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Why Cats have more lives than dogs when it comes to snakebite.

Cats are twice as likely to survive a venomous snakebite than dogs, according to the University of Queensland research.

The research team compared the effects of snake venoms on the blood clotting agents in dogs and cats, hoping to help save the lives of our furry friends.

Snakebite is a common occurrence for pet cats and dogs across the globe and can be fatal.  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 is responsible for an estimated 76% of reported domestic pet snakebites each year.  Only 31% of these dogs will survive without antivenom-possibly due to mild strikes, cat’s survival rate was up to 66%. Cats also have a higher survival rate when given anti-venom and treatment and until now the reasons for this disparity was unknown.

A coagulation analyser test, using 10 different types of venom, was used to gauge the effects on dog and cat plasma in the lab. Interestingly, all venoms acted faster on dog plasma than cat or human. This indicates that dogs would likely enter a state where blood clotting fails sooner and are therefore more vulnerable to snake venom.  The spontaneous clotting time of the blood, even without venom, was dramatically faster in dogs than in cats. This is also consistent with clinical records showing more rapid onset of symptoms and lethal effects in dogs more than cats. 

Several behavioural differences between cats and dogs are likely to increase the dog chances of survival-dogs typically investigate with their nose and mouth, which are highly vascularised areas, leading to faster absorption of venom,  where as cats often swat with their paws.  Dogs are normally more active than cats, which is not great after a bite has taken place, as the best practice is to remain as still as possible to slow the spread of venom through the body.  

Researchers hope their insights can lead to a better awareness of the critically short period of time to get treatment for dogs envenomed by snakes.