Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Rattlesnake Bites in Pets: Signs and What to do if Bitten Coiled Prairie Rattlesnake

CREDIT: National Geographic
Snake venom

Most snake bites are from pit vipers, which are poisonous snakes that are identified by their triangular heads, retractable fangs, and a special heat-sensing pit between the eye and nostril. North American pit vipers include five subspecies of copperheads, three subspecies of water moccasins, three subspecies of pygmy rattlesnakes, three subspecies of massauga, and at least 26 subspecies of rattlesnakes. Water moccasins and copperheads are found in the eastern United States and southward through Texas. Rattlesnakes are found throughout the contiguous United States, with the highest concentration in the south and southwest.

General Information
Snake bites tend to occur on the pet's head or neck. Bites involving the trunk of the body have a poorer prognosis. Snake bites may affect one or more body systems including the cardiopulmonary system, the nervous system, or the coagulation system. Usually, if the snake is not poisonous or the venom was not injected, the pain, swelling, and bruising at the bite site will be minimal.

Toxic Dose
Varies. Envenomation does not always occur. The severity of envenomation is related to the time of the year, the volume of venom present in the snake, the location of the bite, the number of bites, and the amount of victim movement after the bite (movement increases the spread of the venom). The amount of venom is not related to the size of the snake. Systemic signs such as kidney damage may take 24-72 hours to develop in mild envenomations, so the animal should be observed closely for several days.
SOURCE and more information
May see one, two, or several small puncture wounds, bleeding, bruising, immediate and extremely painful swelling at the site of the bite, and tissue necrosis. The more severe systemic signs may take up to several hours to appear and include hypotension and shock, lethargy and weakness, muscle tremors, nausea, vomiting, and neurological signs including depressed respiration.

Immediate Action
Identify the snake if possible. Restrict movement of the pet. Loosely immobilize the limb in a functional position if bitten on an extremity. DO NOT incise the bite wound to aspirate the venom and DO NOT apply a tourniquet without veterinary assistance. DO NOT apply ice to the area. Seek veterinary attention.
SOURCE and more information

Veterinary Care
General treatment: The animal will be kept quiet and the bitten area immobilized if possible to decrease the spread of the venom. The area around the wound will be clipped and cleaned.

Supportive treatment: Antihistamines may be administered and IV fluids given to help prevent low blood pressure. Oxygen is given if needed. Antibiotics are used to prevent secondary infections. Pain medication is provided as necessary. Laboratory tests to check for bleeding problems and organ damage will be performed repeatedly. Blood transfusions may be necessary in cases of severe coagulopathies. The area above and below the bite wounds may be measured every 15 minutes to monitor the edema. Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) are contraindicated in the early phase (first 24 hours) of treatment because of the different types of venom and the anticoagulant effects of NSAIDs. The use of corticosteroids may be contraindicated also, as some research shows they increase the severity of the bite.

Specific treatment: Antivenin* may be administered. The use of antivenin is controversial and is used at the discretion of the attending veterinarian. To be most effective, antivenin should be given within 4 hours of the bite. It becomes less effective as more time passes.

All snake bite victims should be observed for a minimum of 12 hours, even when there are no clinical signs. If clinical signs are present, the length of observation is increased to 48-72 hours, as damage to organs may not appear immediately.

A study of animals bitten by pit vipers showed that those treated with antivenin, intravenous fluids, and antibiotics had a mortality rate less than 1% and local tissue damage was rare. The mortality rate in untreated patients depended on the species of snake involved. For example, in patients bitten by the Northern Pacific Rattlesnakes, the mortality rate was about 10%. In the much more dangerous Mojave rattlesnake, it could be as high as 35%.

*Two companies, Fort Dodge and Wyeth Ayerst Laboratories produce antivenin. Veterinary clinics and human hospitals in areas that have a high population of pit vipers have this product on hand. Many owners want to carry this product with them, but because of the intravenous administration and instability of the product, it is recommended that a veterinarian give it.

