Veterinarians seek dogs for snakebite anti-venom study

An Eastern diamondback rattlesnake. (Photo courtesy of Elliott Jacobson)

Just in time for snakebite season, veterinarians at the University of Florida College of Veterinary Medicine are recruiting dogs that were recently bitten by pit viper snakes for a study of an investigational anti-venom previously unavailable in the Southeast.

“The investigational anti-venom has successfully been used in other parts of the country, as well as in Mexico and parts of Central America, but never previously in this area,” said Carsten Bandt, D.V.M., an assistant professor of emergency medicine and the service chief of emergency and critical care at UF’s Small Animal Hospital.

The purpose of this study is to test the potential benefits, safety, side effects and efficacy of the anti-venom known by the trade name of VenomVet. Dog owners have the option of receiving the standard anti-venom if they choose not to be involved with the study.

Dogs with moderate to severe signs of a pit viper snakebite, that have previously not been treated with steroids or other anti-venom and that are brought to the UF Small Animal Hospital emergency service within six hours of the bite, are eligible for inclusion in the study.

Participation includes treatment with the investigational anti-venom and a follow-up evaluation after the dog has been discharged from the hospital.

The investigational anti-venom is provided at no charge for participants, although the pet owners are responsible for other diagnostic and medical expenses as needed. A cost estimate is provided to the dog owner at the time of admission.

Pit vipers include venomous snakes of the Crotalinae family. Five species of pit vipers are found in the Southeast: copperhead, cottonmouth (also known as water moccasins), and three types of rattlesnakes — Eastern diamondback, pygmy and timber. All pit vipers have a small sensory pit, used to detect infrared radiation and locate prey, below each eye.

For more information about the study, contact Bandt or Luiz Bolfer, D.V.M., at 352-392-2235 or visit