Summer is when snakes become active and are more likely to come into contact with your pet. Murdoch University vet, Dr Katrin Swindells has issued some valuable tips on how to keep your pet safe during snake season.
1. Snakeproof your property
2. Keep your pets away from snakes
If you have a cat, try to keep it inside or in an outdoor enclosure, which is becoming increasingly common. If you have a dog, try to keep it on a leash when you’re walking. If this isn’t possible, pay close attention to the area you are walking through. Keep your dog close to you if you are walking through long grass, you’re walking around lakes or dams that have a lot of frogs, or you’re in an area known to have a lot of snakes. Pay attention if your dog starts to bark at something, or if your dog or cat starts to chase something.
3. Act immediately – don’t wait for symptoms
If your dog or cat has been in contact with a snake, take it to your vet to be assessed immediately. Unlike when people are bitten by snakes, your pet may not show any obvious signs of snakebite. They might not be in pain and the bite may not be visible at all, r may look like a minor scratch. Symptoms of envenom nation can take less than an hour to show, and by that time it may be too late – so get help straight away. Some envenomated animals may take 12-24 hours to show signs.
4. Watch for unusual behaviour
While many snakebites can initially go undetected, your dog or cat may show some symptoms if they were bitten by a highly venomous snake. Some pets will show symptoms known as pre-paraletic signs such as periods of wobbliness, collapsing, inappropriate urination or defacation or vomiting. Get them to your vet or emergency centre immediately.
5. Try to identify the snake, but don’t kill it!
If the snake is dead, take it to the vet with you to help your vet determine the right kind of anti-venom to treat your pet. If you don’t know what kind of snake may have bitten your pet, your vet can run tests. If the snake is still alive, don’t kill it. This is illegal, and puts your own safety at risk at a time when your pet needs your full attention.
6. Know basic pet first aid
The most important thing to do if your dog or cat has been bitten by a snake is to get them to a vet immediately. In some cases, your dog or cat may stop breathing before you arrive at your vet or emergency centre – so you may need to perform mouth-to-nose resuscitation on the way. Don’t use pressure bandages on your pet. While humans are often bitten on their limbs, animals are usually bitten around their head, neck, shoulders and chest – so any type of pressure bandage could interfere with their breathing.
7. Be prepared for emergencies
If your dog or cat is bitten by a snake, treatments using anti venom from your vet could be life saving. Anti venom can be costly, ranging from around $300 up to $2,000 for each vial depending on the type. Unfortunately, sometimes the cost of anti-venom means that not all owners can afford to get the treatment their dog or cat needs – but having an emergency plan for your pet, such as pet insurance, could make all the difference.