KwaZulu-Natal Amphibian and Reptile Conservation shared a tragic incident with a miraculous outcome!
KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa – A Black Mamba had slithered into a property on Northcliffe Avenue, Westville, and was confronted by three dogs and a security guard. The dogs barked ferociously at the snake, while the guard attacked it with a stick, beating it to death (the wrong and most dangerous thing to do). During the struggle and out of instinct, this big Malamute attacked the Black Mamba, biting it two or three times. Such actions were going to end in one result- the dog being bitten in return.
The notorious Black Mamba (Dendroaspis polylepis) is often said to be the deadliest snake in the world and with good reason. It is a large and active snake that will move quite fast with as much as a third of its body off the ground. If cornered, it is known to strike more than once and in quick succession, injecting large quantities of very potent neurotoxic venom. Human deaths, in untreated bites, could take anything from 3 – 16 hours if not treated, but in serious bites, victims could experience severe breathing problems in less than half an hour.
Fortunately, the homeowners were present, heard the commotion and saw the end of it. They noticed something wasn’t right with their dog, Diesel, the Malamute who’s two and a half years old. They rushed him to Westville Vet, just down the road.
Diesel managed to walk into the vet, but as he entered, he collapsed. The venom was taking effect.
The vets immediately administered the two vials of antivenom kept on the premises, but it didn’t seem to have too much of an effect. Diesel was crashing.
“I was called by Westville Vet. At the time of the call, I was in Sherwood, ten minutes from St.Augustine’s Hospital. I knew the dog would need more vials than just two, and I knew exactly who could help: Dr.Kevin McEwen from St.Augustines! I phoned him, and he didn’t hesitant into readying antivenom for me. He prepared two vials, and I raced over.
I said hi, bye and thanks to Kevin, and flew off to Westville Vet. Diesel was on a ventilator. His blood pressure had dropped, as had his heart rate. The neurotoxic venom was quickly shutting his body down.”
The two vials were injected, and they all waited. Those two extra vials barely stabilised him, making a slight difference. Everyone could see he wasn’t going to improve without more antivenom.
“I phoned Dr McEwen to see if I could get another two vials. He agreed, and away I went yet again, at a speed!
Another quick hi, bye and thanks were said, and I rushed back to the vet. When I arrived, I could feel the mood in the room was anxious. Apparently, Diesel had been fitting in my absence and crashed completely. He was dead at a stage, before being resuscitated. It wasn’t looking good at all for him. The two vials of antivenom were administered, and again, it was a waiting game. However, he seemed to have stabilised. He wasn’t breathing on his own, he was on a ventilator, but his vitals were stable.
I hung around for a while until realising; there was nothing more I could personally do. I inspected the mambas body, which was brought in. It was a spectacular male specimen, 2.6m long, and well-fed! It was gut-wrenching to see this snake like this and to know what happened. And the thought of the dog dying on top of all this was just worsening my mood.”
They waited and waited. Then, Diesel’s owner phoned. She was concerned that he wasn’t improving and asked if the team could get more antivenom.
“I wasn’t sure if it was too late or not for more, so I consulted Dr McEwen and Arno Naude (Snakebite assist). They said more antivenom could only do good. Unfortunately, Dr McEwen couldn’t supply anymore antivenom at the risk of being short should a human patient be admitted.
So I told the owner to contact Hillcrest Vet, who I knew kept antivenom. They had two vials to give, which were taken.”
The next day, Diesel was still stable, but his life was still on the line. But there were improvements. He had started breathing by himself! A hugely positive sign!
On the Wednesday, he was starting to respond to sounds and being touched, particularly when his family went to see him! But he couldn’t stand, and by Thursday morning, everyone got the good news- Diesel was up on his feet!
Ah! I was so relieved and excited! I went in to see him. He was panting a whole lot, but walking around and loving his family.
And on the 5 of July 2019, the Kwazulu-Natal Amphibian and Reptile Conservation team got word that he is being allowed to go home after showing further improvements!
“Diesel is one lucky dog with a fighting spirit! Generally, dogs don’t even make it to the vet after a mamba bite. He ended up receiving 8 vials of antivenom, without which he wouldn’t be alive.
A big thank you must go out to Dr McEwen – without his prompt organisation of the antivenom, Diesel would have been dead before nightfall. Not forgetting his guidance! Those four vials kept him alive and gave him the best possible chance. Also Arno Naude – for always sharing his endless amounts of wisdom, experience and advice; the Westville Vet team – for taking such great care of Diesel, Hillcrest Vet – for supplying the two extra vials of antivenom, which I think was the final push he needed to survive and Diesel’s family – without their determination to save him, and funding his survival, he would never have stood a chance. They did a tremendous amount to save him!”
KwaZulu-Natal Amphibian and Reptile Conservation also want the public to know that this is not the Black Mambas fault. It didn’t intentionally attack the dog, but when left without a choice, it had to defend itself, as any animal or human would. One can’t blame the dogs either, as they act out of instinct, and perhaps want to protect their families.
“We see a conflict like this every year, and it’s just horrible. At least this one ended well for the dog.”