I have a pet. He is a male mix breed, between a chihuahua and a Jack Russell Terrier. To me, good company and a source of love and care (my road dog).
We (he and I) were walking in the Houston suburbs in the early morning. Despite his size, he would do 2-3 miles each morning. We were about 1/2 mile from home when he went over next to a bush to pee. His reaction alerted me to the fact that he had experienced something unexpected. I picked the dog up and looked closely. It was a snake and he had bit my buddy. I used a stick to move the snake onto the sidewalk so I could identify it. Then noting the distress my dog was in I started running toward home with him in my hands.
Calling the vet I use for the dogs’ care, I found out that the vet office was closed and as it’s an emergency I called an emergency animal hospital, referred to me by the vet’s phone message.
Love my pet, my dog!
I got the dog to the hospital within 30 minutes of the attack, and told them it was a rattlesnake bite. After handing him over I was hoping for the best and expected that I would have to pay a premium (maybe up to $600) for this care, after all, anti-venoms for animals and humans are well developed and as I have seen on TV, dogs and humans have a good chance of surviving a snake bite.
So the emergency vet comes in and says yes, it’s at least one snake bite and they started an IV in preparation for the dog’s care. He then says the cost is $2,500 for the anti-venom and the care will be over the next 8 -12 hours which he hopes will be successful. So like bringing a child (my buddy) to an emergency room without insurance I am faced with the decision of shelling out a king’s ransom and paying extra if he needs any other care. I picked my jaw up from the floor and under duress (with losing my guy in the balance) I decided to pay the “ransom”.
The dog made it. But being a thinker, I wanted to know if it is reasonable to expect someone to pay that much for the care of a pet (i.e. am I a dope?). I don’t think I am a dope but this experience also reminds me of a mom who takes an ailing child to the emergency room in a real emergency like me. It was an emergency; right, like that mom I couldn’t have anticipated this care or called around Houston greater area to see if there was a less expensive better option for my loved one. How more critical to us all is a child who was likewise bitten by a snake?
So I decided to do some research one of the sites is https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6708478/.
Anti-venom treatment is very expensive, median about $900 per vial. It’s a necessary drug in every country where venomous snakes exist in the wild. Being an established method to prevent death in victims of snake bites, manufacturers do not pay a lot to develop therapies or manufacture them. Though tedious to acquire the base material (by milking venom from the snakes themselves) the anti-venom needs to be refrigerated to maintain its efficacy. Anti-venom is specific for each snake’s venom.
The demand for anti-venom is high, as there is a worldwide replacement of inventory due to its imposed shelf life (In the US all hospitals are required to have an inventory of anti-venom and each vial has a shelf life of as little as 3 years).
The research on anti-venom shows that shelf life is not as necessary as enforcement by the FDA and the manufacturers, especially in the global south where there is a need to address the distribution cost and use (reminds me a lot of Corona Virus vaccine distribution and waste).
In spite of this demand, this product faces the lunatic reality of the pharmaceutical business, where several manufacturers see this sure dollar maker as not lucrative enough. Several manufacturers are therefore leaving anti-venom production creating monopolies for the remainder and leaving people and other animals in need.
Though I am lucky enough to have access to enough resources to save my dog, I felt like a worthless cog in the capitalist machine who demands all the market can bear without regard for human or your pet’s life. The life or healthcare of you or your pet does not matter to the business.