Possum is a one year old female Ragdoll who has a permanent, endearing cross eyed look! Her very concerned fur-parents called the Windaroo Veterinary Surgery Animal Hospital to say they were bringing her down, as she had been scratching at her neck, drooling, and was cranky; certainly not her usual self!
When Dr Laura examined her, Possum seemed virtually normal, though there was some minor swelling of her face, and there were two small puncture marks on her nose. Even though Possum was still quite well, we were concerned that she may have challenged a snake to a duel and lost.
There are many snakes common in our area, one of which is the potentially lethal Eastern Brown Snake. One component of Brown Snake venom acts as a pro-coagulant, meaning the body uses up all of its clotting factors, leaving none left to clot the animal’s blood. And this is what we test for when Possum is presented to our practice.
Dr Laura rapidly performed a clotting time with Possum’s blood. Initially the blood clotted quite quickly, however the clot then fell apart, which is not normal! Possum was then observed in our hospital and her clotting time was repeated. In this second test her blood did not clot at all. Possum was immediately placed on intravenous fluids, and we started giving her the snake antivenin – a liquid, lifesaving gold.
Possum was monitored closely, and once she was eating and her clotting time returned to normal, she was able to go home for the rest of the weekend!
An important thing to remember is that it is crucial to have your pet checked if you think they may have been bitten by a snake. Unlike Possum’s case, usually the site of the bite is never found, so just because you don’t see a mark, doesn’t mean that your pet hasn’t received a lethal dose of venom.
Also, remember that you cannot identify snakes by colour alone. For example, Eastern Brown Snakes can be anything from light beige to virtually black in colour, and young browns will often even have stripes. The earlier your pet receives treatment for snake envenomation, the better their prognosis and the quicker their recovery.
Fortunately for Possum she has very observant owners, so she received treatment before she showed any of the typical signs of envenomation.