Snake bites in our pets
Spring is well and truly here and summer is just around the corner. As our weather heats up we are already seeing an increase in snake sightings and in turn, unfortunately, snake bites. There are a large number of dangerous snakes in our state, but the two that our pets are most likely to come across in the Gawler area are Brown snakes and Red-bellied Black snakes, with Brown snakes the far more common of the two. Our dogs and cats are naturally curious, and this unfortunately can lead to altercations with snakes, and in some cases they can be bitten.
What to do if you find your pet with a snake:
If you happen to find your pet in the same area as a snake, whether the snake is alive or dead, it is always safer to assume they have been bitten and act accordingly. It’s important to remember that, although we all love our pets and would do anything for them, that your safety is of the utmost importance so never put yourself in danger.
Never attempt to catch or kill the snake, but if it is safe to do so make note of the type or take a photo as this can assist with treating your pet.
Cats and dogs respond quite differently to snake bites, with dogs generally succumbing much quicker. Snake bites earlier in the season tend to be more severe than those late in summer, as the snakes venom glands are fuller from a quiet winter.
Clinical signs of a snake bite can differ between dogs, the snake species and the amount of venom injected. Usually the most common signs are generalised weakness and/or collapse sometimes followed by a temporary period of recovery, twitching of the muscles, vomiting, dilated pupils, loss of bladder/bowel control and after more time has passed paralysis.
If you are at all suspicious that your dog may have been bitten by a snake, the best thing to do is head to your nearest vet clinic and phone them on they way to let them know you are coming. If your dog is not showing any clinical signs then it is often advised that they stay at the clinic for an hour or so, whether that be in the hospital area or just in the waiting room with you, so that if they start showing signs we can start treatment as soon as possible.
Cats can be a bit trickier with snake bites and it can sometimes take hours or even days for them to show clinical signs. The most common signs we see in our cats are weakness and incoordination that progresses to lethargy and floppy paralysis.
If you notice any suspicious signs in your cat, calling your local vet clinic and getting them there quickly is the best thing you can do. Due to the variability in onset time of clinical signs, we don’t often monitor cats in hospital waiting for clinical signs.
Brown snake venom works by causing both paralysis and uncontrolled bleeding. Once in our team’s hands, we can diagnose a snake bite in dogs with a blood test that assesses blood clotting times. There is not a reliable blood test in cats so diagnosis is generally based on clinical signs. If we suspect your animal has been bitten, we can start treating them with snake anti-venom and supportive care. Sadly not all snakebite pets survive, even with anti-venom, but our chances of success are much greater with quick action.
If you have any suspicions when it comes to your pet and snakebites, give our team a call and we can help guide you with the best options in a stressful time.