Pet owners need to be alert, if not alarmed, as we move into snake season.

“As the weather warms up, it is not uncommon for our favourite four-legged friends to cross paths with a snake at this time of year. Even city dogs and cats are at risk,” according to Jan Davis, CEO of RSPCA Tasmania.

“Because of this, pet owners must be careful to protect their pets from snake bites, and to be aware of the warning signs in case their animal is bitten.”

Dogs are inquisitive by nature. When exercising them in bushland (particularly near water) or near the beach, keep them on a leash. Cats are naturally born to hunt and stalk anything that moves. If you live in the outer suburbs or semi-rural areas, 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. Better still, keep your cat inside.

“It is vital to seek diagnosis and treatment as soon as possible if you suspect your dog or cat has been bitten by a snake. The chances of recovery are greater if your pet is treated early (80%), with some pets making a recovery within 48 hours. Pets that are left untreated have a much lower survival rate,” Ms Davis said.

Sadly, dogs and cats that have been bitten can deteriorate very rapidly. Animals can die within 25 minutes of a lethal bite. Some can die on the car ride to the vets or soon after arrival at the clinic. You should call the clinic ahead so that they can be prepared for when you arrive.

If your vet is a long way away, you may need to apply first aid. Keep your pet calm and quiet and apply a pressure bandage – a firm bandage placed over and around the bite site – to help slow the venom from spreading to their heart. Do not wash the wound or apply a tourniquet.

If you can identify the snake, tell your vet – but don’t try to catch or kill the snake as you may expose yourself to unnecessary danger. Snakes can still bite you hours after dying and, in any case, all Australian snakes are protected. Take a photo (from a safe distance) or remember the markings on the snake as this may assist with identification. If the snake is dead, take it with you. Otherwise, there is a blood or urine test that can identify whether your pet has been bitten and the type of snake that was responsible.

Once the snake has been identified, your veterinarian can administer antivenom. Animals also need to be hospitalised in order to receive intravenous fluids to protect their kidneys while they recover. The length of hospital stay will depend on the severity of the bite, but pets generally stay in for 4-5 days. Pet owners need to be aware that these procedures are quite expensive and may result in a hefty vet bill.

Most importantly, Ms Davis said, prevention is always better than cure. Pet owners should be alert to the risk of snakes and contact their vet immediately if they even suspect their furry friend may have been bitten.

Media Contact
Jan Davis, CEO – RSPCA Tasmania
Email: jdavis@rspcatas.org.au
Mobile: 0409 004 228