Cats are better at withstanding snake venom than dogs

A Bengal cat living in the state of Victoria, Australia has been bitten by snakes three times and survived. The story reported by ABC News doesn’t tell us the species of snake but my research indicates that the eastern brown snake is responsible for an estimated 76% of reported snake bites on companion animals in Australia. This species of snake has enough venom to kill 58 humans! The venom’s most powerful ingredient is a neurotoxin, which paralyses the nerves of the heart, lungs and diaphragm, suffocating the victim It also contains a procoagulant.

Cats are more resistant to snake venom than dogs
Cats are more resistant to snake venom than dogs. Infographic by MikeB at PoC.
Two useful tags. Click either to see the articles:- Toxic to cats | Dangers to cats

Jaffa

The Bengal cat’s name is Jaffa. The last time he was bitten he almost died. His owner has a cat run for him. It appears that he might have attacked a snake in the run and was bitten. His owners think that he received a good dose of the venom and stopped breathing due to paralysis before a veterinarian administered a full vial of anti-venom. His life was hanging in the balance but he pulled through.

And one reason why Jaffa pulled through the latest bite and two previous bites is because cats are better able to deal with snake venom than dogs. Jaffa’s experience would have killed a dog it is believed.

Cats have a much-improved chance of survival compared to dogs

Sixty-six percent of cats bitten by the aforesaid snake species survive without antivenom whereas only 31% of dogs survive without antivenom.

Even with antivenom treatment cats have a much better chance of survival than dogs. A study entitled: Pets in peril: the relative susceptibility of cats and dogs to procoagulant snake venoms came to the conclusion, as I understand it, that all snake venoms act faster on dog blood plasma compared to cat and human plasma.

Procoagulants

A procoagulant, as I also understand it, affects the haemostatic pathways dramatically reducing the blood clotting ability of the animal which can kill them.

It is rather counterintuitive because the word “procoagulant” would indicate that it improves coagulation but the process has the opposite effect apparently. A great deal of internal functional problems emanate from this.

Happening more often

An Australian snake catcher, Gianni Hodgson, said that there are currently more cases of companion animals confronting snakes and being bitten. He’s heard a lot more reports of dogs and cats interacting with snakes and he’s not sure why. Suggestion: more flooding due to global warming forcing snakes out into the open?

Behavior of cats and dogs

Another reason why dogs are more susceptible to being killed by a snake bite is because they can place their snout up to the snake to investigate and get bitten on the face where there are lots of blood vessels and therefore the venom is transported around the body more quickly.

Cats, on the other hand, tend to swot at snakes using their claws in order to play safe. They tend to batter snakes with their paws and are less susceptible to being bitten on the face. Another reason is that dogs are usually more active after being bitten than cats which helps to pump the venom around the body.

Jaffa’s caregiver, Sharon Hughes, is now taking steps to protect him from further snake bites which is good news. The last near-death episode has changed her attitude towards the dangers. On previous occasions Jaffa’s dealt with the bites without a great deal of trouble.

Summary of study

The ‘abstract’ (summary) of the above-mentioned study can be further summarised in plain language as follows:

“Cats are twice as likely to survive snakebite than dogs due to their lower vulnerability to procoagulant snake venoms. In vitro tests showed that all tested venoms acted faster on dog plasma than cat or human plasma. The naturally faster clotting blood of dogs also predisposes them to being more vulnerable to procoagulant snake venoms. Behavioural differences between cats and dogs also negatively affect prognosis in dogs. Therefore, dogs require earlier snakebite first-aid and antivenom to prevent the onset of lethal venom effects.”

Below are some more articles on snakes.

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