Snake bite and your pet

It is not unthinkable for our cats and dogs to accidentally come across a snake. Even in the middle of town dogs and cats can have these encounters, especially around bush areas or local parks. Most snake bites occur in spring and summer months as snakes are cold blooded animals and are more active during this period.

Tasmania has three snake species:

  • Tiger snake
  • Copperhead
  • White-lipped snake

Snake bite

Not all snake bites result in injecting venom but if you suspect your pet has been bitten by a snake you should try to keep him/her calm and quiet, and take to your pet to your vet IMMEDIATELY. The sooner your pet is treated, the better their chances of survival.

The treatment with antivenene used is effective against all three species so do NOT put yourself risk by attempting to identify or kill the snake. You could put yourself in danger as people are susceptible as well to the venom. Australian snakes are protected species.

Signs of Snake bite

Several factors will determine what sort of reaction your pet has to a snake bite. The type of snake, the amount of venom injected, and the site of the snake bite are all contributing factors. Dogs and cats are most often bitten around the head and limbs. The bite marks are often too small to see.

The signs of a snake bite by a tiger snake are varied. They may show some or all of the following signs:

  • Sudden weakness or collapse.
  • Shaking or twitching of the muscles.
  • Vomiting.
  • Dilated pupils not responsive to light.
  • Blood in the urine.
  • In the later stages paralysis may occur.

Veterinary Treatment

Firstly your veterinarian will examine your pet, assess the clinical signs they are showing and determine the best course of action. Further diagnostic tests may be required to determine if your pet has actually been bitten. Treatment usually consists of intravenous fluids and the administration of antivenom to neutralise the snake venom in the pet’s body. Other supportive care may also be required. This needs to continue until the circulating venom has been neutralised and any bound venom has worn off.

Recovery

Approximately 80% of pets survive snake bite if treated quickly. The survival rate is much lower however for pets if left untreated, and death can occur. Anecdotal recovery from snake bites solely by vit C treatment is likely not related to the vit C but more to the amount of venom and or supportive treatment given.

Recovery from a snake bite usually takes 24 to 48 hours if the pet receives prompt veterinary attention and the snake bite is not severe. However, some pets will take substantially longer to make a full recovery due to tissue damage to internal organs and will require intensive and prolonged nursing care. More blood tests later may be required to ascertain if permanent organ damage has occurred.

Precautions

Dogs and cats are inquisitive animals by nature. It is recommended to walk your dog on the lead during the times and months snakes are active. Cats that are allowed out unsupervised will hunt animals and stalk anything that moves. The best way to prevent a deadly snake bite is to keep your cat indoors. If you live in the outer suburbs or semi-rural areas, keep your backyard clear of long grass, and remove any piles of rubbish. This will help to reduce the number of hiding spots.

Control mice and rats near the house or any out buildings as they will attract snakes.

Always be aware that ‘snakes can be anywhere’ even in the middle of town.

 

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