Cats Are Better Protected Against Snake Bites Than Dogs

There is a myth that felines have nine lives. Although this is untrue, the myth is based on these animals seemingly surviving potentially catastrophic falls and having near-misses with vehicles. Generally, domestic dogs are not as lucky in these circumstances. Whether cats are simply lucky or if there are scientific reasons why they are more likely to survive some events has long been a topic of interest for researchers. Now, scientists have found evidence that felines are twice as likely to live after being bitten by a venomous snake than dogs.

The Aims of the Study

According to Sci-Tech Daily, a research team from the University of Queensland have not only discovered that felines are twice as likely to survive a snake bite as their canine friends, but they have also discovered the underlying causes of the phenomenon. The team of researchers was led by Associate Professor Brian Fry and Ph.D. student Christina Zdenek. Their research involved comparing the effects of venom on the blood clotting agents of both species. Their aim was to use the information to save the lives of animals from across the globe. Dr. Fry has explained that being bitten by a snake is something that domestic pets from across the globe can commonly experience and this can often lead to death. These bites can cause venom-induced consumptive coagulopathy, which is a condition that causes the animal to bleed to death as their blood loses the ability to clot.

This is a big issue in countries such as Australia where coming into contact with reptiles is a common occurrence for domestic pets. One that causes a problem is the Pseudonaja textilis, better known as either the eastern brown snake or as the common brown snake. It is listed by the Australian Geographic as one of the ten deadliest snakes in Australia. This species is accountable for approximately 76 %of the bites that are recorded each year that lead to the death of a domestic pet. The recent study shows that only 31 % of dogs bitten by common brown snakes will live if they do not receive a dose of antivenom. On the other hand, the survival rate for domestic felines is 66 % which is more than double the survival rate for dogs.

Venom and Blood Clotting

Cats have an even higher rate of survival if they receive a dose of antivenom. Until now, it was unknown why this happened, and this was something that Dr. Fry set out to discover with his team. They used dog and cat plasma in a laboratory setting or their research. They then tested the effects of the venom from the Australian common brown snake along with the venom of 10 other snakes from around the world. A coagulation analyzer was used to measure the impact. Mr. Zdenek said that their main discovery was that the impact of venom on dog plasma was much faster than the impact on both humans and domestic cats. Therefore, the ability of canines to clot blood will fail sooner, thus making them a more vulnerable species in terms of the effect of the venom.

Another important point they discovered is that domestic dogs have a faster spontaneous clotting time than cats, even without the venom. The team stated their findings of the different clotting times of the two species as one of the highlights of their research when they published their findings on Science Direct. Zdenek says that their naturally faster clotting time means they are more vulnerable to the venom. The team also compared their results to clinical records. These showed that canines experienced a more rapid onset of symptoms than cats. They also showed that domestic dogs are more likely to suffer lethal effects. Therefore, the study supports the evidence of clinical records.

The Impact of Behavioral Differences

While the biological differences between the two species are a significant factor in the effects of venom on the different species, the scientists were also keen to learn if behavior played any role in fatality rates. They discovered that there are behavioral differences between cats and dogs that are likely to contribute to death rates. According to Dr. Fry, one of the most notable differences in behavior between these animals is the way they investigate an environment. While feline behavior often involves swatting with their paws, canines usually investigate their surroundings with their mouth and nose. These are very vascularized areas of the body that can absorb things easily and spread them around the body.

Another notable difference is activity levels. It is best if you have venom in your body to stay as still as possible as an increased heart rate during high activity levels will spread venom around your body quickly. After a bite, a cat is more likely to remain still, which slows down the spread of poison around their body. On the other hand, a dog is generally more active. This increase in activity accelerates the spread of venom through their body. In turn, this increases their mortality rates.

The Benefits of the Research

The aim of the research was to gain a better insight into the reactions of the animals to venom and also the causes of these reactions. The research has given the scientists involved a greater awareness of the importance of getting treatment to animals quickly after they are bitten. Dr. Fry has explained that he and his fellow researchers are all dog lovers, so the study was important to them. However, he has stressed that the study has global implications to help animals from around the world. It is a subject with which he has some personal experience, as he has two friends who have lost their pets following snake bites. Therefore, it is a subject that is close to the professor’s heart. In both cases, the pets had died in under ten minutes after being bitten.

According to Dr. Fry, these examples show just how fast the venom can affect dogs and how it is devastatingly fatal. The research is ongoing into this critical issue, and it is hoped that the findings will help animals around the world. Ultimately, the research could lead to the lives of many animals across the globe being saved after they have received a venomous snake bite, so it was worthwhile research.

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