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Snakes are out and about

September 19, 2011

Emergency Cats, Emergency Dogs

So spring has finally sprung and we have been enjoying very beautiful sunny weather. I absolutely love the warmer and hot weather but this season keeps us vets much too busy to enjoy sun bathing.

Last week, snake bite season begun. It is a bit early but we definitely encountered a few snake bites and a few very close calls.

Snakes are out and about slithering away and looking for food & new mates.

Our first close call was with our regular patients ‘Molly’ & ‘Teddy Bear’. Their owner was walking them in the bush and suddenly her two border collies were barking at this massive brown snake. She did not see it strike but was not 100% sure so she made an excellent call and brought them straight to the clinic for close observation. We monitored them closely for over an hour to ensure they are in the clear. They were both very lucky and had been spared a venomous bite.
Molly

Teddy Bear just enjoyed every bit of attention coming his way.

Teddy bear

I implore any person who has seen their pet in close contact with a snake to bring it straight into the closest vet clinic.

It is always better to be safe than sorry. Currently the snakes are quite venomous because they have just awoken from a long hibernation period and are ready to feed. Our first snake bitten patient, an 8-year-old kelpie, presented to us last Friday. The owners drove him straight down when they noticed he was wobbly and frothing at the mouth. He was aggressively treated and given two vials of antivenom and monitored intensely.

Unfortunately in spite of all our efforts, he did not pull through. Few hours later, we had a 4-year-old dalmatian brought in as she was seen salivating and acting funny and she was immediately treated and given antivenom and thankfully she survived. Today my colleague went out to a property to examine a miniature pony that was collapsed and she found it paralysed and before she could administer the antivenom, the poor little thing died.

The point I am trying to drill into you is if you notice your pet (cat, dog, horse, pony, donkey, cow or etc) walking like a drunk, salivating a lot or just acting funny, you must seek URGENT VET ATTENTION.

An animal usually presents with clinical signs of snake bite envenomation within half an hour of having been bitten but a few can take longer than that.  The animals can vomit right after being bitten then they start to salivate and get very uncoordinated, wobbly and collapse. They have dilated and non responsive pupils. The longer you wait around for the clinical signs to become more apparent, the higher the chances are that we can’t save your pet. Act fast and take your pet to the vet. You need to bear in mind that treating your pet will cost money. They require iv fluids, antivenom (very expensive) and intensive monitoring!

You can easily rack up a $1000 vet bill. Each vial of antivenom costs between $300-600 depending on the brand and the type (combined versus single-tiger/brown combo or tiger or brown alone). Some pets require more than one vial of anti-venom to save them.

If you can’t afford treating your pet then at least get them to the vet to be humanely put to sleep.

No one wants their pet to suffer a horrible agonising death and that is exactly what you are doing when you let your pet succumb to the fate of their snake bite!

Cats are one of the most interesting creatures when it comes to snake bites.

hugo clinic cat

Cats seem to have developed a coping strategy whereby they become very inactive after being bitten by a snake and slow down their metabolism to prevent the circulation of the anti-venom.

That is the reason we rarely get cats brought into the clinic when they have first been bitten unless they have been spotted playing with a live or dead snake. Cats love to parade their prey and they will often bring the snake home to show and tell. However most cats return home after having been bitten and isolate themselves and simply try to sleep it off. We usually get called by frantic owners who have just discovered their cats are paralyzed. We commonly refer to them as ‘plastic cats’ at the vet clinic.

The poor little fur balls can’t move a muscle and have lost their swallow reflex by the time they present to us. We always recommend starting them on IV fluids +/- antivenom based on the owners’ financial capabilities. I often find that without giving the antivenom, the owners end up paying the same amount of vet fees anyway because their cats require intensive hospitalization for a full week. This includes flipping the cats every few hours, lubricating their eyes, expressing their bladders and so forth. For those that get antivenom, they can respond very quickly and be discharged within a day or so.

Now the most popular question everyone wants answered:

‘What can I do to prevent snakes getting into my backyard?’

I do not have the answer to that and have done heaps of research that has proven there is no single method that will 100% guarantee that snakes will keep away. I  have clients that have used every product known to man that is meant to ward off snakes and unfortunately have still been unsuccessful at preventing their dogs being bitten or in close contact with snakes. There are a myriad of products available that range from natural products (aimed at emanating smells that deter snakes) to electronic snake repellers (vibrations the keep snakes away) and so forth.

