Summer is now officially over, but while the warm weather lingers so will snakes. The majority of pet snake bite cases occur on days that are over 20°C and most commonly between August to April, as snakes are more active during the warmer months and days. Snake bites occurring in August and September are often the most severe due to their venom being extra potent after waking from hibernation. However, it is wise to be cautious of snakes all year round, even during winter, as snakes will only fall into, and remain in, hibernation if the weather is cool enough… and they are extra grumpy when woken early.
While snakes aren’t naturally aggressive, snake bites in animals are more prevalent than in humans largely due to the different instinctual reactions when a snake is found. Dogs are very inquisitive and playful, so they will often stick their snout into dangerous areas and give chase to a fleeing snake, making the most common bite locations on their face and legs. Dogs are also extra vulnerable to snake bites as they are often bitten multiple times due to their playful nature. Whereas cats have a hunter instinct and will likely want to pounce on anything that moves, especially with the movement of a snake being reminiscent of common cat toys.
The best way to avoid your pets being bitten by snakes is to be extra careful and mindful of your pets in areas where snakes are commonly found, such as: parks, long grass, under rocks and fallen logs, anywhere near water bodies (including garden ponds), under your house, in the garden shed, and anywhere dark, secluded and warm. Also, you should always ensure that your dog is on a leash when going for a walk so that you will be able to restrain them if a snake crosses your path.
In Victoria, the most common snake bites are caused by Tiger Snakes, Brown Snakes and Red-Bellied Black Snakes. While it is good to know what type of snake has bitten your pet, it is not essential, as a snake venom detection kit can be used to determine the venom type. So never take any risks trying to catch the snake, but if the snake is already dead then it is good to take it with you to the vet. If you do come across a snake at home, it’s best to leave the snake where you found it and close any doors or gates if possible to block it in and then call a professional snake catcher or wildlife carer to remove it.
If you ever suspect your pet has been bitten by a snake then the best thing to do is keep yourself and your pet calm and act quickly, as time is of the essence and there is a higher chance of recovery if treated early. It’s also best to carry your pet if possible, as walking will increase venom circulation. Early signs that can appear within minutes after a snake bite are acute vomiting, diarrhoea and becoming weak and wobbly on their feet and potentially collapsing. These early signs are often followed by an apparent quick recovery, but it is still essential to seek medical care as quickly as possible as they can deteriorate rapidly after this stage. Other signs are red urine, bleeding from gums and mouth, salivating, dilated pupils and paralysis. Note that animals that have been bitten by snakes do not suffer from a lack of appetite or any swelling or necrosis like they may with spider bites, so do not expect these signs.
Animal Accident & Emergency have two 24 hour emergency centres in Essendon and Point Cook that are fully equipped with state-of-the-art technology to treat all emergencies right across Melbourne. Antivenom is always kept on the premises and our experienced team of emergency vets and nurses are always at the ready to care for your pets.
In case of a snake bite or any emergency, please phone Animal Accident & Emergency:
Essendon Fields (03) 9379 0700
Point Cook (03) 8368 7400
We’re always open, We always CARE