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Pesquisa Veterinária Brasileira

Print version ISSN 0100-736XOn-line version ISSN 1678-5150


TOKARNIA, Carlos Hubinger  and  PEIXOTO, Paulo Vargas. The importance of snake bites as cause of cattle death in Brazil. Pesq. Vet. Bras. [online]. 2006, vol.26, n.2, pp.55-68. ISSN 0100-736X.

A review of the literature shows that opinions on the importance of snake bites as cause of cattle death in Brazil are divergent among veterinarians; some think they are of no importance or of only minor significance, others are of the opinion that snake bites are frequent. However, the literature only reports two confirmed fatal cases by Bothrops and none by Crotalus in cattle in the country. A questionnaire which was submitted for appraisal to veterinary pathologists and clinicians in various States of Brazil, revealed only suspected cases of fatal accidents by snakes in cattle. During our field and laboratory diagnostic work we never made a diagnosis of a snake bite accident. Many "diagnoses" have apparently been made at a distance from where the animals died, without clinical and post-mortem examination, nor histological studies. By this way, the great majority of cases seems to be only supposition. In Brazil there are only few snakes of the genus Bothrops theoretically able to produce sufficient amounts of venom to kill an adult bovine. Nevertheless, in experiments, only Bothrops alternatus was able to cause the death of just one out of three bovines bitten, and this animal only weighed 279 kg. Snakes of the genus Crotalus can produce sufficient amounts of venom to kill an adult bovine; however it is known, that snakes of the genus Crotalus as well as of Bothrops generally inoculate only a part of their venom. These considerations indicate that the deaths suspected to have been caused by snake bites in cattle in Brazil have to be studied more thoroughly. A diagnosis can only be confirmed by establishing the precise clinical and pathological picture. Our current opinion is that fatal snake bites are much less frequent in cattle than often believed, and that their importance is generally much exaggerated.

Keywords : Snake bites; snakes; Crotalus spp; Bothrops spp; cattle.

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