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Rattlesnake Bite !!
© 2009 Cherry Hill ©
- Friday SHOCK DAY
At 7:30 AM Friday, we turned
Seeker and Sherlock out together in our southwest pasture, the highest and driest
pasture on our place. Horses had been turned out on that pasture all summer off
and on. They were to be out for about 4 hours of grazing.
I was out and about at 10:30 AM, I saw that they were both grazing on top of the
When it was time to bring them in at a little
before noon, it was about 85 degrees and sunny. Sherlock headed toward the gate
but Seeker was "stuck". She was standing at the fence line at the closest
point to her living quarters at the barn. I thought perhaps there was some issue
with one of the leg straps on her fly sheet or perhaps she could have even stepped
over the lower fence wire and then felt "restrained". I kept playing
out the possibilities as I walked toward her, halter and lead in hand. But as
I neared her I saw that her left front leg was very swollen and that her lip on
the right side was drooping. Her normally perky personality was drained yet she
gave me one of her deep whickers that tugged my heart at the core. It is at this
point in horse care where a horse owner realizes they must shoulder the enormous
responsibility of their horse's welfare.
exam revealed several drops of blood on the outside of her left pastern and coronary
band area. I immediately thought rattlesnake bite.
and I quickly discussed the options of getting her down to the barn where I could
begin treatment. We could cut the fence and lead her straight to the barn but
the bank there is too steep even for a fit, sound horse to manage safely. We thought
about bringing the trailer into the pasture but I quickly estimated the time and
the jostling driving through the pasture that would require and opted for leading
her to the barn which took about 3-4 minutes. I asked Richard to lead her while
I got bute ready to administer to her, and got the cold water hose and sprayer
ready to go.
is bute? Bute is the commonly used name for phenylbutazone, a prescription
anti-inflammatory drug. It is a NSAID, non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug that
is often used to help reduce inflammation in the limbs.|
Throughout this article, I am purposely avoiding listing dosages because each
case requires its own prescriptions based on the condition, the severity, the
weight of the horse and your veterinarian's advice.
led her into the wash rack,
I gave her the bute, we offered her a drink of fresh water which she refused.
I examined her all over and saw there appeared to be at least 2 or 3 very small
puncture wounds on her pastern. I started cold hosing and sprayed cold water onto
her lips and into her mouth intermittently. This got her tongue and lips moving
and started to restore her droopy lip to its more normal state.
asked Richard to take over the hosing while I ran down to the house to call the
vet. The vet I had been using the last few years was too busy to come up and asked
me to haul her down to his clinic which would have been at least an hour's ride
on our very washboard mountain road. I felt time was of the essence and I did
not want to stress her any more, so
another veterinarian who I had met while doing chores for one of my neighbors
and he said he could come right away. I told him that I had given Seeker bute
and hosed her leg with cold water and he said that was very good.
went back to the barn and Seeker's leg had been hosed for about 20 minutes so
I dried it off and clipped the hair from the area of the bites and identified
four marks so figured she was bitten twice.
time her left cannon, knee, forearm, arm and chest were swollen and hard. I massaged
her leg for about 20 minutes, then hosed again and by that time, the vet arrived
- 1:15 PM.
He concurred that it was most likely a
my Veterinarian use Antivenom (Antivenin)?
is a carefully prepared biological product that counteracts the venom in a person
or a horse that has been bitten by a venomous snake. The way antivenom is made
is by extracting venom from the snake, such as by milking a rattlesnake, then
injecting a small amount of that venom into a large, healthy host animal. The
animal will experience an immune response and produce antibodies against the venom.
The host animal's blood can then be harvested to produce antivenom. Common
host animals for antivenom production are sheep and horses.
when it comes time to treat a horse that has been bitten by a poisonous snake,
antivenom is not often used. First of all, at a cost of $400-800 per vial for
veterinary antivenom and the fact that numerous vials would be required to treat
an animal as big as a horse, many veterinarians do not even carry it around in
their trucks. And most horseowners could not afford the cost. But more importantly,
some veterinarians have found that the fluid and antibiotic therapy such as the
one discussed in this article have produced better results than those cases treated
with antivenom. Each case is unique and would require your veterinarian's personal
evaluation, but antivenom is not routinely used to treat horse snake bites.
He administered one liter of hypertonic saline solution for shock and to encourage
her to drink. He also gave her more bute, some banamine and dexamethasone. He
also gave her a double dose of penicillin. Almost as soon as we returned Seeker
to her pen, she began drinking because the hypertonic solution causes the thirst
reflex to kick in.
is saline solution? A solution of salt and water.|
What is an isotonic
saline solution? A solution with salts at the same concentration as blood.
is a hypotonic saline solution? One with salts at a more dilute solution
than body fluids.
What is a hypertonic saline solution? One with salts
at a higher salt solution than the body fluids.
is Banamine? Banamine is a trade name for flunixin meglumine, a prescription
NSAID. It is often prescribed for horses with abdominal pain (colic) and is often
used in conjunction with bute to provide comfort and ease pain.|
is dexamethasone? Dexamethasone is a potent anti-inflammatory and immunosuppressant
in the glucocorticoid class of steroid hormones. A common trade name is Azium.
It is used to counteract the allergic response to the snake venom.|
directions for her care included:
twice a day for 3-4 days
- Penicillin twice a day
for 7 days
- Soaking in Epsom salts at a temperature
as hot as my hand could tolerate
- Hot Epsom salts
compresses on the forearm and knee
- Alternating with
cold hosing as I saw fit (he said "It's an art")
the affected leg and chest as much as possible.
prognosis was guarded. He said rattlesnake bites are notoriously "dirty"
and the antibiotic regimen was a must. Also, founder was a possibility in either
the affected foot or the opposite supporting limb so to monitor heat, swelling,
lameness very closely. And finally, he told me that depending on the amount of
venom, some time down the road, Seeker might show heart problems, like a human
heart attack, when working. Apparently the venom can affect the heart muscles
and lead to future problems.
With all this good news,
he left me with supplies to get me started for a day or two and a prescription
for other items that I could fill at the vet supply in town. The only thing he
did not have in his truck was Epsom salt and we had used up the barn supply quite
a while back and had not replenished it. The amount we had in the house was barely
enough to get started.
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© 2009 Cherry Hill ©