Dog bitten by snake 1st to get hyperbaric treatment

Hyperbaric chamber installed Thursday at St. Francis Animal Hospital

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. - You may have heard about hyperbaric oxygen treatment for humans. That therapy is now available for animals, and the first machine in Jacksonville was used Thursday to help a dog bitten a water Moccasin.

The first patient put through the brand new hyperbaric chamber at St. Francis Animal Hospital was a golden retriever named Nettington that was bitten by the snake on Monday in the backyard of its home and was still extremely swollen.

The timing of the 13-year-old dog injury worked in its favor, as the vet's office is the first and only in northeast Florida to get a hyperbaric oxygen therapy chamber.  It was installed Thursday.

"That afternoon, I noticed his muzzle was swollen and that something was wrong," Nettington's owner, Claudio Lopez, said.

By Tuesday afternoon, Nettington's entire face blew up.

"I'm not ashamed to say I actually broke down yesterday when I first saw him this way, because I didn't expect it," Lopez said. "I knew he was going to be swollen, but when I saw yesterday, it was a shock."

"When we first saw him, we started treating him with some intravenous fluids and started him on antibiotics and pain medication, started to monitor his blood parameters," St. Francis Animal Hospital founder Susan Shelton said.

Snake bites can leave dogs in dire straits, but hope is on Nettington and its owner's side.

"We were keeping our fingers crossed that he would still be here with us since he got here Monday," Shelton said. "Today's Thursday, and today is our installation day, and he gets to be our first patient to go in it. It was actually kind of perfect timing."

Hyperbaric oxygen therapy can treat a number of injuries and problems. For Nettington it will help reduce its swelling by delivering concentrated oxygen into damaged cells and tissue. (Photo at right: Nettington before and after hyperbaric treatment)

"It delivers 100 percent oxygen in a pressurized environment," Shelton said. "So essentially, kind of in a nut shell, it means there can be oxygen delivered to two areas of the body that are suffering from a lack of oxygen."

"This chamber that you're talking about is supposed to be doing wonders, and I never heard of it, and so I'm anxious to see how the results are going to be," Lopez said.

Each treatment usually costs about $125, but the animal hospital is a nonprofit, so it works with patients to provide affordable care and doesn't anticipate it'll be charging that.

Because it is a nonprofit animal hospital, it gladly accepts donations. In fact, a woman who had her cat in there the same day Nettington went in decided to donate the $100 it would have cost her at another animal hospital to Nettington's care.

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