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SNEAKY SNAKES - What to do if you suspect your pet has been bitten by a snake.


Summer is nearly upon us and here at Border Vet Surgery we have seen a drastic spike in snake bite victims. Multiple animals have been treated per week- both dogs and cats! Luckily, many have made it back home but it is a grim reminder the not all our snake victims do. The Goondiwindi region is home to many snake species including a variety of extremely venomous snakes such as our local ‘black’ and ‘brown’ snakes as well other less venomous species. Many snake species can be extremely difficult to distinguish from one another, so we treat all as venomous until proven otherwise.

"I saw my dog with a snake!”


If you believe your pet has come into contact with a snake it is essential you contact your veterinarian immediately as snake envenomation should always be considered an emergency and can result in sudden death. Our friendly staff will always advise you to bring your pet in immediately! But please remember these handy hints below:

  • Do not waste time attempting to catch or chase the snake.

  • Bring in all pets that may have been involved, regardless on whether they are exhibiting clinical signs or not - it isn’t uncommon for multiple pets to have been bitten!

  • If you have seen the snake, try and remember what it may look like (It will unlikely change how we treat your pet but may give us some insight into complications to prepare for!)

  • It is unrewarding to look for a snake bite - they is rarely seen in our furry pets!

  • Try and keep your pet nice and calm- we suggest keeping them in the cab of the car during the drive so the aircon or heating may help control their temperature.

  • Carry your pet, if possible, to minimise its movement.

Clinical signs Unfortunately, snake bites can cause a variety of negative effects in our pet’s bodies and hence clinical signs can vary drastically depending on the type of snake and the individual animal. Common clinical signs to look out for are listed:

  • Collapse (can be followed by spontaneous recovery)

  • Weakness in hind limbs (wobbly)

  • Trembling

  • Excessive drooling

  • Loss of bowl and bladder control

  • Bleeding from mouth or nose

  • Panting

  • Vomiting

  • Restlessness

Some of these clinical signs may take hours to become noticeable and others may appear to resolve quickly but your pet will often deteriorate again minutes to hours later. Therefore, if you believe there is any chance your dog has been in the vicinity of a snake, we highly recommend an emergency consult . The quicker we can detect and treat the snake envenomation the better chances of survival.


Diagnostics

Once you have brought your pet in our vets will recommend some diagnostic test to look for evidence of a true snake bite. We take a small amount of blood from their leg and perform blood tests that usually look at blood clotting time or evidence of red blood cell breakdown which is common as a result of a venomous snake bite.


Treatment

If we diagnose a snake bite, treatment is primarily snake antivenom.

Even after being treated a lot of our patients require supportive care and ongoing diagnostics as some of the toxins can have prolonged affects! This usually involves fluid therapy, oxygen therapy and a few nights in hospital but treatment can be more intensive and prolonged depending on the patient.

If you have any further questions relating to snakes or are concerned your pet may have been bitten, please do not hesitate to contact our clinic and talk to one our lovely staff!

Tilly - a snake bite patient post receiving antivenom, feeling much happier but with a very swollen face from the bite site.


Stay sun and snake safe this summer!

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