Article Source (PDF): UC Davis- Animal Pharm News:"Rattlesnake Envenomation" March 2006

Written by:

Charles Jameson, DVM
Lap of Love Veterinary Hospice:
Houston location

Dr Jameson serves towns in and around Houston, TX including Galveston, Pearland, Spring, Pasadena, Missouri City, The Woodlands, Richmond, Bellaire, Kingwood, West University Place, Sugarland, Baytown, and Friendswood. 

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Goat Ownership 101

Photo by KKirugi
(Click to see original on Flickr.)

All about goats!

Vaccination for Goats
  • Goats are extremely susceptible to tetanus and should be vaccinated at a young age, before either dehorning or castrating. 
  • Most veterinarians recommend a CD&T vaccine. This protects from two types of Clostridial (bacterial) diseases: one of the gastrointestinal tract and the other being tetanus. 
  • Goats should receive their first CD&T vaccine at 6 weeks and a booster at 13 weeks. 
  • Rabies should be given at 3 months of age. 
  • Both vaccines are boostered on an annual basis. 
Diet for Goats
  • The goat diet is based largely on forage. Basic grass hay makes up the majority of their diet.
  • It is better to avoid Alfalfa hay for males as it has been associated with an increased incidence of urethral blockage. 
  • Grain should be kept to a minimum. Most goats need very little to no grain but feeding a “meal” will allow time for you to inspect them individually as well as handle them on a daily basis. 
  • If you have castrated male goats, it is important that ammonium chloride be a part of their diet. This will aid in the prevention of urolithiasis – urinary blockage - which is a life threatening emergency if not corrected immediately. There are several goat feeds which include ammonium chloride (for example, many meat goat diets include it) or it can be bought separately and added to the feed separately. 
Castration for Goats
  • Just as is recommended for our dog and cat friends, male goats should be castrated. 
  • Although female goats are not routinely spayed, castrated males are less aggressive and less destructive. In addition, castrating a male goat will decrease their offensive odor. Intact male goats do not make good pets and are often far more “trouble” than their castrated counterparts. 
  • As far as the “right” time to have your make goat castrated, the sooner the better. Goat testicles drop into the scrotum at an early age and are often present by 1 week old. Although some people use elastrator bands to castrate their goats, there are several humane issues associated with this and surgical castration is often preferred. 
  • The surgery is quick, easy and often done on the farm. Pain management will be provided by your veterinarian and most goats are up and running in no time at all. 

Dehorning Goats
  • Just as with castrating, the earlier the better for dehorning goats. 
  • When done at a very young age, goats can be “disbudded” rather than dehorned. This procedure is easier on you, the goat, and requires little to no aftercare. However, disbudding must be done between 1 and 4 weeks of age. After about 4 weeks old, the horny tissue has grown large enough that it must then be dehorned. 
  • The procedure for disbudding uses cautery to burn away the horny tissue. This will prevent horns from ever forming. 
  • Once goats reach about 4 to 6 weeks old they will need to be dehorned. Although not a difficult procedure, there is a fair amount of aftercare and the procedure itself is more painful than disbudding.
  • Dehorned or disbudded goats make safer, less destructive pets. Horned goats are destructive to both property as well as other animals. Horned goats are very good at getting stuck in fences, wires, and even breaking their horns, leading to a veterinary emergency.
Written by Dr. Courtney Culbertson, DVM

Courtney Culbertson, Lap of Love vet
Read more or contact Dr. Courtney:
Courtney Culbertson, DVM
Lap of Love Veterinary Hospice
Charleston, SC  |

Dr. Courtney assists families with Pet Hospice and Euthanasia in the Charleston, South Carolina area including but not limited to Beaufort, Berkeley, Colleton, Dorchester, Hampton, Jasper and Orangeburg Counties.

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Radio show: Healthy Pet Headquarters, featuring Lap of Love's Dr. Dani McVety discussing end-of-life care

Tune into the radio show Healthy Pet Headquarters to hear Lap of Love's Dr. Dani McVety discussing that all-too-important yet throat-catching topic: end-of-life care. How can you ease this transition for your pet in a way that fulfills their health and comfort needs while tending to the bond with their family? This show covers these important points sensitively. Continue to show (or download the episode for later):