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Bella versus the brown snakes

Bella White is no stranger to Riverbank Animal Hospital. In April 2008 Dr Chris repaired her broken leg with a bone plate after she had jumped from a moving vehicle. In February 2009, she was treated for suspected botulism and was paralysed by the disease for several days. Last week, Bella faced her biggest challenge yet when she was bitten by a snake while in her yard at home in Copmanhurst.

Dr Susan, Bill and Bella

On Tuesday night at 7.30pm, Dr Susan received a call to say that Bella was falling over and bleeding from her mouth. She was rushed straight in to the clinic by her very worried owners, Bill and Theresa. When she arrived at 8pm, she was starting to have a seizure. A quick blood test revealed that her red blood cells were being broken down and her blood was not clotting. With all signs pointing towards a snake bite, an IV catheter was placed into her front leg and one vial of Tiger Brown combination anti-venom was given. This anti-venom treats both brown snake and red-bellied black snake bites, which are the most common snakes in Bella’s area. 20 minutes later she was still unable to get up and again started to have a seizure. Another vial of anti-venom was given.

By 10pm, she had received all her medications and was settled into a bed for a night, with intravenous fluids running to help support her kidneys, which can be damaged after a snake bite. Her breathing was steady, however we could not stop the flow of blood from her mouth and we were concerned that she may inhale it down on to her lungs. We examined the tongue and found at least two sets of fang marks, which were bleeding profusely, as snake venom stops blood from clotting.

Unfortunately Bella started to deteriorate and at 3am that morning, her owners were called to come in and say goodbye to this precious little Kelpie. However, we had underestimated Bella’s fighting spirit and by the time Bill and Theresa had arrived, she had rallied. An oxygen line was placed into her nose and she was given more medication to help her through. She even started to lift her head when Bill rattled his car keys! Bella’s dedicated owners sat with her until 6am in the morning, talking to her and stroking her, until the sun came up.

Despite her valiant effort to survive the night, Bella was not making any further improvements and at 9am, the decision was made to take her to the Veterinary Specialist Centre on the Gold Coast. We had no more anti-venom available, and we were concerned that if her breathing worsened, she may need to be placed on to a ventilator. She was transported to the back of Bill’s car with her drip bag, and Bill and Theresa set off with their little patient fighting for life on the back seat. We were all concerned that she may not make the journey, but this was Bella and we should have known better!

When she arrived on the Gold Coast, a snake venom detection kit revealed that she had been bitten by a brown snake, and two more vials of pure brown anti-venom were given. That night she was placed on a ventilator as her respiratory muscles had become so weak that she was unable to get enough oxygen into her lungs.

By lunchtime on Thursday, 19 hours later, Bella was taken off the ventilator and started to breathe on her own. Despite still being paralysed, she was hanging in there and fighting every step of the way. On Saturday, we received a call from Bill and Theresa to let us know that Bella was recovering and would soon be able to come home! She had started eating and drinking and was slowly but surely getting to her feet.

This morning at Riverbank Animal Hospital, a little brown dog trotted happily into the waiting room to visit Dr Susan. Just 9 days after her ordeal began, Bella the Kelpie is back on her feet and looking 100%! Bill revealed that he had found not one but TWO dead brown snakes in the yard, both over 2 metres in length and both sporting suspiciously Kelpie-shaped teeth marks. While Bella survived the battle, it looks as though the brown snakes were not so lucky.

Bella seems completely unbothered by her eventful week, and as noted by Bill, she didn’t even lose so much as a gram. She remains as pudgy but as beautiful as ever, and gracefully offered her paw for Dr Susan to shake. While we all love Bella, we are desperately hoping not to see her at the clinic for anything other than a routine vaccination any time soon! At only 4 years of age, Bella White has had enough adventures to last a little dog’s lifetime.

Dr Susan, Bill and Bella
Dr Susan, Bill and Bella

Riverbank Animal Hospital (Formerly South Grafton Veterinary Clinic)
60 Through Street, South Grafton, NSW 2460, Australia
Ph 02 6642 3083 - Click here to send us an email
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