Kenji, a sweet faced 5 year old kitty, came to Bishop Ranch Veterinary Center one night in late August. His front left paw was swollen and he was limping. Swelling on any part of the body is cause for concern so Kenji’s owners brought him into BRVC Urgent Care.
Kenji was examined by Dr. Trevor Miller. The paw was continuing to swell and extremely painful. After shaving the fur around the swollen area, Dr. Miller discovered two adjacent puncture wounds and bruising. Knowing Kenji was an indoor/outdoor cat and snakes being in the area, Dr. Miller suspected a rattlesnake bite. To further support his suspicion, he examined some of Kenji’s blood under a microscope in the BRVC lab. Kenji’s blood was displaying the classic “starfish” shapes that indicated rattlesnake venom was at work in his system.
Rattlesnake bites are extremely serious and can be fatal if not treated immediately. The venom can cause necrosis (the destruction of tissue) and disrupts the blood’s ability to clot. There are even certain rattlesnakes that have a neurotoxin in the venom that can cause paralysis. It was essential for Kenji to be hospitalized and for supportive care to begin right away.
BRVC has a supply of antivenin to treat the many rattlesnake bites we see between the months of April and October. The first step was to begin the antivenin transfusion along with pain medication. The transfusion took two and a half hours and required constant supervision of the Patient Care technicians. They kept checking Kenji’s vitals every 5 minutes. Afterwards, Kenji was still lethargic and weak so Dr. Miller opted to keep him hospitalized overnight. The next day the paw stopped swelling but Kenji was not out of the woods. Antibiotics, fluids and pain medication continued. On his third day Kenji began to display signs of paralysis and was in critical condition. This is not uncommon with rattlesnake bites. At this point a plasma transfusion was performed, with the same constant monitoring required by the Patient Care techs and Dr. Miller. On the fourth day of his hospital stay Kenji started to come out of his paralysis and all of his symptoms slowly began to improve.
Kenji required one more day of hospitalization to stabilize him enough to return to his loving home. He was prescribed an antibiotic and a potassium supplement. The tiny punctures of a rattlesnake bit can cause massive devastation. Thanks to aggressive, committed, and cutting edge care provided by Dr. Miller and his team of technicians, Kenji is now 100% healthy! At a recent recheck appointment with Dr. Miller, Kenji’s only difficulty was taking his medicine. As any cat owner knows, this is a classic sign of a happy and healthy cat!