Snake bites aren’t just a concern for humans in Australia. If you have pets, a snake bite could be fatal. And with Australia home to a vast amount of venomous snakes, it’s sensible to be prepared and do your homework on snake bites in animals.
Here we look at why dogs are worse affected than cats, the symptoms of snake bites, and what to do if your pet is bitten.
Are snake bites common in Australia?
Of course, your risk for encountering snakes does depend to some degree upon where you live. Your dog or cat is far less likely to get bitten by a snake if you live in a city apartment than in a house in a more rural area.
Still, snake bites are common reasons for vet visits. The most recent statistics we could find show over 6,000 pets were bitten by snakes per year.
Are snake bites fatal in dogs and cats?
Sadly, yes – snake bites can be fatal in both dogs and cats. And multiple fatalities are not as rare as you think. You can picture how it happens; two or three dogs or cats find a snake and investigate it, only to all be bitten in quick succession. And some highly poisonous snakes can kill a dog within an hour.
Research indicates dogs are twice as likely to die from a snake bite than cats. You might think it’d be the other way round, given cats are usually smaller and tend to hunt more than dogs. But in reality, dogs are more susceptible to snake venom than cats.
This is because dogs form blood clots much more quickly than cats and humans, so they’re particularly prone to serious effects from snake venom that causes clotting. Unfortunately, the brown snake’s venom does exactly that, and it’s the most commonly-seen cause of domestic pet bites in Australia.
It’s also because dogs tend to sniff things they’re curious about, so are more likely to get bitten on the face or neck – both areas that have lots of blood vessels. Cats tend to get bitten on the legs instead.
But there is some good news. If pets are treated promptly, survival rate is around 80%. They also recover from snake bites quite quickly, often within a couple of days. However, if left untreated, the outcome worsens quickly.
If your pet does get bitten by a snake, what are the most common symptoms? Let’s explore…
Symptoms of snake bites in pets
If you don’t actually see the snake bite happen, how do you know you need to rush your pet to the vet? Especially as reactions to snakes can vary dramatically depending on the type of snake, size and type of your pet, and more.
Here are some of the most common signs and symptoms of snake bites in animals:
- Tiredness and lethargy
- Muscle tremors or shakes
- Less blinking than usual and/or dilated pupils
- Muscle weakness, which can often be followed by collapse in dogs. They may appear to make a quick recovery straight after collapsing
- Unbalanced walk/movements
- Frothing at the mouth or excessive salivation
- Rapid breathing
- Loss of bladder and bowel control
- Bleeding from the mouth, nose, anus, or eyes
- Dark or bloody urine
Remember, you probably won’t be able to see the snake bite wound on your pet. They’re often very small and hard to see (even without fur getting in the way) and you won’t know whereabouts they were bitten.
What to do if your pet is bitten by a snake
If your pet is bitten by a snake, it’s considered an emergency. You should get to the vet as soon as possible, and call on your way to let them know you’ll be coming in as well. They’ll likely need to hospitalise your pet to monitor them. If they don’t have anti-venom, they should be able to tell you which vet does have it.
If your pet was seen with a snake and seems even slightly unwell, take them to the vet. Snake bites can progress very quickly, and getting prompt treatment is the single best thing you can do to maximise your dog or cat’s chances of full recovery.
If you did happen to see the snake, take a photo or try to remember what it looked like. This can help your vet treat your pet more effectively.
How to minimise the risk of snake bites
There’s no getting around the fact that Australia has snakes. So how can you minimise the risk of snake bites happening? It’s difficult, especially as you’re not always home to supervise your pets so can’t keep an eye on them 24/7.
The best thing you can do is make your living and garden areas less attractive to snakes. This means clearing any unkempt bushes, regularly cutting grass, and moving any piles of rubbish or rubble. This gives snakes fewer hiding spots.
If you walk your dog and they tend to chase things or run into bushes, use a leash. This is especially true if you’re walking them in bushland near water, or around beach dune areas.
Indoor cats are at much lower risk than other pets, but outdoor cats should be fitted with a bell or similar so snakes can hear them approaching and retreat. Remember, snakes generally only bite when they feel threatened. Read more about cat collars for advice on how to choose the right one.
Lastly, be aware if you see your dogs or cats stalking something, especially if there’s a lot of bird noise or other activity around the area. This could be a sign of a snake.
Pet insurance for all kinds of mishaps
Pet insurance can provide peace of mind that if you find your pet in the midst of a medical emergency, you can easily get quality treatment without having to think about it.
We offer three tiers of cover, all of which can be taken out online. So whether it’s snake bites, a cat fight, or just a routine visit to the vet, we’ve a policy to suit your needs.