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.

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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 fur, and some bites do not puncture the skin. Symptoms may worsen as time passes. 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 bitten. 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

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Winston

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domestic short-hair

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9 Years

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Moderate severity

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0 found helpful

pill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filled

Moderate severity

Has Symptoms

Wound

My cat was bitten by a snake some time Wednesday on his left front paw, as soon as I let him inside I noticed his leg and paw were swollen and his paw was bleeding. I immediately brought him to the vet where they say it was a snake bite. I did not and have not seen a snake so have no clue as to what kind it could have been. We’re in south Louisiana and have a pond in our back yard. As soon as the vet touched his paw the fur came right off. The spot is small but has exposed pink skin/tissue around one claw. They gave him a steroid shot and sent me home with a liquid antibiotics to take once daily for 14 days and want to see him back at the vet in a week. It should be noted that he is also a diabetic. When we got home from the vet he ate a little but ended up throwing it all back up. He drank a more water than usual too. However, later that night he ate great and I have him his insulin shot. He’s been eating good since and hasn’t seemed to be thrown off balance with his insulin. Thursday the swelling had gone down but the leg/paw area where still slightly larger than his other one. He has continued to use the bathroom regularly as well. He’s seemed like his normal self this whole time. Today is now Friday and the swelling looks to be gone but the exposed skin/tissue is now black looking. My question is does that mean the tissue is dead? The vet said the area could get worst and or larger before it got better. Should I expect it to get worst or does it sound like he’s on the mend? Can he recover from this? Or could this still be a life threatening problem?

July 27, 2018

Winston's Owner

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0 Recommendations

Without examining Winston’s paw I cannot determine whether the black tissue is necrotic or if it is just really dark bruising; if the puncture wounds are turning black I would recommend you pop into your Veterinarian for a quick look to be on the safe side to ensure that all the tissue around the puncture wounds are still viable tissue. Prognosis is favourable when treated promptly and quickly but there may be complications which need to be addressed. Regards Dr Callum Turner DVM

July 28, 2018

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lilla & maxie name from my wife's soaps

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feliaon

dog-age-icon

2 Years

pill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filled

Critical severity

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pill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filled

Critical severity

Has Symptoms

Convultions And Foamingat Mouth

we live in rural area of smokey mts TN, we had 2 female cats that was indoor -- outdoor cats about 2 years old each about 8 to 10 pounds ea. I found them under the sun deck about 12' apart, we have copper heads, rattle snakes and other venomous snakes. both had the following symptoms, Stretched out on their side, stiff, bowed backs backwards (not like a Halloween cat pics.)but opposite, violently convulsing, their eyes twitching left to right, and foaming at the mouth. both were fixed, and had all there shots. What should I have done not Knowing how long they were like this? it was bad and a hard & emotional decision on what to do. Im married and my wife and I love our animals very much. If you want to know what decision I made and outcome, this was a few weeks ago my email wwwthewoodkeeper@gmail.com.

July 17, 2018

lilla & maxie name from my wife's soaps' Owner

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With any case of suspected snake envenomation it is important to get to a Veterinarian immediately as supportive and symptomatic care can be given and in some cases antivenom may be given too; to the the effects of venom there is little that can normally be done at home plus the risk of secondary infections is very high even for non-venomous snakes. Regards Dr Callum Turner DVM www.msdvetmanual.com/toxicology/snakebite/overview-of-snakebite

July 17, 2018

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Snake Bites Average Cost

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

Average Cost

$3,000

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