Do you know what to do if your pet was bitten by a snake…?
As a pet owner, it's SO important to be aware and safeguard your pets from snake bites, and also be able to identify the signs and take appropriate action if your pet has been bitten.
Let Dr Mark take you through all you need to know about snakes, snake bites, the action you need to take if your pet is bitten, and how you can protect your fur-family from these deadly creatures.
The tiger and brown snake are responsible for most of the snake bites in domestic pets across Australia.
Tiger snakes have a bite that can be fatal to not only pets, but humans too. They have a toxin that breaks down muscle causing damage or failure of the kidneys, muscle weakness and even paralysis.
Brown snake venom, being the most potent of them all, can damage tissues and impair many of the body’s vital functions; they attack the nervous system and interfere with the body’s clotting mechanisms. Paralysis may also occur but will not happen immediately - can sometimes take up to 18 hours. And in severe cases, immediate death from heart attack can happen, but this is very rare.
Signs your pet has been bitten by a snake include:
- Sudden weakness followed by collapse
- Shaking or twitching of the muscles and difficulty blinking
- Loss of bladder and bowel control
- Dilated pupils
- Blood around bite area
- Blood in urine
Dogs will often try chase or play with snakes, resulting in snake bites usually around the face and front legs.
Cats, being hunters, are also susceptible to snake bites and are usually bitten around the mouth and head region.
The sort of reaction your pet has to a snake bite is determined by a number of factors; the type of snake, the amount of venom in injected, the site of the snake bite, and also what type of pet you have (approximately 90-95% of cats are known to survive snake bites if treated with anti-venom, whereas approximately 70% of dogs are known to survive if treated with anti-venom).
Generally, the closer the bite is to the heart, the quicker the venom will spread to the rest of the body.
It's also important to note that at the beginning of summer, when snakes first emerge from hiberation, their venom glands tend to be fuller and their bites at this time are much more severe. The length of time since the snake last struck can also be a contributing factor.
If you think your pet has been bitten by a snake, it's important to remain calm and quiet and take them to the vet immediately.
Your pet's chances of full recovery will be much greater if they're treated early – some pets have recovered within 48 hours.
However, if a pet is left untreated they will have a much lower chance of survival.
If your vet is some distance away, if practical, you can apply a pressure bandage – a firm bandage over and around the bite site that will help slow the venom spreading to the heart. DO NOT wash the wound or apply tourniquet or ice.
If you can identify the type of snake that is great, however do not attempt to catch or kill it.
Your vet can always do a blood or urine test that can identify whether your pet has been bitten, and also the type of snake responsible.
Once the snake has been identified, your vet can then administer antivenom.
Antivenene is administered diluted in intravenous fluids for rapid effect, however some animals with severe paralysis may need additional antivenene, oxygen therapy, antibiotics, tetanus prophylaxis and referral for breathing support.
From here the prognosis can go one of two ways:
Death may occur within the first 24 hours of a snake bite.
Or, more typically if acted upon quickly, pets will be successfully treated and able to bring home in 1-3 days.
Antivenom and other snake bite treatments can be quite expensive, so prevention is much much better than cure.
Simple ways to keep your pet safe from snakes include:
- Dig your fence a foot into the ground
- Keep your yard tidy by clearing undergrowth, filling in holes in the ground, mowing regularly, clearing items that could make hiding places for snakes
- Keep walkways clean of bush, flowers and shrubs
- Clean up any spilled food, fruit or bird seed (this may attract rodents, and therefore snakes)
- Store any firewood away from the house
And if you do see a snake, always seek professional help in removing it safely from your property.
For more pet health tips, visit www.vetshopaustralia.com.au/Pet-Health.