MAY 20, 2020 6:56 AM PDT

Do cats or dogs better survive venomous snakebites?

Who do you think could better battle off a venomous snakebite - a dog or a cat? New research from the University of Queensland points towards cats as the most resilient to snakebites because of the specific blood clotting agents found in cats. 

"Snakebite is a common occurrence for pet cats and dogs across the globe and can be fatal," said Associate Professor Dr. Bryan Fry, one of the researchers behind the study. "This is primarily due to a condition called 'venom-induced consumptive coagulopathy' - where an animal loses its ability to clot blood and sadly bleeds to death.”

"In Australia, the eastern brown snake (Pseudonaja textilis) alone is responsible for an estimated 76% of reported domestic pet snakebites each year. And while only 31% of dogs survive being bitten by an eastern brown snake without antivenom, cats are twice as likely to survive - at 66%."

But why is the disparity so great? That’s what Dr. Fry and lead author Christina Zdenek wanted to find out. 

To do so, the researchers analyzed coagulation agents in dog and cat plasma. They exposed the plasmas to the venom of the eastern brown snake and ten more venomous snakes from around the planet. From here, they showed the effectiveness of cat plasma to counter snake venom. 

"All venoms acted faster on dog plasma than cat or human," Zdenek said. "This indicates that dogs would likely enter a state where blood clotting fails sooner and are therefore more vulnerable to these snake venoms.”

"The spontaneous clotting time of the blood - even without venom - was dramatically faster in dogs than in cats. This suggests that the naturally faster clotting blood of dogs makes them more vulnerable to these types of snake venoms. And this is consistent with clinical records showing a more rapid onset of symptoms and lethal effects in dogs than cats."

Photo: Pixabay

The researchers hope their findings will spread awareness within pet communities about the urgency of care for dogs bitten by venomous snakes. 

"I've had two friends lose big dogs to snakebites, dying in less than ten minutes even though the eastern brown snakes responsible were not particularly large specimens. This underscores how devastatingly fast and fatal snake venom can be to dogs,” comments Dr. Fry. "As dog lovers ourselves, this study strikes close to home but it also has global implications." 

Sources: Comparative Biochemistry & Physiology, Eureka Alert

About the Author
  • Kathryn is a curious world-traveller interested in the intersection between nature, culture, history, and people. She has worked for environmental education non-profits and is a Spanish/English interpreter.
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