In Australia, we have a number of snakes inhabiting areas where people (and their pets) live. There are a few ways that you can try to prevent a snake biting your pet and there are some tips that will help you identify if your furry friend has been bitten, and act quickly to minimise the likelihood of death or permanent injury.
The good news is that most snakes want to stay clear of you and your pet. So, while you may have been near one, you would never know. The bad news is that dogs and cats (and other domestic animals) are very curious hunters and they may pursue a snake, which can result in a snake reacting and biting your pet in self-defence.
Can I prevent my pet being bitten from a snake?
Snakes are usually seen in the warmer months (typically September until April) when they come out of hibernation.
The most common snakes in South Australia are brown, red-bellied black, tiger and copperhead. When you are walking outdoors with your dog in bushland, or open paths:
- Keep your dog on leash
- Avoid high grass and rocks where snakes like to rest
- Do not allow your dog to explore holes or in logs (they may be snake burrows)
To reduce the risk of snakes coming onto your property:
- Have a fence that is sunk into the ground
- Keep your yard tidy and free from debris and long grass
- Secure your garbage bin to prevent rats and mice, which will attract snakes
- Keep firewood neatly packed and away from the house
What are signs that my pet has been bitten by a snake?
Symptoms of snakebite can vary, but some commonly seen signs are:
- Sudden weakness in hind-legs or staggering
- Dilated pupils
- Shallow or laboured breathing
- Trembling or drooling
- Shaking or twitching muscles
- Blood in their urine or vomit
- Paralysis may occur in later stages
What to do if your pet has been bitten by a snake
It’s very important to remain calm if you see or if you suspect that your pet has been bitten. The most important thing to do is minimise further danger. Do not attempt to catch the snake as this could put you in harm’s way.
- Keep your pet as calm as possible (if they move too much it can push the venom more rapidly to their vital organs)
- Rush your pet to the vet as quickly as you can (even if symptoms are not present, or have stopped)
What is the veterinary treatment for a snake bite?
A snakebite is a time-critical emergency. You pet’s chances of survival depend on you getting them to the vet as quickly as possible.
Your vet will examine your pet to determine if it has been bitten and will assess their critical signs and make a critical action plan. Testing may be done to determine if a snake has bitten your pet, and to prepare the appropriate antivenom. Your vet will administer this and then your pet will need to remain at the hospital for a few days, under close observation and monitoring.
The survival rate is much higher when treated quickly and appropriately. So, remember to act swiftly and calmly in a snakebite emergency, to increase the chances of a positive outcome.
If you see a snake, please remember all Australian species are protected. You are not permitted to kill them by law, and you could be exposing yourself to danger. Contact a snake-catcher for advice on removing it.
Don’t forget that Vets4Pets has a 24-hour emergency centre at Golden Grove. It’s open every day, including public holidays.