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Rattlesnake envenomation in horses: 58 cases (1992–2009)

C. Langdon FieldingLoomis Basin Equine Medical Center, PO Box 2059, Loomis, CA 95650

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Nicola PusterlaDepartment of Medicine and Epidemiology, School of Veterinary Medicine, University of California-Davis, Davis, CA 95616.

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K. Gary MagdesianDepartment of Medicine and Epidemiology, School of Veterinary Medicine, University of California-Davis, Davis, CA 95616.

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Jill C. HigginsLoomis Basin Equine Medical Center, PO Box 2059, Loomis, CA 95650

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Chloe A. MeierLoomis Basin Equine Medical Center, PO Box 2059, Loomis, CA 95650

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Abstract

Objective—To characterize signalment, clinical and laboratory findings, treatment, and outcome in horses with rattlesnake envenomation in northern California.

Design—Retrospective case series.

Animals—58 client-owned horses evaluated for rattlesnake envenomation at 2 referral hospitals from 1992 to 2009.

Procedures—Records of horses with rattlesnake envenomation were reviewed, and data concerning signalment, clinical and laboratory findings, treatment, and outcome were collected. In addition, a rattlesnake-bite severity score (RBSS) was assigned to each horse. Variables were compared between horses that survived and those that did not.

Results—The overall mortality rate was 9%. Nine horses received antivenin; no complications were reported and none of the 9 died. The most common laboratory findings associated with severity of envenomation were thrombocytopenia, hypoproteinemia, hyperlactatemia, and a high RBSS.

Conclusions and Clinical Relevance—Most horses in this study had a good prognosis after being bitten by rattlesnakes. Laboratory and clinical examination findings may be useful for identifying horses with a poorer prognosis. Treatment with antivenin may be beneficial and warrants further evaluation.

Abstract

Objective—To characterize signalment, clinical and laboratory findings, treatment, and outcome in horses with rattlesnake envenomation in northern California.

Design—Retrospective case series.

Animals—58 client-owned horses evaluated for rattlesnake envenomation at 2 referral hospitals from 1992 to 2009.

Procedures—Records of horses with rattlesnake envenomation were reviewed, and data concerning signalment, clinical and laboratory findings, treatment, and outcome were collected. In addition, a rattlesnake-bite severity score (RBSS) was assigned to each horse. Variables were compared between horses that survived and those that did not.

Results—The overall mortality rate was 9%. Nine horses received antivenin; no complications were reported and none of the 9 died. The most common laboratory findings associated with severity of envenomation were thrombocytopenia, hypoproteinemia, hyperlactatemia, and a high RBSS.

Conclusions and Clinical Relevance—Most horses in this study had a good prognosis after being bitten by rattlesnakes. Laboratory and clinical examination findings may be useful for identifying horses with a poorer prognosis. Treatment with antivenin may be beneficial and warrants further evaluation.

Contributor Notes

Address correspondence to Dr. Fielding (langdonfielding@yahoo.com).