she is alive and will be coming back home to us.

After 2 days in the emergency room DaisyLou can come home !  But, she will need to be on antibiotics for the next 2 months plus other medications and will need to continue check ups with her regular vet until she gets the all clear.

Her swelling took awhile to subside, she has a slight paralyzed to the side she had been bitten on, her eye drops slightly and her mouth is a little crooked, we were told that does happen because of nerve damage from the venom.

The cost of something like this happening is between $4,000.00 –  $10,000.00

So, please, be couscous when walking in wooded area’s – try to stay were there are clean paths, there are products out on the market called Snake Away, if you think you are in an area that may have snakes, purchase something that will help deter them from around your home.   This situation was rare, an accident, which we all know, you just never can predict an accident.

We recommend that if you have any type of animals, find out from your vet/clinic if they do carry snake anti-venom and if not where would you go should your animal(s) get bitten and have a plan as what to do should that unlikely event occur.

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