Skip to Content

Cold Laser Therapy Helps a Snake Bite Victim

Photo of Multi Radiance Laser Multi Radiance Laser Now that you've read Outdoor Activities Are Often Traumatic for Your Pet (via FlexPet's Summertime Pet Safety Series), you know all about the pet health hazards associated with insect stings, snake bites, animal fights, and hit by car incidents. Now, I'm going to share a case report by Yukiko Kuwahara (AKA Dr Youkey), DVM, a fellow veterinarian who treated a wicked snake bite using the Multi Radiance Medical Laser (which I have been actively using for laser acupuncture treatments in my pain management cases).Photo of Dr Youkey Gator It was becoming another of "those" Sundays.  Every exam room filled with sick patients, every doctor and vet tech scrambling to take care of them. Suddenly the front desk receptionist yells out, “Snake bite, STAT!!!”, and here she comes flying into the rear treatment area, being tugged by a blur of an out-of-control black Irish setter. Trying to maintain her balance, she yells out over the howls of the dog, “this dog has been bitten by a snake and needs help fast!”. I immediately grabbed for my phone and texted my veterinary manager, Mark Strong that I needed our protocol for snake bites. And I needed it fast!  He called me in seconds with protocols for swelling reduction and assured me he'd call back with more details, ASAP, as soon as he gets off the road and out of San Francisco rush hour traffic.

By now, we'd all stopped what we were doing to rush over and evaluate the bouncing black bucking apparition of a dog.  As we approached, we could see that both top and bottom lips are swelling, big time.  With one technician steadying the flouncing head, we found the first puncture wound in the bottom lip, but the second couldn't be located.  Perhaps it was in-between the folds of the lip.  It was still early for snake season, but agreed it was better to err on the side of caution and proceed with a snakebite treatment protocol.  But this hospital doesn't stock anti-venom, so we'd have to decide very soon if this patient required transfer to the local trauma & emergency hospital.

Photo of Irish Setter Swollen Face From Snake Bite

While trying to adequately restrain the dog and place an IV line, we could see that the swelling was still getting worse. Its face looked more like a fish-eye lens caricature than an adorable family pet.  His bottom lip had now swollen 4-inches and the top ballooned an impressive 3-inches.  Dogs, just like people look ridiculous with 7" thick lips! Meanwhile, our patient was receiving standard meds...until it chewed through the IV line.  Three technicians wrestled to place an e-collar on the dog while another two scrambled to control bleeding and prevent blood from splattering everyone in the room.  Our confused and very anxious patient was not making this process easy on anyone.  Despite his woeful condition, he was having a wonderful time playing with so many humans . . . typical Setter! We all observed for signs that the meds were having an effect or if this Setter was headed for transfer.  Since we still had some time, I made the decision to laser his lips, to see if we could reduce the swelling. As things had now calmed down, the rest of the staff returned to their other cases and I was left alone to treat this still bucking bronco.  Using my left hand to anchor his collar as he kept on jumping up and down, I used my right hand to scan the laser softly over those very puffy lips.  His e-collar kept banging against the side of my head as he continued to squirm around. I took Mark's advice and used Program Setting 4 (1,000 – 3,000 hz) with 470nm Blue Radiance on, to treat for bacteria. Using a scanning motion, I lasered both lips and used a pulsing woodpecker pressure to activate the mandibular lymph nodes for better lymphatic drainage.  I kept everything as gentle as possible, because those lips were very tender to the touch in their grossly distended condition. While I was lasering, my phone kept vibrating and I knew it was Mark, trying to reach me for follow-up.  But, lacking a third hand, the calls went unanswered. Despite two injections of medications that should have calmed the patient down, our Setter was still bouncing off the walls.  It was a struggle to maintain my hold on his collar and laser him evenly.  I think I got his left lips more than the right lips. Miraculously, I could see the swelling going down as I continued to laser his lips.  Encouraged, I applied 4 cycles on that same Program 4.  I was still struggling with the dog throughout the treatment and I know that the left side got better exposure to the laser (which explained why the left lips responded faster than the right lips).  By the end of treatment, both lips had decreased in size tremendously. With his rambunctious and over exuberant energy, he wasn’t acting like the typical snakebite dog.  There was no apparent pain or sloughing necrotic tissue.  Instead, he was evidencing symptoms more like a bee, spider, scorpion, or other insect bite. With much effort, a technician and I placed him back inside a holding cage and we both watched & waited for the swelling to subside further.  Within four hours our formerly panicked pooch was sent home with no need for transfer to an emergency hospital. I sat down to finally write my medical notes and wiped off my sweat, the dog's blood, and what seemed like gallons of dog spittle off my face. Taking a moment of quiet solace, I was once again reminded of how beneficial my cold laser therapy had become in our practice. It works beautifully and synergistically with so many conditions and this incident was once again positive proof of the benefits of laser therapy. But this wasn't the end of the night, as the treatment door flew open and the front receptionist rushed in with a seizuring dog . . . ”Help! This dog is having seizures . . . STAT!!!”. . . Thank you Dr Youkey for sharing your story and for introducing me to the MR4 ActiVet Laser. My patients (and my own orthopedic and dermatologic ailments) appreciate it. To receive my next article via email, sign up here. Please feel free to communicate with me through Twitter (@PatrickMahaney) and follow my adventures in veterinary medicine by liking Patrick Mahaney: Veterinarian Acupuncture Pain Management for Your Pets on Facebook.
Back to top