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Snakes & Domestic Pets

Pets regularly come into contact with Snakes, unfortunately it is not always in the best circumstances and can result in a snake bite. It is important to know what to do if your pet is bitten by a snake and how to prevent this from happening if possible.

If your dog or cat receives a snake bite, the best treatment is similar to that of a human:

  • Compression Bandage: The use of a compression bandage is paramount; beginning at the bite site and continuing down the limb and then back to the top.
  • Lock out the joints and bandage as firmly as that for a sprain.
  • Splint the limb: A Splint is recommended to prevent peristaltic return; venom is transported around the body through the lymphatic system not the blood stream. This is controlled by muscle movement, the use of a compression bandage and a splint reduces muscle movement and slows the progression of the venom.
  • Remain calm and keep the patient still.
  • Carry patient to the car and get to the vet as soon as possible.
  • Application of ice packs can be an advantage to slow muscle movement and subsequent transportation of venom through the lymphatic system.
  • There have been cases of the administering of Vitamin C in dogs; according to a leading Venom Researcher of Melbourne University Vitamin C has no effect on Snake envenomation. It is recommended by CSL limited (the company which manufactures and supplies anti-venom and Snake Venom Detection Kits) that patients are placed on an IV hydration drip as soon as possible to assist in flushing out the kidneys; particularly in cases of Brown Snake Bite.

Please Note: this should never be attempted by an inexperienced person and is only recommended to be applied by qualified persons. This type of treatment should never be applied to humans unless by a health care professional.

Interestingly enough if anti-venom is administered an average of 91% of cats survive snake bite compared to 75% of dogs. If anti-venom is not administered only 66% of cats survive and 31% of dogs.

Of course the best treatment for Snake Bite is prevention in the first place. This can be achieved by the following methods:

  • Solid Fence Lines: this is by far the first line of defence. A good solid fence constructed of either colourbond or wood which is all the way to the ground with no gaps beneath or in between palings is recommended. If gaps are prevalent, fill these with solid compacted dirt, or mortar. Another option is the application of a 5mm gauge mesh called 'Snake and Mouse Mesh' which is available from most leading hardware stores. If this mesh is surrounding the property is adequately installed and is able to be dug into the ground approximately 3-5cm large snakes will not be able to penetrate through.
  • Short Grass: snakes travel through long grass hunting for food and adequate hiding spots. Keeping grass short will remove the hiding places for snakes to move through.
  • Sensible Gardens: Snakes will hide in overgrown gardens and ground hugging plants where their food also often can be found. Removal of these types of plants removes the places snakes can hide.
  • Remove Excess Rubbish: Left over building materials, sheets of tin, old plant pots, rubbish piles and wood piles are great places for snakes and their food to hide.
  • Bait for Rodents: This removes a food source of most larger Australian Venomous Snakes. Snakes such as Brown Snakes (all types) and large Tiger Snakes will be attracted to Mice and Rats. Laying Baits or setting traps for these is essential. Bear in mind that these should be set well away from where a pet may be able to get into and digest any baits. Most commercially available baits do not affect any animal which digests the target species, i.e. if a dog eats a baited rat the dog shouldnt be affected by the bait. Check the label or with the manufacturer prior to laying baits.
  • Snake Deterrents: There are a lot of products on the market which claim to deter snakes. To date these have shown limited to no effect on dettering snakes. Snakes have no ears and only feel limited vibrations so any sound emitting device could not work. Some trials have been done on scents and in a lot of cases these do not work at all. Use of Naphthalene, Lavender Oil, Diesel and similar items are old wives tails and have limited or no effect.

Around Dog Runs or Kennels:

  • Keep water bowls elevated off the ground
  • Build kennels directly on the ground with no gaps where a snake could potentially get underneath; alternatively have kennels elevated at least 15cm off the ground. Snakes prefer very small spaces to hide in; keeping kennels this far from the ground will reduce the chances of snakes wanting to stay beneath the kennel.
  • Remove any uneaten food; this will reduce the chances of inviting rodents in.
  • Remove any rubbish from inside runs or surrounding areas
  • Dont keep any wood piles near dog runs
  • Store foods in airtight rodent proof containers
  • Use solid floors in runs such as concrete and have these raised up along the sides as well, around two bricks high. This will stop any rodents from entering runs as well as snakes down low.
  • Attach snake and mouse mesh to the outside of existing mesh walls. Try to dig this in approximately 3 - 5cm. Snakes will look for the easiest way through something. If they come across a solid barrier and have no reason to go over it, they will go around.

Keep in mind that snakes will only stay in an area if there is ample food, water and shelter. Snakes do unfortunately bite domestic pets, however this is usually under duress, i.e. if a dog is harassing it, a cat is playing with it, it is stood on by a horse/sheep/goat or cattle. The most common place a dog is bitten is on the nose; larger animals on the leg as they accidentally stand on them in the paddocks.

It is quite common for an unexplained animal death to be blamed on a snake; this is not always the case and without a blood test being run specifically to detect snake bite, it is impractical and illogical to assume it is a snake bite.