Brown snake poisoning

From Dog
Eastern brown snake[1]

Snake-bite envenomation by Brown snakes is relatively common and frequently fatal in dogs.

Included in this category are:

  • Pseudonaja - Australian brown snake
  • Storeria - North American brown snake
  • Elapognathus minor - Australian short-nosed, or little brown, snake
  • Pseudechis australis - Australian mulga, or king brown, snake

Clinical symptoms in affected dogs are similar to the tiger snake[2] and usually include a rapid onset of depression, collapse, bradycardia, generalised coagulopathy and DIC[3]. Death may be rapid (within 2 hours) or may ensue over a 24 hour period.

Blood tests usually reveal thrombocytopenia, prolongation of both prothrombin time and activated partial thromboplastin time and a reduction in serum fibrinogen[4].

Diagnosis of snake envenomation is usually based on the recognition of clinical signs.

Specific diagnostic tests, such as venom detection kits, can assist a definitive diagnosis[5].

Treatment usually requires intravenous fluid therapy and adjunctive fresh-frozen plasma[6] as well as appropriate brown-snake antivenom to effect. Large amounts of antivenom may be required in clinical use if coagulopathy or cardiovascular depression are present[7].

The use of heparin does not appear to assist recovery in dogs[8].

In the majority of cases, dogs survive following the administration of antivenom whereas 31% survive without antivenom[9].


  2. Heller J et al (2005) Snake envenomation in dogs in New South Wales. Aust Vet J 83(5):286-292
  3. Sprivulis P et al (1996) Efficacy and potency of antivenoms in neutralizing the procoagulant effects of Australian snake venoms in dog and human plasma. Anaesth Intensive Care 24(3):379-381
  4. Tibballs J et al (1992) The cardiovascular and haematological effects of purified prothrombin activator from the common brown snake (Pseudonaja textilis) and their antagonism with heparin. Anaesth Intensive Care 20(1):28-32
  5. Heller J et al (2005) Snake envenomation in dogs in New South Wales. Aust Vet J 83(5):286-292
  6. Jelinek GA et al (2005) The effect of adjunctive fresh frozen plasma administration on coagulation parameters and survival in a canine model of antivenom-treated brown snake envenoming. Anaesth Intensive Care 33(1):36-40
  7. Tibballs J & Sutherland S (1991) The efficacy of antivenom in prevention of cardiovascular depression and coagulopathy induced by brown snake (Pseudonaja) species venom. Anaesth Intensive Care 19(4):530-534
  8. Tibballs J & Sutherland SK (1992) The efficacy of heparin in the treatment of common brown snake (Pseudonaja textilis) envenomation. Anaesth Intensive Care 20(1):33-37
  9. Mirtschin PJ et al (1998) Snake bites recorded by veterinary practices in Australia. Aust Vet J 76(3):195-198