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Snake season… Beware!

Written By: admin on December 3, 2010 One Comment

This week we had an unusual occurrence that we thought to share with everyone, in hopes to enlighten those that may live in areas where venomous snakes occur. By writing our story and posting some guidelines, we hope others will learn and be able to know what to do, if a similar situation were to happen to them and/or their dogs. This is how we managed to keep both our 4 month old puppy, Sambuca, and 50kg dog, Bear, alive, after both were bit by a 2 meter long Snouted/Egyptian cobra! (to view photos of snakes and other wildlife, see EWB’s gallery www.elephantswithoutborders.org/photo_gallery.php)


Our dog examining the deadly cobra that bit her!

Most people that have lived in southern Africa are quite aware that with the onslaught of rains, it also becomes the season to be mindful of snakes. We walk less often through high grasses and are on the alert. But, for people with dogs it is even more of a nuisance. Dogs are quite curious and if they’ve ever tangled with a snake, the tendency is that the dog is not afraid of them but even more vengeful towards them. So what does one do when your trusty canine friend wrestles with a venomous foe?
Ideally, one should always seek and heed the advice of a proper veterinarian. In our particular case, there was no vet available in Kasane this week, so we relied on phone calls to seek guidance and was able to contact several experts to aid us.

The Incident: Thurs:-4pm- heard the dogs barking at something in the grass, outside the office.
-5pm- first noticed signs in the puppy and 20 minutes later, the same from the dog: vomiting, excessive salivation, choking,  soon swelling appeared on their faces & necks. Immediately we made calls to anyone that could help us identify this as a snake bite and what we should do.
-6pm- Administered: Solu-Delta Cortef /Prednisone, which is a water-based anti-inflammatory: a type of Cortisone, a fast acting steroid; a strong antihistamine.
Fri: -2am- Both dogs did not seem to be reacting to the drugs and were not responding.
-3:30am- Under further recommendation, administered: Dexafort (a slower, long lasting steroid) Peni LA (Phenix) Penicillan, an antibiotic, and Lasix, known as Salix for liquid in their lungs
-4am- almost lost Bear’s heart and breathing, administered a large dose of Solu-Delta Cortef immediately, and he began to breathe again.
-7am- Found the snake, identified it as a Snouted/Egyptian Cobra which is deadly,  having both neurotoxic and cytotoxic effects
-9am- attained intravenous drip solutions from the pharmacy and 2 vials of Anti-venin, which was slowly administered directly into the drip line. No signs of recovery yet.
-5pm gave a second, yet slower intravenous drip to each dog to last throughout the night. Bear was the first to show recouping signs by wagging his tail!
-10pm Bear sat up and through the night moved more and more on his blanket, eventually at 2am he went outside on his own, but this exhausted him. The puppy, Sambuca put her head up and looked around for the first time.
Sat: -6am Sambuca stood up and walked outside!
Drugs administered: Cortisone/steroid (both a fast-acting and a stronger,longer-lasting), Antibiotics, Anti-inflammatory, treatment for side-effects (in this case liquid in lungs), proper treatment of wounds, intravenous drips and most importantly Anti-venin (but MUST be administered correctly for particular snake bite types)

The following next 2 days both dogs were very weak, Bear could hardly use his back legs. Sambuca was emancipated and coughing often. Her lungs sounded weak and filled with liquid. However,  we are happy to report that slowly, slowly they are both recouping while we follow recommended recovery measures.
-Follow up with medicines recommended by your veterinarian. Most can be attained at your local pharmacy. We were advised to use an antibiotic course, such as Amoxycillan or Cephalexin, and an anti-inflammatory such as Benedryl, Metcam or Ketofin.
-Give health boosters such as a liquid Vitamin B complex, Essentiale tablets to aid their liver, and Probiflora probiotics (Probiotics are bacteria that help maintain the natural balance of organisms (microflora) in the intestines)
-Keep the dogs calm, give them small meals of non-fatty foods (such as chicken and rice) several times a day and monitor their recovery carefully.
-Keep the bite area clean with diluted Dettol and an antibiotic cream.

Black Mamba is one of the deadliest snakes

Black Mamba is one of the deadliest snakes

Preventing Snake Bites for You and Your Dog
-While out walking, wear shoes, socks or boots, and long trousers if walking through undergrowth
-Stay on open paths where there is an opportunity for snakes to be visible.
-Control your dog with a leash in grassy areas.
-Do not allow your dog to explore holes in the ground or dig under logs, flat rocks or other piled up debris.
-Keep nighttime walking to a minimum and walk with a torch.
-If your dog seems unusually curious about “something” hidden in the grass, back off immediately until you know what it is.
-Of the 72 snakes in Botswana, 12 of them are highly venomous. Learn how to identify the venomous snakes in you area. In Botswana, especially learn about Cobras, Mambas, and Puff Adder.
-Venoms are of two types, either neurotoxic (affecting the nervous system) or cytotoxic (affecting the blood, vessels and tissues) Learn which snake afflicts which venom.
-If you see a snake, make a slow retreat, moving steadily and slowly backwards. The exception to this is the spitting cobra. If you come across a spitting cobra, you should remain completely still. The snake is very shortsighted and will spit at the first thing that moves, likely your eye. If you remain still the snake will probably move away.

What to Do if a Snake Bites
-Look for swelling, bite wounds where fangs may have entered, and noticeable discomfort, such as lameness or difficulty breathing
-Attempt to identify the snake if possible, by taking note of its size, color patterns and any other noticeable traits, but avoid getting bitten yourself. Not knowing which type of snake is the culprit, the victim cannot receive an Anti-venin, as the remedy could actually cause a violent reaction and possibly death.
-Keep your dog still, quiet and warm. Any movement could cause the venom to spread. If bitten on a leg, wrap a constricting band on the affected limb snugly at a level just above the bite wound. This band could be fashioned of a shirtsleeve or other fabric and should be snug but not excessively tight.  The compression around the limb will slow the spread of the venom.
-Transport your dog to your veterinarian immediately if he’s showing any signs of a snake bite. Avoid wasting time by washing the wound. Also, avoid cutting the bite area in an effort to drain venom, as this can lead to other serious injury or infection. (Wash the wound if your dog has been bitten by a nonpoisonous snake.)
Ideally, if one knows which snake it was, and with the advice of an expert, one should attain and have an Anti-venin administered.

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