During the summer months, your chances of encountering a snake are drastically increased. Snakes become more active in the warmer weather and, with over 6000 pets receiving veterinary treatment in Australia for snakebites each year, safeguarding your pets is extremely important. We’ve put together the following tips to make sure you’re prepared should you or your pets stumble across a slithery serpent this summer.
Snakes will usually try to avoid you and your pets, but while you will have the foresight to walk away if you spot one, dogs and cats will often try to investigate/harass the snake and get bitten as a result.
Making sure your property is safe and secure is the first step in keeping your pets safe. Reduce the risk of snakes entering your property by maintaining your outdoor areas: trim back overgrown grass and trees, keep paths and walkways clear, and store firewood away from your home, as snakes like to hide in these areas. If a snake is sited, seek professional assistance in locating and catching the unwelcome guest.
What to look out for…
If a snake bites your pet, identifying the kind of snake is extremely important for treatment. In South Australia, the most common types of snakes are tiger, brown, black, red-bellied black, and copperhead. Being able to tell the vet the kind of snake will save precious time and help in your pet’s recovery.
When walking your dogs, stick to wide-open paths with minimal shrubs and grassy areas, as these are areas that snakes like to hide in. If you encounter a snake, remain calm and keep a good distance – snakes can strike up to half the distance of their own body length! Keep in mind, however, they will only strike if they feel threatened. Give the snake space and time to move on before passing by.
It is also important to steer clear of dead snakes, as their fangs can still be venomous after death.
What to do if your pet is bitten
If your pet is bitten, remain calm and seem immediate veterinary attention. If they are bitten on or around the head and neck, remove the animal’s collar. Getting prompt help dramatically increases the chances of your pet making a full recovery.
When transporting your pet, keep them as calm as possible and reduce their movement to prevent the venom travelling further from the bite zone. Try to keep the area of the bite below the level of the heart.
Know the signs
As it is not always possible to monitor your pets, knowing the signs of a snake bite is very important. Generally, most animals will show symptoms between 1- 24 hours after being bitten.
Collapsing and vomiting are two of the most common effects of snakebites. Other signs include: dilated pupils, hind leg weakness, rapid breathing, drooling, blood in their urine, pale gums, and paralysis.
Don’t attempt any home treatments (cold packs, tourniquets, trying to suck the poison out etc.) as these just waste precious time. If your pet shows any of the above symptoms, take them directly to your closest veterinary clinic or emergency centre! Even if it’s not a snake bite, it’s better to be safe than sorry.