Snake bite is a common occurrence in Australia for dogs, cats and humans. As there are many venomous snakes all across Australia, it’s important for dog and cat owners to know what to do in case your pet gets bitten.
How snake bites usually happen
Australia is home to some of the most dangerous snakes in the world, such as the taipan, tiger snake, and brown snake. It is more common to see snakes during the summer months when they are more active.
Walking through tall grass, bushland or forested areas are popular activities to do with your dog, while cats like to hunt and explore in grass and bushes. Snakes might also be hiding on your property in the grass or under bits of wood or metal, or even in shoes left outside. If snakes are disturbed and feel threatened, they may bite your dog or cat.
Your dog is more likely to be bitten in its face or legs, often due to it getting close to the snake in order to smell it or when walking past it. As cats are generally smaller than dogs, they may be bitten on any part of their body.
If you see a snake in the vicinity of your pet, it’s often safer to assume that it has been bitten. Do not attempt to catch or harm the snake as this could increase the chances of you being bitten. However, do try to take note of the patterns on the snake’s skin, which will help in identifying it. Take a photo of it if possible.
Symptoms of snake bites in pets
There are many warning signs that your dog or cat may have been bitten by a snake, such as:
- weakness in legs
- dilated pupils
- pale gums
- loss of bladder control
- breathing difficulties/panting
- bleeding from the site of the wound, or the mouth or nose
You may see one or a combination of the above symptoms if your pet has been bitten by a snake. It’s important to seek medical assistance immediately.
First aid for pets bitten by snakes
The primary step in regards to first aid for your pet after a snake is to not panic. Remaining calm will also help your pet stay calm.
If you can see on your pet’s body where it has been bitten, apply a pressure bandage to the area. Be careful not to make it too tight or to restrict blood flow too much.
Try to keep your pet calm and to stop it from moving around, as movement will encourage the spread of venom through the lymphatic system. If you are able to carry your pet, this is the best solution.
Seek medical attention as soon as possible, and call ahead to your vet to let them know your pet has a confirmed or suspected snake bite.
Treatment for snake bites in pets
It is possible for a blood or urine test to identify the kind of snake responsible for the bite. This is particularly handy if you are unsure what kind of snake it was.
Treatment mainly consists of administering anti-venom, which is produced from snake venom and can be quite expensive. The survival rate from snake bite is around 80 per cent, so getting to a vet quickly and remaining calm is very important. If your pet isn’t treated, then the chances of it dying are high.
Snake bite recovery and aftercare for pets
Following treatment, your pet will require some time to recover. Try to avoid rigorous exercise or getting your pet too excited. Spend some quality time with your pet, as it may take 48-hours or more for it to return to its normal health and activity levels.
Preventing snake bites in pets
If you live on a property which is prone to seeing snakes, there are several steps you can take to try and prevent snake bites. One of the easiest is to ensure that grass height is kept low so that it’s easier to spot snakes before going near them or stepping on them.
Snakes also like to sleep and hide in and under piles of wood or rocks, sheets of corrugated iron, tarps, shoes, or anything lying around on the ground that will cover them or that they can fit into. It’s best to keep ground coverings clear so that there aren’t any hidden surprises for your pet.
Always make sure that you have your vet’s contact details in your phone so that you can contact them immediately if your pet has been bitten by a snake. Also keep the emergency contacts handy in case your vet is closed. And please remember, try to get as much information about the snake as possible – this will help with identification and treatment.