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WHAT IS VENOM?
Venom is a toxic fluid created in specialized oral glands related to salivary glands, and the toxic component is composed of an array of complex proteins. Every snake's venom contains more than one toxin, and in combination the toxins have a more potent effect than the sum of their individual effects. Most of the toxic effects are due to the enzymes in the venom and there have been about twenty-five enzymes discovered so far. Venoms are of two types, either neurotoxic (affecting the nervous system) or hemotoxic (affecting the blood and vessels). The venom of many snakes contain both neurotoxic and hemotoxic components.
WHAT DOES VENOM DO?
Venomous snakebites cause severe pain, cell death, numbness, diminished function and, occasionally, loss of a limb. Snake venoms inflict local effects such as inflammation, damage to blood vessel lining, clotting defects and localized tissue destruction. Some venom can also cause neurotoxicity and interfere with nerve transmission resulting in paralysis. Copperhead bites generally are limited to local tissue destruction. Rattlesnakes can leave impressive wounds and cause systemic toxicity. Coral snakes may leave small wounds that later result in respiratory failure from the typical systemic neuromuscular blockade.
WHAT IS ANTIVENIN?
Antivenin is a serum that is commercially produced to neutralize the effects of the injected venom. At special laboratories healthy horses are injected with increasing amounts of selected snake venom (non-fatal, of course), gradually challenging the horse to make more antibodies. To obtain these antibodies, a small amount of blood is later removed from the horse and the protein antibodies are separated out and purified. A specific antibody is produced for each type of snake. The newer antivenins are ovine derived and very expensive at $1500 per 2 vials. Severe envenomations might require as many as 10 vials.
In humans, antivenin is injected either through the veins or into muscle, and it works by neutralizing snake venom that has entered the body. Antivenins have been in use for decades and are the only effective treatment for some bites.
With the antivenin that is obtained from horses, snakebite victims who are sensitive to horse proteins must be carefully managed. The danger is that they could develop an adverse reaction or even a potentially fatal allergic condition called anaphylactic shock. To identify these and other sensitive patients, hospitals will normally if possible obtain a record of the victim's experience with snakebites or horse products. But some people with no history of such exposures may have become sensitive through contact with horses, or possibly through exposure to horse dander, and be unaware that they are sensitive. Hospitals also perform a skin test that may quickly show any sensitivity to horse derived products, However, the test also can give a false-positive or false-negative skin reaction. Some hypersensitive patients may even have severe reactions to the small amount of antivenin used in the skin test.
Certain venomous snakebites may be treated without using antivenin. This is usually a judgment call the doctor makes based on the snake's size and other factors, which normally involves close monitoring of patients in a medical facility.
Antivenin can be a lifesaver. The Eastern diamondback rattlesnake--found in large numbers in the Southern states from the Carolinas to Louisiana--can reach six feet in length and deliver a large amount of venom. "It's an extremely dangerous bite that requires immediate treatment with antivenin or the patient will probably die.
Because people who are bitten can't always positively identify a snake, they should seek prompt care for any bite, though they may think the snake is nonpoisonous. Even a bite from a so-called "harmless" snake can cause an infection or allergic reaction in some individuals.
Virtually all of the venomous bites in the US are from pit vipers.-rattlesnakes, copperheads and cottonmouths (water moccasins) Pit vipers get their common name from a small "pit" between the eye and nostril that detects heat and allows the snake to sense prey at night.These snakes deliver venom through two fangs that the snake can retract at rest, but which spring rapidly into biting position .
People bitten by coral snakes often lack the characteristic fang marks, sometimes making the bite hard to detect, often a couple of scratch marks is all that there is to indicayte where the snake has bitten--the snake's neurotoxic venom can be very dangerous, victims can experience respiratory paralysis.
The bites of both pit vipers and coral snakes can be effectively treated with antivenin. But factors, such as the time since being bitten and care taken before arriving at the hospital, also are critical.
A few basic first-aid techniques. these steps should be taken:
Most importantly Stay calm , panicking and strenous exercise such as running will speed the spread of the venom increasing the chance of death.
Immobilize the bitten area and keep it lower than the heart. Get medical help.
The main thing is to get to a hospital and don't delay,
A compression bandage, wrapped two to four inches above the bite, may help slow venom. The bandage should not cut off blood flow from a vein or artery. A good rule of thumb is to make the band loose enough that a finger can slip under it.
Because not all snakebites, including those from the same species, are equally dangerous, doctors have to decide whether or not to administer antivenin. Venomous snakes, even dangerous ones like the Eastern Diamondback, don't always release venom when they bite. Other snakes may release too small an amount to pose a hazard.
Factors such as genetic differences among snakes, their age, nutritional status, and the time of year also can affect venom potency.
The only way to look at snakebites is on an individual basis and on the patient's actual reaction to the venom. Basic signs like pain, swelling and bleeding, along with more complicated reactions such as ecchymosis (purple discoloration), necrosis (tissue dies and turns black), low blood pressure, and tingling of lips and tongue give medical professionals clues to the seriousness of bites and what treatment route they should take.
