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What are Snake Bites?

In general, nonvenomous and venomous snakes tend to have different physical characteristics. Nonvenomous snakes often have round pupils and a rounded head. Venomous snakes usually have elliptical pupils, not unlike a cat's. Their heads are often angled like a diamond or triangle. Most snakes in North America are not venomous. A bite from a nonvenomous snake can still be harmful to a cat, as snakes often carry infection-causing bacteria and a great number of parasites from feeding on dead animals. Snakes need warm weather to function as they are cold blooded. In colder climates, they hibernate during the winter and come out in late spring. Venomous snakes who have just woken from hibernation may carry greater volumes of toxins than at other times of the year. In warmer climates, snakes pose a threat year-round.

Snakes are reptiles that most cats consider as prey. A cat's natural instinct is to curiously investigate a snake, and even to pursue, hunt, and attack the animal. This can end poorly for the cat, as many snakes will bite when they feel threatened. Both venomous and nonvenomous snakes can bite. A venomous snake has the ability to inject powerful toxins into its victim's body that have the potential to be lethal. These include hemotoxins (affecting the blood), neurotoxins (affecting the central nervous system) and cytotoxins (affecting the cells of the body. A venomous bite from a snake can cause kidney failure, tissue death, adverse allergic reaction, and paralysis. Not every bite from a venomous snake involves a release of toxins.

Snake Bites Average Cost

From 241 quotes ranging from $500 - $6,000

Average Cost

$3,000

Symptoms of Snake Bites in Cats

The wound caused by a snake bite will vary greatly based on the type and size of the snake itself. Venomous snakes tend to leave two large puncture wounds in the flesh from their fangs. Nonvenomous snakes leave more of a horseshoe shape of smaller incisions. Not all bites are visible, especially in cats with long hair, and some bites do not puncture the skin. Symptoms may worsen as time passes. All signs to watch for include:

  • Swelling
  • Puncture wounds
  • Bleeding
  • Trembling 
  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea 
  • Weakness
  • Ataxia (unbalanced gait)
  • Tachypnea (rapid breathing)
  • Cyanosis of the gums
  • Ptosis (drooping eyelids)
  • Dilated pupils 
  • Hematuria (blood in urine)
  • Paralysis 
  • Coma
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Causes of Snake Bites in Cats

A cat who is allowed any outdoor exploration may at some point come in contact with a snake. If the snake feels threatened by the confrontation, a bite may follow. Possible causes are listed below.

  • Venturing into areas with long grass
  • Exposure to rural surroundings
  • Hunting or chasing a snake
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Diagnosis of Snake Bites in Cats

Unless you are an expert on snakes and you witnessed the bite take place, it is best to treat any snake bite as potentially venomous. Rush the cat to a veterinary clinic or animal hospital immediately so that life saving treatment can be administered. Call ahead to verify if the center you are going to carries antivenin on hand, and get a referral to somewhere that does if they do not. Keep the cat laying down and prevent movement. Try to position the bite area below the cat's heart. A pressure wrap, but not a tourniquet, may be used to slow the cat's circulation.

Once you have arrived at the hospital or clinic, be prepared to answer questions about the location and environment your cat may have been in when bit. If you saw the snake, try to remember details about its appearance to help identify what type it was. Some centers in areas venomous snakes are known to inhabit may carry a snake venom test kit to further assist with snake identification. Full blood work will be needed, including a complete blood count and a biochemical profile. The time it takes for the cat's blood to clot may be measured. The vet may take note of fibrinogen (clotting protein) and platelet counts. 

Differentiation may be needed from other type of bites and wounds. Cultures may be performed to see if any bacterial infections are developing. A fecal exam may help confirm whether parasites are present. All of these tests and evaluations may be performed while the cat is already receiving supportive care.

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Treatment of Snake Bites in Cats

In venomous snake bites, the goal of treatment will be to reverse the effects of the venom on the cat's body. In all snake bites the prevention and treatment of infection may be needed. 

Supportive Care 

Stabilization of the cat can greatly help its ability to survive a venomous bite. Hospitalization is required for this care, as intravenous fluids and feeding tubes may be required. Oxygen supplementation can assist in cases when the cat is having trouble breathing. 

