Snake Bite Information

Snake Bite Information

As snakes hibernate or are inactive during cold weather, snake envenomation usually occur in the summer months, but the season can extend from spring through to autumn, depending on weather conditions. Australia has a large number of venomous snakes but the tiger snake and brown snake account for the majority of snake bites in domestic pets throughout Victoria. Whilst we are lucky to be located in the beautiful ‘green belt’ of Melbourne we do unfortunately treat many cases of snake envenomation each year at our clinics.

Dogs are inquisitive by nature so when exercising them in bushland (particularly near water) or near beach dunes during the warmer months of the year, it’s always best to keep them on a leash.

Cats are naturally born to hunt and stalk anything that moves. This unfortunately can lead to an unpleasant end, if he/she encounters a snake.

Its best to keep your backyard clear of long grass, and remove any piles of rubbish. This will help to reduce the number of hiding spots for snakes to reside in. Compost heaps and chickens can attract rodents which in turn can then attract snakes, so pest management is important.

When a snake bites, it injects venom via the fangs into the tissue below the skin. Venom is rapidly absorbed from the site of the bite and carried mainly by the lymphatic system into the animals circulation. Snake venom carries a large range of toxins that damage tissues and impair many of the body’s vital functions; they attack nerves and muscles, and interfere with the body’s clotting mechanisms.

Snake envenomation is ALWAYS an emergency and potentially life threatening event. 

Several factors will determine what sort of reaction your pet has to a snake bite. The type of snake (some species of snake are more venomous than others), the amount of venom injected (depends of the size and maturity of the snake) and the site of the snake bite are all contributing factors. The signs of snake bite by a tiger or brown snake are varied. They may show some or all of the following signs:

– Blood in the urine

– Sudden weakness followed by collapse

– Dilated pupils not responsive to light

– In the later stages paralysis and difficulty breathing

– Vomiting

– Shaking or twitching of the muscles

– Dark brown urine discolouration

Veterinary treatment varies with each individual case. Firstly our veterinarian will examine your pet, assess the symptoms 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 body. Some patients require multiple vials of antivenom. Other supportive care may also be required – including oxygen supplementation and even assisted breathing if the animal is not breathing well on their own. Antivenom does not protect your pet from future further envenomation from a snake. Antivenom is not a vaccination or a preventative medication.

Remember,  if your pet is bitten DO NOT try to catch or kill the snake, all Australian snakes are protected and you may expose yourself to unnecessary danger.

Call us IMMEDIATELY if you suspect your pet may have been bitten by a snake. The sooner we can treat your pet, the higher the survival rate.