A backyard that contains compost bins (rodents for snakes to predate on) and lots of plants allowing for shelter are major attractants. Keep you backyard tidy and regularly ensure your compost is not infested with any rodents and that can reduce the likelihood of a snake visiting your premises.

It is important for me to also impart that snakes are living creatures that are an important part of the Australian Natural fauna.

They deserve to be alive and are protected species. They are not out there to get you, if anything, they are more scared of us than we are of them! As the human population keeps multiplying and we take over more of the available habitat, we simply need to learn to share the environment with its native creatures. If you spot a snake, get your pets into the house, keep away from the snake yet track its movements and call wildlife so they can organise a snake catcher to safely relocate it. I am not asking you to cuddle the snake and make friends with it but you need to respect this glorious creature that has every right to co-exist with us.

Be alert, act fast and don’t panic if you encounter a snake. If your pet is exhibiting any of the symptoms discussed, drag it to the closest vet as this is a true emergency!

Every minute counts and I have lost patients to snake bites that I may have saved had they arrived a few minutes earlier…

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About Rayya

Hi I am Dr. Rayya. I created this site to take you on a journey of my life as a vet! I hope to inspire you, teach you, learn from you. Most importantly help pet owners and animals around the world by sharing pictures, videos and posts from my everyday experiences.

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20 Comments on “Snakes are out and about”

  1. Rosie Scribblah Says:

    oh my goodness. I can’t imagine what it must be like to live somewhere with deadly wildlife. The most deadly things around here are my cats! very interesting blog.

    Reply

    • Rayya The Vet Says:

      Hey Rosie…summer definitely keeps us on our toes and makes us worry about our pets. There is nothing worse than coming home to find you lost your pet or it is showing signs of snake bite.

      Reply

  2. becomingcliche Says:

    You had me hooked with the title alone. Another great post. We are fortunate to have only a small handful of venomous snakes where we live, and most of those are not deadly.

    Reply

  3. Misty Shores Chesapeakes Says:

    Great post!

    We only have one venomous snake here in Michigan and that is the Eastern Massasauga Rattlesnake but it is rare to see one. I love to look at snakes but when they slither by unexpected it does give me a fright 😉

    Reply

  4. Cowboy Says:

    Howdy Doc –

    Yep – springtime is one of the worst for snakes and curious dogs. Thankfully, here in the U.S., we’re heading into fall and winter so our snake season is close to ending for now.

    I was just wondering if there is any snakebite vaccines for dogs there in Australia? Or, would there need to be several vaccines for different snakes
    While not quite ad deadly as some of the snakes you have there, we do have several different types of rattlesnakes in every state here. The Vets in the areas that have the largest population of rattlers often advocate the use of Rattlesnake Vaccinations for the dogs. More about the vaccine at this link: http://rattlesnakevaccinefordogs.com/

    Also in the areas where Rattlesnakes are found frequently, many people are opting to do Rattlesnake Aversion Training fro their dogs which seems to work very well.
    More about the aversion training at this link: http://rattlesnaketraining.com/ and a video at this link: http://youtu.be/Kr7YN6vzghM

    Good post and something that every dog owner should take seriously ! Hopefully the snake bites will be less this year.

    Reply

    • Rayya The Vet Says:

      Cowboy, you never seize to amaze me with your wealth of knowledge…thank you so much for sharing the information about vaccinations against snakebites and aversion training…we don’t practice either and now I will be keen on finding out if it is a practical and viable option…we have too many types of lethal snakebites from brown snakes to tiger snakes to black aders… Glad your snake season is almost over…We have a couple of months ahead of us and crossing my fingers for few snake bite victims..

      Reply

      • Cowboy Says:

        Doc –

        As I thought back to watching the aversion training, – part of the recognition of danger for the dog came from hearing the rattle of the snake. Yet, the trainers also worked hard on the sight and smell of the snake which could be helpful there in Australia.
        Many of the snake aversion trainers are actually snake handlers so if there were any snake handlers there that had the time and desire to train dogs to avoid the the snakes by sight and smell, there might be many people willing to give it a try with their dog.

