Cappy (short for Cappuccino – you can tell our family has several Java Junkies in it :-) was a smooth fox terrier – a foxie with a big nose, we liked to say.
When it came to obedience, he was a complete and absolute failure! He was as strong-willed as any dog I’ve ever known and once he got something into his head, it was really hard to convince him otherwise.
But when it came to being sweet, protective and loving, he had it all.
Cappy was less than 2 years old when he died this past Friday, October 15th.
What has this got to do with vaccination? Absolutely nothing. But we’ve lost a beloved member of our family and I felt it was important to share some of this information because his death might have been prevented if I’d had more knowledge and hopefully, this might save someone else from losing a beloved pet – or even a beloved partner, child or other relative.
Foxies are known for being great ratters and snake killers. Cappy killed his first brown snake (about 1m long – an immature snake, no doubt about it) when he was only a few months old. I remember him bailing up a carpet snake under our house a few weeks later in the middle of the summer heat and barking incessantly for hours and hours. It drove us nuts but he was doing what nature told him to do.
On Thursday last week, my husband Ken was down on the farm with Cappy (he always took him when he could because Cap would have the best time chasing rabbits and rats, trying unsuccessfully to catch birds and jumping into every single water hole and drain along the way, coming home filthy and stinking but very happy more times than not).
We had some serious wind-storms over the last week and some of the young macadamia trees that had recently been planted had blown over and needed to be staked upright again.
Cappy was keeping Ken company when a 1 1/2m brown snake came by. Cappy attacked it – Ken isn’t sure if it was trying to get away or coming closer – but he was sure that Cappy got bitten at least once – maybe more times. He shook the snake and did manage to kill it – perhaps saving Ken from being bitten. Ken says that the dog was dragging his back legs after that and appeared to become paralysed so he picked him up and brought him home.
As soon as I saw them on the 6-wheel motorbike coming back from the farm – Cappy in Ken’s lap instead of on the seat next to him as he always is – I knew something was wrong. Ken put Cappy on the floor and he just ran off – happy as Larry.
This is when I made a big mistake! I assumed that he had either not been injected with venom (maybe the snake had just bitten something else) or that Cappy had somehow managed to get rid of the venom or was immune.
I watched him for an hour or so and he was fine. But then, I had to go out for a while and when I got back about 2 hours later. My daughter Annie was on the floor with Cappy and he was having trouble walking – he was very jerky and there was so much blood in his mouth he was swallowing constantly. It terrified me!
Straight away, I went to the internet and started looking up treatments for brown snake bites. I called the local vet who told me that it was too late at that point for anti-venom. But I read about vitamin C – especially IV Vitamin C – being a great treatment so we put a heaping spoonfull into a glass of water (there would have been 8 or 10 grams in there) and started spoon feeding him because he couldn’t lap water properly.
The vet said that fluids were really important so we made up an electrolyte solution with honey and salt and alternated spo0nfulls of that with the vitamin C. The bleeding was getting worse and I was able to get onto the local homeopathic vet who had been out. She recommended homeopathic phosphorus and after just one dose, the bleeding stopped completely – it worked like a charm! But his paralysis was getting worse.
Ken and I sat with Cappy for ages as little by little, he was no longer able to wag his tail, move his ears or even blink his eyes. My daughter Annie gave me a break and kept on giving him the vitamin C until about 1:30 in the morning when he was no longer able to swallow.
The next morning, the vet came out early and recommended IV fluids with a high dose of IV Vitamin C. She administered this and as soon as the C started to go in, Cappy started to move around after being completely paralysed for hours at this point in time. We thought that might have done the trick, but the damage from the venom must have been too advanced because within about 3 hours of that dose of vitamin C, our little Cappy was gone.
The word of warning is this – don’t think that because a dog seems to recover quickly, they are out of danger. I have done some research on this since this time (I wish I’d looked into it years ago – we have brown snakes here all the time in hot weather and it was always a risk) and have discovered that it is not unusual for there to be a period as long as 2-3 days after a snake bite before the venom affects the nervous system. There are stories of dogs (and people!) being completely fine and then, dropping dead within minutes of symptoms appears hours or days after a bite.
If I had known about this, I would have taken him straight to the vet for treatment. I trusted that his being OK meant that he had somehow escaped the venom.
Our family misses Cappy something awful and I’m hoping that this story will help some other family if they are ever in the same situation.