Antivenin 

If it has been determined that the cat has been bitten by a venomous snake, the corresponding antivenin should be administered. It may take more than one vial to counteract the effects of the venom. Some cats develop allergic reactions to the antivenin.

Antibiotics

 

As snake bites tend to be very unclean, antibiotics are often prescribed to rid the body of any harmful bacteria that may have been left by the snake. These prescriptions generally last from 1-4 weeks.

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Recovery of Snake Bites in Cats

It takes most cats a minimum of one to two days to recover from a venomous snake bite with antivenin treatment. If immediate treatment has not been given, venomous bites are often fatal. Once discharged from the hospital, monitor the cat for any worsening in its condition. Keep the cat's activity lowered throughout the healing process. 

Administer all medications as prescribed by your veterinarian. The faster that treatment was received, the better chance the cat has of surviving a venomous snake bite. It may be best to keep cats indoors to prevent possible snake encounters. If you do allow your cat outdoors, do your best to eliminate things that attract snakes, such as piles of wood or long grass. Get to know what snakes live in your area and what they look like. 

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Snake Bites Average Cost

From 241 quotes ranging from $500 - $6,000

Average Cost

$3,000

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Snake Bites Questions and Advice from Veterinary Professionals

Need pet health advice? Ask a vet

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Ask a Vet

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Domestic Short Hair Cat

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Adult

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Unknown severity

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I am looking to adopt a cat that had been bitten by a rattlesnake. I know he is an adult, but I don't know how old. He had vet care and surgery to clean out his wound. He is currently in foster care and seems to be doing well. Can you please tell me if there will be any long term effects on his health and what I should be prepared for? I know of someone who's German Shepherd was bitten by a rattlesnake and he developed a seizure disorder a few years later. Is this a possibility with the cat? The dog was bitten in the face. Apparently the cat was bitten on his chest. Stay well. Thanks!

Sept. 27, 2020

Owner

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Dr. Michele K. DVM

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0 Recommendations

Thank you for your question. I apologize for the delay in answering, these emails are not set up for urgent messages. I cannot see any long term problems from this injury occurring.

Oct. 14, 2020

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Stray kitten

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Two Months

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Unknown severity

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1 found helpful

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Unknown severity

Has Symptoms

Drowsy And Hindlimbs Paralysed

He has a snake bite this morning,we have'nt seen the snake tho,but he has 2famgs on his leg..since then his hindlimbs are not working they are paralysed he is weak and drowsy..not eating anything..but drinking a little milk..we dont have any vet around us and due to covid pandemic most are closed...what should we do to at home from our side to get him better

July 26, 2020

Owner

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Dr. Gina U. DVM

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1 Recommendations

Hello I'm so sorry to see that your kitten is not doing well. If he was bitten by a snake, he should be see by a veterinarian immediately. If there is some swelling you may apply a cool compress to the area for 5 minutes every 4-6 hours. Snakebites can be fatal so your kitty should be seen as soon as possible.

July 26, 2020

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Cupcake

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Siamese

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1 Year

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Fair severity

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Fair severity

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Swollen Leg

I think he was bitten by a snake. He was missing for two days and all I saw was blood on my porch and now he has come back home with a swollen leg and a puncture mark. He has what appears to be a cut on his paw but the swelling makes it hard to see. He is a feral cat that I have been taking care of since he was 8 weeks old but I don’t want to get bitten by trying to examine it too much. He has never allowed me to pick him up for more than a minute and I don’t want to hurt him or run him off. He is eating and drinking as usual.

