Snakebites in Cats
Snakebites occur more commonly in the warmer months of the year but they can occur all year round. Cats are very inquisitive and like to put a paw out to these interesting slithery creatures, often with deadly consequences.
There are many types of venomous snakes in Australia but we tend to see mainly brown snakes and the red bellied black snake.
What are the signs of snakebite?
When the snakes bite they inject venom, which contains a variety of toxins. The neurotoxin is the most important toxin in the venom of Australian snakes, causing paralysis.
The signs of snakebite vary depending on factors such as type of venom, location of bite and amount of venom injected. Cats are often bitten on their paws and tend to have quite specific signs of snakebite:
- • Dilated pupils
- • Progressive weakness – first your cat may look like it is bunny hopping because it’s hind legs are becoming paralysed
- • Flaccid paralysis - weakness progresses to your cat becoming totally floppy, unable to stand and lying flat out, even unable to lift it’s head up.
What do I do if a snake bites my cat?
Cats are more resistant to the venom of snakebites than dogs and survival rates are generally higher. It is advisable to contact us immediately if you suspect a snake has bitten your cat so antivenin can be given. The type of antivenin given depends on the type of snake but if the snake is not seen a multi antivenom may be given.
Hospitalisation will also be required for a few days to prevent dehydration and help keep the cat’s body temperature stable while it is paralysed.
First aid is simply keeping your pet quiet. Never apply a tourniquet, wash or cut the wound site.
Can snakebite be prevented?
Unfortunately, being bitten previously does not give your pet any immunity to further bites nor deter them from being inquisitive. Avoid walking or playing in areas of bushland or long grass, especially summer.
Keep your yard free of long grass or piles of wood, rubbish or junk, and keep the rat and mice population under control.