As the weather warms up, snakes come out of hibernation and become more active in our backyards and parks.
Dogs and cats are naturally inquisitive, and while they enjoy their play in the garden or walk in the park, they may encounter a slithery snake in their travels.
There are around 100 Australian snake species that are considered venomous.
It can take several days for an animal to recover and unfortunately some do not survive.
It is reported that roughly 6000 dogs and cats are bitten by snakes each year and many bites occur on the face or limbs as they lunge in to torment the snake. The eastern brown snake, black snake, red bellied black snake and tiger snake are common culprits in causing envenomation in pets.
Symptoms usually occur within 24 hours but may be seen within minutes to hours after the bite and can vary depending on the type of snake and amount of venom injected.
Your pet may show signs such as dilated pupils and weakness in the hind limbs that can progress to paralysis. They often vomit and breathing can become laboured.
Other symptoms are due to interference with blood clotting and muscle damage.
You may see bleeding from the bite site, pale gums or blood in the urine.
First aid for your pet involves keeping your pet as calm as possible.
Ideally, carry them to the car, minimise any walking and drive straight to your local vet clinic or emergency centre.
It is always helpful to call ahead and let the pet hospital know you are on the way.
Treatment of snake bite patients involves administering antivenom to counteract the effects of the toxin.
Supportive treatment includes pain relief and intravenous fluids.
It can take several days for an animal to recover and, unfortunately, some do not survive.
Antivenom is expensive, but prompt diagnosis, early treatment incorporating the antivenom results in significant chances of a better outcome.
Regularly maintaining your lawns, garden and removing piles of debris or rubbish that snakes enjoy hiding in can be a great start for preventing unwanted reptile intruders.
When you take your dog for a walk, keep them on a leash and always be on the ready.
Interestingly, on average, cats have been shown to have a higher resistance to tiger and brown snake venom than dogs and horses.
This explains the higher survival rates in cats compared to dogs.
However, cats are certainly not immune to their venom and, if enough is injected, this resistance is soon overwhelmed.
- Dr Renee Pigdon, Petfocus Vetcare