Waking snakes a danger to pets

November 8, 2012

The Murdoch University Veterinary Hospital has reported several incidents of pets suffering snake bites due to warming weather and days above 30 degrees.

Still extremely early in the season, the hospital has treated attacks on six dogs and three cats – compared to 22 dogs and 11 cats for all of last summer.

Dr Melissa Claus of the Murdoch Pet Emergency Centre (MPEC) said owners should be on the lookout for snakes and be aware of symptoms and emergency responses.

“Snake bites are relatively common summertime emergencies that can be fatal. The potency of the venom is highest during the warmest months of the season. This and factors such as the length of bite really dictate how severe your pet’s reaction will be,” Dr Claus said.

“We encourage anyone who suspects their pet has come into contact with a snake to take them to a veterinarian immediately. In most cases, bites are difficult to detect and don’t show overt swelling or bleeding.”

Dr Claus said the most immediate reactions to a bite were trembling, rapid breathing, vomiting, defecation, and/or collapse. Following some of these signs, the pupils may dilate and the animal’s gait will become clumsy as the legs become progressively weaker.

If the dose of venom is large enough, complete paralysis will occur, followed by death if untreated with anti-venom.

“If treated immediately, pets have a good chance of survival and recovery. The best course of action is to keep your pet as calm and still as possible and get them to help,” Dr Claus said.

“In more severe cases, we’ve had to put pets on life support in the Intensive Care Unit until they were strong enough to breathe on their own again.”

Owners are urged to keep their pets on a leash in areas such as dunes, long grass, bushland, and along rivers.

“Keeping your property well maintained – trimming long grass and avoiding clutter – can go along way to protecting the area in which pets spend most of their time. It also makes good sense for children and owners’ safety too,” Dr Claus said.

The most common types of bite in the Perth area for domestic pets are western brown snakes, dugites and tiger snakes.

Owners are advised not to try to capture snakes and to report any sightings in urban areas to their local council authority. Perth residents can contact the Department of Environment and Conservation snake removal service on WILDCARE 9474 9055.

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