Look Out! Snakes are About

With the warmer weather and the drier conditions, snake sightings have risen dramatically, as too have the cases of snake bite cats and dogs. In the past month alone, we have treated more than 10 incidences of snake bite. Local community development has resulted in built-up residential areas spreading into what was once native bush land, and so the native wildlife, including snakes, has had to adapt to their new neighbours – us!

If you have an adventurous, playful or protective outdoor pet, you may encounter a snake ‘incident’ sooner rather than later. Snake bites tend to occur on the pet’s head or neck, and may affect one or more body systems including the cardiopulmonary system, the nervous system, or the coagulation system. Usually, if the snake is not poisonous or the venom was not injected, the pain, swelling, and bruising at the bite site will be minimal.

The toxic dose transferred during a snake bite can vary greatly and in some cases envenomation does not occur at all. The severity of envenomation is related to the time of the year, the volume of venom present in the snake, the location of the bite, the number of bites, and the amount of victim movement after the bite (movement increases the spread of the venom). Contrary to popular thought, the amount of venom is not related to the size of the snake. Systemic signs such as kidney damage may take 24-72 hours to develop in mild envenomations, so the animal should be observed closely for several days. Where concerned, phone us immediately.

If you suspect your pet has been bitten by a snake, conduct a close skin check. You may see one, two or several small puncture wounds, bleeding, bruising, and/or immediate and painful swelling at the site of the bite. The more severe systemic signs may take up to several hours to appear and include hypotension and shock, lethargy and weakness, muscle tremors, nausea, vomiting, and neurological signs including depressed respiration.

If – and only if – possible, identify the snake and restrict the movement of the pet. DO NOT incise the bite wound to aspirate the venom and DO NOT apply a tourniquet. DO NOT apply ice to the area. Seek veterinary attention IMMEDIATELY. A good treatment outcome is dependent upon the timeframe between the bite and the subsequent treatment. We are always happy to assist. Please do not hesitate to phone us on 3202 7300 if you are concerned.