Professor Bryan Fry, the leader of a study at the University of Queensland tells us that cat’s blood clots more slowly than the blood of dogs. It is a trait which works against survival if bitten by a snake when their venom activates blood clotting.
Australia’s eastern brown snake is one such snake and it accounts for 76 percent of companion animal snake bites. Without anti-venom treatment 66 percent of bitten cats survive compared with 31 percent of dogs. When treated with anti-venom the survival rate improves to 40-50 percent for dogs and 80 percent for cats.
The animals die of a stroke due to a large blood clot or ‘bleed out’ if there are multiple small clots. It is believed that dogs’ blood clots faster as an evolutionary measure to improve survival generally because of the need to repair wounds as quickly as possible.
They say that dog are more active than cats which also makes them more susceptible to dying from a snake bite as it forces the blood to travel around the body faster. Are dogs more active than cats? On balance it might be true. Also the experts state that dogs use their noses more than cats to explore which results in snake bites on their noses where there is a good supply of blood to speed the venom around their bodies. They argue that cats explore more with their paws. That’s probably true also because dogs have a better sense of smell but both have an excellent sense of smell.
Comment: I wonder if there is a fourth reason why domestic cats are more likely to survive an encounter with a venomous snake. Cats are quicker movers than dogs. Their fast twitch muscles give them the ability to make very fast movements and in general accelerate faster but with poorer stamina. They may be able to avoid snake bites more effectively. The small wild cats often kill venomous snake as prey such as the sand cat. They kill snakes confidently. The domestic cat’s wild cousin the African-Asian wildcat can kill snakes too.
I am surprised at the poor survival rate for dogs even after anti-venom treatment. Bitten cats or dogs should be pressure bandaged and taken to their vet rapidly.