Dr Innis discusses snake bites and pets

Tuesday, October 16, 2018 5:55 pm
Reading Time: 3 minutes

With summer right around the corner, we’re all very excited about the return of sunshine and warm weather. One thing we’re not so excited about is the return of snakes. As the cool weather of winter comes to an end, snakes become more and more active. So how can we make sure we don’t have an unpleasant encounter when walking our pets? And what do we do if there is a coming together?


Luckily for us, Dr Innis Cloete joins Mel and Jeziel on the regular to chat all things pets, and this week he was the full bottle on snake bites. Vet clinics all around Perth are beginning to record snake bites as snake season sets in. Being reptiles, snakes hibernate over winter, and wait until warmer weather before emerging. This is because they are cold blooded, and rely on the sun to warm themselves up.

Unfortunately enough, Australia is home to some of the most dangerous snakes around, and in Perth there’s two you need to keep an eye on. The Dugite and Tiger Snakes are extremely venomous, and can do serious damage to both humans and animals. Luckily, the aptly named Death Adder is confined mostly to the southern Stirling Ranges. More importantly, it pays to remember that snakes aren’t just bush-dwellers. While they do often prefer dense bush land with places to hide, they’re often found on school ovals, roads, and even inside houses.

Signs your pet has been bitten

While all pets are at risk, dogs are the most endangered, due to their natural inquisitiveness. Unfortunately, it’s almost impossible to visually identify a snake bite, however, most dogs are bitten on the face, as that’s the closest part to the snake while they’re sniffing around in the bushes. For the most part, the best way to tell if your pet has been bitten is to monitor their behaviour. Different snakes produce different venom, however there are some signs to look out for:

  • Unsteadiness
    • A snake bite can cause an animal to seem woozy or unsteady on their feet for a few minutes. However, this symptom often fades, and owners assume the animal was simply shocked. It’s extremely important to get your pet to your local vet if you notice this behaviour, particularly if it’s likely they have encountered a snake recently.
  • ¬†Difficulty breathing
  • Vomiting
  • Dilated pupils
  • Unresponsiveness

What to do if your pet has been bitten

If you think your pet has been bitten by a snake, the first step is obviously to get them to a vet as quickly as possible. Even if the animal has avoided the snake or suffered a “dry strike” (a bite with no venom), there’s no harm in getting a vet to look it over. Dr Innis also explained that when a snake bite patient is brought in, it’s often all hands on deck, therefore, it can be a huge help to let the clinic know beforehand. If you can call your vet to provide notice that you’re on your way with a snake bit victim, it can greatly enhance the chances of your pets survival.

Another helpful trick is to bring in a photo of the snake, or if you’re certain the snake is dead, even bring in the snake itself. Remember that snakes can play dead, so only approach the snake if you’re certain it’s dead, and use caution around all snakes at all times. Doing this can help the vet identify the snake, which makes it easier to administer an antivenom. Please note that ALL snake species are protected under Western Australian law, so under no circumstances should you kill a snake to bring it to the vet.

If you’re unable to get your pet to a vet straight away, you can attempt to administer CPR. To do this, cover or close your pets mouth and blow air through their nose.

For of Dr Innis’ the snake advice, check out the podcast below

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