Although antivenin can effectively in many cases reverse the effects of venom and save life and limb, there is no guarantee that it can reverse damage already done, such as tissue necrosis. Some patients may later require skin grafts or other treatment. The potential for limiting complications is one compelling reason to seek medical treatment as soon as possible after a snakebite.
Some bites, such as those inflicted when snakes are encountered in wild settings, are difficult to prevent. But a few precautions can lower the risk of being bitten, Most of all be aware of your surroundings.
Some Symptoms of Snake Bite
Victims often will show a combination of several of these symptoms, but not all dependant on the type of snake.
Though medical professionals may not agree on every aspect of what to do for snakebite first aid, they are nearly unanimous in their views of what not to do. Among their recommendations:
No parent would ever wish to sees the terrible results and ongoing effects of a snakebite in their child, so please educate your children to the danger of snakes.
SNAKES AND DOGS
It is a moment you will never forget if you and your dog encounter a poisonous snake while simply taking a pleasant walk in the outdoors.
Snakebites are a fact of life for dogs and humans in a wide area of North America. Unfortunately there are no details on the numbers of dogs bitten, or killed, by venomous snakes.
In general, snakes want to be left alone. But along comes an inquisitive dog probing every mysterious hole in the ground, sniffing under downed logs, slogging along the riverbank, and digging up leafy patches on the forest floor... and a lightening strike of the serpentine kind may be the result!
Even at rest in their own yard , dogs a re at risk of being bitten, snakes are often attracted to kennels and feeding places , most dogs are naturally inquisitive and often a deadly bite is the result of them checking out the snake.
What not to do, in the event a snake bites your dog?
Do not take out your knife and cut x's over the bite! Do not attempt to suck venom through those X marks. Do not attempt to kill the snake. You will probably be bitten yourself.
If your dog is bitten.
Try to identify the snake by taking note of its size, color patterns and the presence or absence of a rattle at the end of the tail.
Look the dog over carefully for fang marks, noting that there may be more than one bite wound.
If bitten on a leg, wrap a constricting band on the affected limb snugly at a level just above the bite wound (on the body side of the wound). This band could be fashioned of a shirtsleeve or other fabric and should be snug but not excessively tight.
Start your journey to the nearest animal hospital while trying to keep the dog as quiet as possible, do not make the dog walk carry it if possible.
PREVENTING SNAKE BITES
While out walking, controlling your dog with a leash may be your best safety device.
Do not allow your dog to explore holes in the ground or dig under logs, flat rocks or planks.
Stay on open paths where there is an opportunity for snakes to be visible.
Keep nighttime walks to a minimum; rattlers are nocturnal most of the year.
If you hear a rattlesnake, keep your dog at your side until you locate the snake; then move away.
Off-trail hiking with an unleashed dog may stir up a snake and you may be as likely a victim as your dog.
If your dog seems unusually curious about “something” hidden in the grass, back off immediately until you know what it is.
At home do not leave uneaten dog food around , it attracts rodents which will in tirn attract snakes to your dogs home.
Install Sentinel Repellers close to you dogs "space"..
Snakes are regular vistors to dog breeding establishements, often preying on the valuble young puppies, they will often enter dogs enclosures, with in many times fatal results for both the snake and the dogs, this is common problem we come across, often made especially distressing if the dog is valuble or a mother (or to be) as the whole litter can easily be lost leaving an emotional and economic mark.
Vigilance and keeping control of your dog when walking in areas inhabited by poisonous snakes will be your best deterrent to a snake encounter. It's not a bad idea to memorize your veterinarian's emergency phone number, too!
Horses are often bitten by snakes and in many cases it can prove fatal, many a good horse has been bitten, survived but afterwards has never been able to match up to its previous self with the ongoing effects of the bite. Horses are very sensitive to the effects of snakebite, this is why they are often used to produce antivenin, by slowly giving the horse minute amounts of venom, the horses system in turn reacts and produces antibodies, so after time and very careful skilled medical procedure antidotes to snake venom is produced. But you loved pet horse or valuble livestock is much more likely to recieve a large dose of venom on its face due to their inquisitive behaviour horses will sniff at a snake and get bitten, causing much distress to the horse.
Cats regulary recieve snakebites although they do have a little better resitance to the effects than many animals they still die in many cases, their habit of catching small snakes is probably the main cause of bites.
Do not handle any snakes that your cat brings in as even small snakes can be deadly poisonus, take great care with dead snakes as they still have the venom and if it gets on your skin can still have terrible effects, the same goes for any dead animal snakebite victims use gloves or better still a shovel to move them.
Treatment of dogs and other animals for snakebite can be very expensive -Talk with your Animal hospital about any insurance plans they may have.
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Remember in the event of a snake bite keep the patient calm
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