Sept. 23, 2018

Cupcake's Owner

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Sandy

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Indian breed

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8 Months

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Moderate severity

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Drooling
Swollen Lip
Swollen Lip Open Eye During Sleep

My cat has got with a snake bite during his outdoor visit last night, but we didn’t notice it for 6 hours . When his symptoms starts to emerge we are afraid and called a veterinarian to treat him.She instructed to provide him amoxicillin oral suspension and some other few antibiotic tablets initially,then after 2 hours of time our kitty was injected with common antiseptic doses since to provide antivenin we don’t know which type of venomous snake has bite it . Now the kitty started recovering process but I just want to know whether the physical anomalies in his face ,eyes and lips would be back to normal feature after recovery.please do mention about the healing process in step by step manner Thankfully Shobanapriya

Aug. 29, 2018

Sandy's Owner

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toad

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house cat

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3 Years

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Serious severity

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Serious severity

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Swollen Face, Unable To Open Eyes

one of our house cats got bit by a snake on 8/15/2018. her entire face was swollen and under her neck as well, neither of her eyes would open. she also has bites on her legs and what looks like claw marks on her chest. No idea what type of snake it was or where she was when she got bit, I am hoping the snake is not in the house. Anyway we took her to the vet and he gave her a shot and sent her home with oral med that she is to take. How would I know if it is a rattle snake or not? and why does she have so many bite marks ? one bite was on her neck, one is on her face under her eye and one is on her leg..I thought she got into a cat fight

Aug. 15, 2018

toad's Owner

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Diagnosis of a rattlesnake bite is normally based on either the owner seeing the snake bite their pet or the symptoms presenting after an animal has been in an area frequented by rattlesnakes. If a rattlesnake bite is suspected then antivenom should be administered, there are various tests which may be performed but vary in reliability. Regards Dr Callum Turner DVM www.petpoisonhelpline.com/poison/rattlesnake/

Aug. 16, 2018

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Scar

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Cat

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3 Years

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Moderate severity

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Moderate severity

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Welt

A stray cat showed up a few months ago and we decided to keep it. However it now how a large welt under his chin and on his chest. Were not sure what its from or if its a snake bite. We dont have any vets around us otherwise we would have already taken him. What could cause a large welt like this? Its not like a swollen bump its more of a raised welt .

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Lily

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Tonkinese

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5 Years

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Mild severity

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Mild severity

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Sneezing, Runny Nose Watery Eyes

My cat was bitten by a copper head snake last week and was at the vets for 4 after being given anti venom and fluids she has been fine for 3 days but has now got symptoms of a cold running nots sneezing and watery eyes. Should I be concerned?

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Dude

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polydactal

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10 Years

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Fair severity

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Weight Loss

Two months ago my 10 year old cat was bitten twice by a pygmy rattlesnake. I killed the snake and I'm sure in was a pygmy rattler. My cat took off running and I never expected to see him again but he showed up about 36 hours later. He seems fine eats, plays, ect except he's gone from normal health weight to bone skinny. He stopped losing weight but can't seem to gain any back.

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Sumo

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Orange tabby

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1 Year

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Moderate severity

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Moderate severity

Has Symptoms

Neck Swelling, Bite Marks, Fatigue

Our young cat had displayed extreme fatigue, initially, and we thought he’d gotten sick. Then swelling began in the collar area, and became quite noticeable. He regained his energy and seemed to be improving in spite of the swelling. Then we found blood on his fur, and the ground in our house. This was when there were two very noticeable and distinguished fang marks. Too large to be a spider, but here in eastern Washington, there are few known species. So it’s hard to tell which might have done so.

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Pete

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dsh

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1 Year

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Serious severity

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Serious severity

Has Symptoms

Swelling
Swelling, Staggering And Panting

My cat Pete who is 1 year old was bitten on his front leg by a copperhead snake. His leg was really swollen and clear liquid was oozing from the puncture wound. He was panting and staggering around. He was so scared that even in his condition, my husband and I couldn't catch him to take him to the vet. 12 hours later he came home to eat and I was able to catch him. We immediately took him to the Emergency Vet which thankfully is close to our home . Because so much time had passed, the vet felt ok with not giving him the antivenin. She said sometimes the antivenin can cause severe reactions and he seemed to be doing well enough without it considering it had been 12 hours. He was given pain meds and an antibiotic injection. He made a full recovery but his personality has changed since this incident. It's like he has split personalities. One minute he's scared of me like he's never seen me before and the next minute he's winding around my legs wanting me to pet him. He's sometimes aggressive with my other cats also.

Snake Bites Average Cost

From 241 quotes ranging from $500 - $6,000

Average Cost

$3,000

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