Help­ing vets save pets

Shepparton News - Country News - - MAN’S BEST FRIEND -

Univer­sity of Mel­bourne has de­vel­oped the SnakeMap project, that aims to bet­ter pre­dict, pre­vent, di­ag­nose and treat snakebite in an­i­mals as well as peo­ple.

The SnakeMap project is the first of its kind in Aus­tralia and was de­vised by emer­gency and crit­i­cal care vet­eri­nar­i­ans Manu Boller and Kylie Kel­ers from the Univer­sity of Mel­bourne’s U-Vet an­i­mal hos­pi­tal.

Dr Boller teamed up with U-Vet An­i­mal Hos­pi­tal snakebite ex­pert Dr Kel­ers, along with ve­teri­nary emer­gency and crit­i­cal care ex­perts from across Aus­tralia, epi­demi­ol­o­gists and hu­man snakebite ex­perts.

The se­cure, elec­tronic re­search data­base was es­tab­lished to al­low ve­teri­nary hos­pi­tals across Aus­tralia to en­ter their snakebite data.

The data can then be used as a med­i­cal re­source for vets and, in the fu­ture, as a snakebite fore­cast­ing sys­tem for pet own­ers and the pub­lic any­where in Aus­tralia.

Data col­lected in the SnakeMap in­cludes information on the bit­ten an­i­mal, the lo­ca­tion and time of the snakebite — in­clud­ing ex­act co-or­di­nates of the bite if known, the treat­ment pro­vided, in­clud­ing an­tivenene ad­min­is­tra­tion and breath­ing sup­port, and the out­come of the treat­ment.

Dr Boller said due to the ex­ceed­ingly large num­ber of highly venomous species in Aus­tralia, snake en­ven­o­ma­tion was of unique sig­nif­i­cance in this coun­try, both in hu­man and ve­teri­nary medicine.

‘‘Be­cause of their in­quis­i­tive na­ture, dogs and cats are at par­tic­u­lar risk of be­ing bit­ten, and will suc­cumb to the rapidly-act­ing po­tent snake venom if not treated promptly,’’ Dr Boller said.

‘‘Con­se­quently, snakebite is a com­mon emer­gency pre­sen­ta­tion of dogs and cats to ve­teri­nary clin­ics through­out Aus­tralia.

‘‘With SnakeMap, we now have un­prece­dented in­sight into the epi­demi­o­log­i­cal dy­nam­ics where the ca­nine and fe­line snake en­ven­o­ma­tion events rise in early spring, peak in the sum­mer and re­cede in the fall.

‘‘From last year’s data, we can al­ready see that most re­ported snakebites in dogs (73 per cent) oc­curred in their back­yards.

‘‘We knew that dogs are oc­ca­sion­ally bit­ten in ‘their back­yard’, but did not ex­pect the ex­tent with which this is hap­pen­ing.

‘‘Cats, on the other hand, are less pre­dictable about the lo­ca­tion of the snakebite as they roam more and snakebites are rarely wit­nessed.’’

Dur­ing the in­au­gu­ral 2016-17 sea­son, the SnakeMap project re­ceived data from 14 ve­teri­nary hos­pi­tals in Vic­to­ria, Queens­land, West­ern Aus­tralia and NSW.

For a more com­pre­hen­sive map, the project en­cour­ages ve­teri­nary hos­pi­tals across the coun­try to join in.

‘‘The SnakeMap project is a not-for-profit, vol­un­teer-based ini­tia­tive, and we would like to look at it as a ve­teri­nary com­mu­nity run ini­tia­tive, where ve­teri­nary hos­pi­tals across the coun­try, small and large, are join­ing in to con­trib­ute to new knowl­edge about a con­di­tion that is so unique to Aus­tralia and af­fects so many pets, pet own­ers and ve­teri­nary pro­fes­sion­als,’’ Dr Kel­ers said.

Data col­lected is avail­able to SnakeMap con­sor­tium vets for data anal­y­sis for spe­cific re­search projects with the results be­ing made ac­ces­si­ble to the ve­teri­nary com­mu­nity via sci­en­tific pub­li­ca­tions.

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