The thought of encountering a snake strikes fear into most of us in spite of the fact that many of us have never seen one. There are a number of reasons, including the way they’re portrayed in media and the myths and legends that have always been associated with them. It is therefore not surprising that our pets view them differently, and rather than being a source of fear, they are sometimes a source of curiosity.
The generally inquisitive nature of animals and the hunting instincts of dogs and cats means that your furry family member may at some point come face-to-face with a snake. With the summer months approaching these encounters become more likely, even in the city, in parks and in places where there’s water. As well as out in the open, snakes are often found near homes in things such as long grass, wood piles, and sheds.
Australia has the largest number of venomous snakes and these hibernating reptiles become more active in the warmer whether as they start looking for food and to mate. While most snakes would try to avoid us and our pets, our pets will quite often want interact with a snake, which of course increases the risk of them getting bitten. The common places for bites are on their faces and legs.
South Australia has many snakes, including Brown snakes, Tiger snakes, and Copperheads. In Adelaide red-bellied black snakes are commonly found. These are a venomous species and the safest approach is to assume that all snakes encountered by your pets may be venomous.
The symptoms of snake bite depend on the species and on other factors such as the location of the bite and the amount of venom. Common symptoms include:
- Drooling, anxiety, and sudden weakness that often starts in the hind legs
- Dilated pupils not responsive to light
- Unable to stand
- Shaking or twitching of the muscles
- In the later stages paralysis may occur
If you suspect that your pet has been bitten get them to a vet as quickly as possible. Treatment usually consists of the administration of antivenin and intravenous fluids. It’s important to note that antivenin is used to neutralise the snake venom that is already in an animal’s body and it does not provide protection from future snake bites. Until you are able to get to a vet keep your pet calm and cool. The sooner your pet is treated, the better their chances of survival.
Prevention of course is better than cure and there are some simple things you can do to decrease the risks: When walking dogs, keep them on a leash. Clean up the backyard, fill holes in the ground, and remove rubble and building materials. Clear away undergrowth, toys, tools and things that create hiding places for snakes. Consider installing a snake-proof fence around your home or if you’re erecting a fence dig it 30cm into the ground. Importantly, remember to remove food scraps and spilled bird seed that attract vermin, and consequently snakes. Avoid excessive watering of lawns and gardens and eliminate pooling water. Removing outdoor water sources will help to deprive snakes of necessary moisture.
Remember that the best response if you see a snake is to treat it as dangerous. Never try to trap, catch, trap or kill a snake. Snake bites most commonly occur because of people interfering with them. Snakes do not hunt humans but will defend themselves vigorously if threatened or confronted. If you encounter a snake while with your pets, try to stay between your pet and the snake and calmly move yourself and your pet away from it as soon as possible. Dead snakes can be dangerous too because of their venomous fangs, therefore prevent your pet from playing with or examining them.
To learn more about snakes and what to do if you suspect your pet has been bitten, refer to our Pet Community article on snake bites. Alternatively, speak to a member of our team at any of the Vets4Pets locations.