Each year more than 6000 pets in Australia are bitten by snakes. A disproportionate number of those cases occur around Perth particularly in the eastern hills and Mundaring region. In the last month there has been a dramatic rise in the number of dogs and cats requiring treatment and this has prompted doctors at the Murdoch University Veterinary Hospital to issue a warning to all pet owners to be aware.
So at this time it is particularly worthwhile understanding how to recognise a snake bite and knowing what to do if your pet is bitten.
Recognising a snake bite is easy if the pet is found with the snake. “Schweppes” the Alaskan Malamute (pictured after recovery) was found struggling with a large Dugite. She collapsed soon after and was rushed in for treatment with anti-venom.
More often, the snake is never seen and it is only the onset of symptoms that arouses suspicion. Snake venom causes paralysis, bleeding disorders and tissue damage.
The most common types of venomous snakes we see are brown snakes (Dugites and King Browns) and Tiger Snakes, and rarely the Death Adder. The symptoms with each are very similar. They can include sudden collapse, weakness, paralysis, bleeding and difficulty breathing. These can occur soon after the bite but may take several hours or even longer – especially in cats.
Dogs and cats usually get bitten around the face or neck therefore the application of a pressure bandage is rarely a useful first aid measure.
It is most important to get them to a veterinary surgery as soon as possible. If you are able, carry the patient to the car and keep them quiet and still. If they stop breathing en route then mouth to nose resuscitation will be required.
There is a specific anti-venom for each type of snake. If the snake is dead, bring it with you for identification. (Do not attempt to kill the snake yourself!) If not, we have a snake venom detection kit to enable administration of the correct anti-venom.
The best way to reduce the chances of a brown snake visiting your property is to keep control of rats and mice. Dugites are attracted to the smell of rodent urine and may travel several kilometres using their sensitive tongue to “taste” the smell in the air. If you keep birds, be careful how you dispose of surplus feed. Spilt seed is often the feed source for rodents who like to set up nests around aviaries.
There is some excellent information on local snakes on Brian Bush’s website here.
Below is a picure of a juvenile dugite. It was brought to us after someone collected it in their pool scoop. Baby dugites do not usually hatch until the end of summer. This is probably a straggler from last year that has just emerged from winter dormancy.
Reptile Removalist’s (Snake and Lizard handlers)
Wildcare Helpline- 9474 9055.
Ray Adams – 0429 910 321
Nathan Hill – 0439 794 308 (Fee of $50 payable)
Kris Brown – 0400 945 214 (If no answer leave a message)