Veterinarians warn of neurotoxic snake bites

SAN DIEGO - Seeing dogs inside an emergency animal hospital with a snake bite is nothing new to veterinarians, but seeing an increase in neurotoxic snake bites is.

10News spoke with a family whose dog recently survived the super-bite.

Just six days ago in his own backyard near Del Cerro, a 4-year-old miniature schnauzer named Otto was bitten by a rattlesnake.

"Suddenly he came, sort of strange, he went in his bed … he looked like he wasn't walking right," said Otto's owner, Leopoldo Kahn. "Obviously something was wrong with him."

Kahn showed 10News Otto's bite marks on the side of his face. He says Otto's face quickly swelled up like a balloon and he could not walk or hold up his head. They knew something was horribly wrong.

"I thought it was something eaten or something suddenly wrong with him," said Kahn.

Once at their vet's office, they were advised to seek emergency care.

"He was very weak," said Dr. Trevor Garb, who is with the Pet Emergency and Specialty Center in La Mesa. "He couldn't stand. He was wobbly. He was in really severe shock."

Otto was given two vials of antivenin.

Out of the roughly 20 snakebites that veterinarians at the Pet Emergency and Specialty Center saw last week, five of the dogs had the neurotoxic bites. They say that is rare.

"Really in this summer, we've really seen an uptick in that and it is something to know about because that's not the typical kind of rattlesnake bite," said Dr. Monika Kaelble.

Neurotoxic bites are usually only seen in the Mojave snakes, but there has been an increase in those bites here.

"Instead of starting to bleed and bruise and things like that, you would actually come in with neurologic signs," said Kaelble.

The veterinarians add it is not just happening on trails or in the backcountry. They are seeing these kinds of bites from all around the county.

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