AHVEC North Hobart After Hours Veterinary Emergency Centre

Snake envenomation

Snake bite is a real emergency for your pet

If you suspect your pet has been bitten by a snake you should immobilise your pet & try and keep him/her as quiet as possible.

It is vital that you take your pet to the vet clinic immediately. The sooner your pet is treated, the better their chances of survival.

Snake bite is deadly. However, with early treatment and antivenom therapy, the majority of dogs will survive a snake bite. Without treatment, most animals will die.

Animals usually die because they do not get antivenom quickly enough, or don’t get enough antivenom.

What to do if you think your pet has been bitten:

Get your pet to the vet ASAP

What to do on the way to the vet:

  • If possible, phone the clinic so they can prepare for your arrival and assist you
  • Remove the pets collar
  • Keep the pet quiet and calm
  • If you know where your pet has been bitten, immobilize the area and keep it lower than the heart. Apply a pressure bandage between the bite and the heart if possible.
  • If there is no heartbeat or pulse begin CPR (see separate flyer for pet CPR)

What not to do:

  • DO NOT allow your pet to walk
  • DO NOT cut the bitten area
  • DO NOT attempt to suck out the venom out of the bite
  • DO NOT apply a tourniquet
  • DO NOT “wait and see” if the symptoms get better – early treatment is vital to survival. Some animals collapse then appear to get better – they will deteriorate again and are likely to die without treatment.

Snake bite and pets

In the warmer months snakes become much more active. Pet owners need to be mindful of snakes &take measures to safe guard their pets from bites, as well as being aware of the symptoms should an animal be bitten. Dogs & cats, being inquisitive creatures, often try to chase or eat snakes, commonly resulting in bites to the face or legs. In warm weather, don’t allow your pet to wander in thick grass or scrub where snakes could be concealed. Ensure your dog is on a leash if you are bushwalking. Snakes are generally attracted to water sources or rockeries where lizards live, so keep these areas to a minimum around your property.

Snakes in Tasmania

There are three species of land snakes in Tasmania. They are: Tiger snake, Lowland Copperhead snakes & white-lipped snakes. Of the three, Tigers & Copperheads are the most venomous and are responsible for the majority of snake bites in domestic pets. The venom of a White-Lipped snakes is not as deadly. Tiger snake bites can also be fatal to humans, so take care of yourself too!

Remember, tiger snakes mainly live on frogs, so keep your pet away from wetlands during the warm part of the day. Copperheads also eat lizards.

Symptoms of snake bite

  • You may not find a bite wound, as they can be very small and not bleed, but if there are small puncture wounds on your pet, they may be red and swollen.
  • Sudden weakness followed by collapse
  • Loss of bladder or bowel control
  • Vomiting
  • Dilated pupils
  • Bleeding that does not clot
  • Neurological signs such as drooling, shaking or twitching of the muscles and difficulty blinking
  • Pain or distress (often characterized by groaning, crying, panting etc.)
  • Red coloured urine
  • Bleeding puncture wound