Brown snake envenomation in cats: are two antivenom doses better than one?

Pursue your passion for animals and science - help improve survival rate of cats bitten by brown snakes.

Cat hiding out in grass

Snake envenomation is a common feline emergency seen at our veterinary hospital and at veterinary clinics in many parts of Australia. 

Brown snakes (Pseudonaja spp.) are the most common snake species reported to cause envenomation in Australian dogs and cats. Clinical signs of Pseudonaja spp envenomation in cats and dogs are predominantly associated with neurotoxicity manifest as progressive flaccid paralysis, as well as coagulopathy. 

Diagnosis of brown snake envenomation is usually based on a supportive history, such as animal witnessed being bitten; playing with live or dead snake; snakes witnessed in the animal’s environment - with or without typical clinical signs and laboratory test results as above. 

Intravenous administration of brown snake antivenom is the mainstay of treatment for brown snake envenomation. The survival rate of cats and dogs treated with antivenom is significantly higher than those not treated. Recommendations for how much antivenom to administer to animal or human patients varies. There are no published veterinary studies which have evaluated differences in clinical outcome in animals administered one or multiple vials of brown snake antivenom.

We have developed a severity scoring system for envenomated cats which predicts a strong probability of dying despite standard treatment in our hospital, i.e. a single dose of antivenom. 

To follow up, a limited-case number pilot study project will collate and assess ongoing clinical data and monitor implementation of the severity scoring system and recommended treatment.

Supervisors

Tagged in Honours projects - Animal science, Honours in Animal Science subtheme - Animal and veterinary bioscience, Honours in Animal Science subtheme - Companion animal health, Honours projects - Anthony Nicholson, Honours projects - Anne Peaston