During the warmer months of the year, snake bites are a fairly common occurrence in Perth. Pet owners need to be especially careful if they live or walk their dogs in areas near bushland. Keeping dogs on a lead whilst walking through the bush, keeping the grass in your yard mowed and ensuring that debris is removed to reduce hiding places in your yard are just some steps that can be taken to reduce the chance of your pet becoming envenomated.
Clinical signs of envenomation include collapse, vomiting, difficulty breathing, and progressive paralysis commonly recognised as weakness of the legs progressing to an inability to walk. In some instances, an animal may collapse then recover within minutes only to deteriorate again within the next hour. The onset of paralysis and death can be rapid in some cases. Always phone ahead to your regular veterinarian to confirm they stock antivenom and are able to see your pet immediately. Antivenom is commonly stocked in vet hospitals which routinely treat snake bite but you should always call first to ensure that antivenom is available and that your local vets are available to see your pet immediately.
If you suspect your dog or cat may have been bitten by a snake, immediately restrain your pet and stop them from running around as this hastens the spread of venom around the body. Once restrained, get your pet into the car and immediately make your way to the vet hospital. Do not wait for your pet to develop more advanced signs before bringing them to us, as paralysis and cardiac arrest can progress rapidly. When possible 2 adults should be in the car during transport.
If your pet stops breathing during transport to us, immediately apply mouth to nose resuscitation. Place a hand around your pets mouth to keep it closed. Place your mouth around its nose and ensure there is a good seal. Blow down the nose until you notice the chest rise following which you may release the seal. Continue providing a mouth to nose breath every 10 seconds until you arrive at the hospital.
Early recognition and treatment of snake bites prior to development of complications generally results in a very good outcome with most animals being discharged from hospital within 12-48hours. Delays in seeking treatment or development of complications results in a more prolonged stay in hospital and in some cases, can result in death. WAVES emergency service has stocks of anti-venom and the ability to provide critical care including life support (ventilation) to pets with severe envenomations.
If you require advice about snake envenomations or suspect your pet may have been envenomated or are unsure as to the symptoms, please call your regular veterinarian immediately or WAVES on 9412 5700 for advice.