Snakes and pets don’t mix

CAUTION FIRST: The sort of reaction your pet has to a snake bite is determined by a number of factors: the type of snake, the amount of venom injected and the site of the snake bite.
CAUTION FIRST: The sort of reaction your pet has to a snake bite is determined by a number of factors: the type of snake, the amount of venom injected and the site of the snake bite.

Living in Australia means living with wild animals – many of which demand our caution. Snakes are some of the most common, and venomous ones are scattered throughout Australia – even in many of our backyards where our pets also reside.

To discourage snakes from hanging out in your backyard, keep the grass low and clear away rubbish and other places like wood piles where snakes could find a hiding spot.

Avoid attracting snakes by keeping your pet’s food and water bowls inside when your pet is also inside. You might even consider building a snake-proof fence around all or part of your property.

Be especially wary when walking your dog in bushland or near water during the warmer spring and summer months; keep your pet on a lead and avoid walking through areas with long grass.

Keeping cats indoors with access to a snake-proof outdoor enclosure is the best way to prevent them having unwanted encounters.

If you do find a snake in your backyard, stay away from it and don’t attempt to kill it, as this is how most people end up getting bitten.

Ensure your pets are kept well away from the snake, as both cats and dogs tend to want to chase and attack them, resulting in bites. The tiger and brown snake are responsible for most of the snake bites in domestic pets.

Snake bites can be fatal to pets, and knowing if your beloved companion has been bitten is crucial to getting the help your pet needs as soon as possible. Look out for sudden weakness followed by collapse; shaking and muscle twitching; vomiting; loss of bladder or bowel control; dilated pupils; paralysis and bloody urine.

If you think your pet has been bitten by a snake, keep them calm and quiet and rush them to a vet immediately. The chances of recovery are much greater if your pet is treated early; pets left untreated for a longer time have a much lower survival rate.

If your vet isn’t nearby, you can apply a pressure bandage over and around the bite site to help slow the venom spreading to the heart, but don’t wash the wound.

If you can identify the snake, tell your vet what type of snake it is - but don’t try to catch or kill it. If it is dead, bring the snake with you, otherwise there is a blood or urine test that can identify whether your animal has been bitten and the type of snake responsible. Once the snake has been identified, your vet can administer the correct antivenom.

When it comes to living with snakes, there’s no better approach than caution and prevention, and knowing what to look for if the worst does happen.

The RSPCA is a charity that relies upon donations to provide animal care and protection services.