Although cases of snakebite in cats are rare, you should be aware of the first aid necessary in order to try to prevent death if your cat should be bitten by a snake. Prompt action by you and your veterinarian is necessary.
Bleeding puncture wounds or small tooth marks are common signs of envenomation. Bites of poisonous snakes may also cause severe pain if venom has been injected, so a bitten cat will often become excited and run. You should attempt to prevent this response, since exercise helps spread the venom. Immobilize the cat as soon as possible.
If the bite is on an extremity, apply a flat tourniquet between the body and the wound nearer the wound. The tourniquet should be loose enough barely to slip the end of one finger under it, and it should not be fully loosened until the bite is treated by a veterinarian or until two hours have passed. (This type of application allows some oxygen to reach the tissues beyond the tourniquet while inhibiting the flow of venom in the lymph and venous blood.) If possible, keep a bitten limb on a level horizontal with the heart.
Then make a linear incision (not X-shaped) over the fang wounds and apply suction for at least thirty minutes, preferably not by mouth but with a suction cup. The value of suction in limiting the spread of venom is controversial. For coral snake bites, in particular, copious flushing of the wound with water and germicidal soap is recommended. Another excellent alternative is to apply a tight compression bandage that includes both the bite wound and a wide area on both sides of it. Elastic bandage material or strips of panty hose are good for this purpose. Do not remove the bandage before getting veterinary aid within twenty-four hours. If veterinary care is nearby, don’t waste time with prolonged attempts at first aid. The successful treatment of serious snake bite requires prompt antivenin injection and prolonged intensive supportive care in a veterinary hospital.
Since a cat in pain is difficult to handle, the best first aid may be only to apply a tight tourniquet and acquire veterinary aid within fifteen minutes.
Besides antivenin the veterinarian will administer antibiotics and pain relievers, and can administer other medical treatment as called for. It may be necessary to remove a large portion of the wound surgically. Even if this is not done, snakebites often cause large portions of skin to die and slough off, leaving a large wound that must be treated. Plan on your cat being hospitalized for a minimum of twenty-four to fortyeight hours.