        The snake aversion training here may need to be more focused on the sight and smell. If the hunting of rattlesnakes here doesn’t diminish soon, the snake experts are saying many of the rattlers here may be evolving and changing the traditional rattle warning by staying silent until ready to strike – Possibly self preservation. Of course this is going to be more dangerous for not only the dogs but humans as well.

        I wonder about the vaccine for all the different kinds of snakes you have there – yet I also wonder of the vaccine could be utilized for a group of snakes – such as the vipers.
        I know many of the hospitals in the southern states and around the deserts here in the U.S, will administer a general anti-venom vaccine to a human when they’re unsure what type of snake bit them. Effective at least most of the time.

        Always interesting to see the differences in animal worlds from different countries. I’m sure many appreciate your informative blog and advice you offer.

      • Rayya The Vet Says:

        Thanks heaps Cowboy. I enjoyed reading all the links you attached and will definitely be researching both the training methods & vaccinations more thoroughly. My bosses and I had a great discussion about it and are very keen to see if we can apply this in Australia.

  5. Bassas Blog Says:

    Thank Rayya. I read your post and the comments with great interest. We were up in the forest a couple of weeks ago and saw a snake. Thankfully, it slithered off. We have several species of highly poisonous snakes here in the Republic of Georgia.

    Reply

    • Rayya The Vet Says:

      Bassa, sounds like you had a very close call with a snake. Thankfully it ended very well without anyone getting harmed. I guess we need to be prepared to bump into all types of wildlife including snakes when we are out and about in the bush or forrest 🙂

      Reply

  6. nicole Says:

    oh my goodness. rayya, as you know, i’m in the states, so our snakes are beginning to hibernate. i am very happy about this. last year was my first year of intense hiking with gwendolyn. we started around october and sadly ended in april when the weather became warmer. frankly, i’m scared of snakes and was scared of potential bites to gwendolyn . . . but i didn’t realise the potential extent of the resulting trauma. wow. i don’t believe we have too many poisonous snakes over here, but to me, a snake is a snake! (the reptile and human, haha!). another super informative post. thank you for it. http://www.nicoleandgwendolyn.com

    Reply

    • Rayya The Vet Says:

      Hey Nicole…Glad to hear your snakes are going to hibernation now. Thankgod your intense hiking trips with Gwendolyn did not include any contact with snakes. Even better now that you do know the extent of damage or even death that can occur post snake bite! You can’t live life being paranoid and avoiding hiking trips with Gwendolyn :-). However, it is important to be aware and act fast. Thank you for being one of my most dedicated readers 😉

      Reply

  7. Jodi Stone Says:

    Our season is coming to a close. Luckily for us we have only encountered (thus far) one garter snake which are non-venomous. I always worry about snakes with the dogs and now I know and would take them to the vet immediately! Thanks for the great advice Dr. Rayya!

    Reply

  8. ~marilyn Says:

    Hi Rayya:

    Glad you enjoyed my blog. I enjoy yours too.

    A question, please. I don’t know if your read my entry about the bush baby (I’m in LOVE), but would you be able to tell me whether a bush baby could live in a house like that in Canada, or would it be too hard on them when they couldn’t go out hunting at night like they do here?
    I’d sure like one to live withme like that but am thinking maybe my climate would make that impossible, but would like to know for sure.
    Thanks for any info . . .
    ~m

    Reply

    • Rayya The Vet Says:

      Hey marilyn…glad you dropped by…unfortunately I can’t answer your question off the cuff…I am interested in wildlife but there is heaps out there and so I will have to get back to you about your question…I will call a qualified wildlife carer and let you know soon… So hang onto that thought 🙂

      Reply

Trackbacks/Pingbacks

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    […] Snakes Are Snacking and wreaking havok on dogs and cats–know the signs and get them help! Great info from Raya-the-Vet’s blog. […]

  2. Monday Mentions: PUBSlush, Dolphin Tale & Birdbrain Video | AMY SHOJAI'S Bling, Bitches & Blood - April 27, 2015

    […] Snakes Are Snacking and wreaking havok on dogs and cats–know the signs and get them help! Great info from Raya-the-Vet’s blog. […]

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