- Pets should be kept as quiet as possible and veterinary attention sought immediately – even if your pet appears to have recovered from signs or be showing no signs.
- If your animal sustains a bite to a limb, a firm crepe bandage can be applied, along with a splint, to immobilize the limb and reduce circulation of the venom.
- Do not attempt to pick up the snake – even if it appears dead. Snake bite identification should be left to professionals. Snakes that appear dead may be alive and capable of striking, and it is possible to be envenomated by a dead snake if the fangs lacerate your skin during handling.
Onset of signs is usually within minutes but can be up to 25 hours after a bite. Animals that are bitten should be observed closely for at least 25 hours.
- Puncture wounds and bruising at the bite site (often very difficult to locate)
- Swelling of the face and head
- Weakness (paresis) which may manifest as a wobbly gait, particularly in the hindlimbs
- Depression (affected animals may become quiet and withdrawn) and disorientation
- Pupil dilation (mydriasis) – the pupils may become fixed
- Excessive salivation
- Vomiting (occasionally with blood)
- Blood in the urine
- Labored breathing
- Coughing (some animals may cough up blood)
- Pale to bluish gums
- Animals may show transient signs, such as collapse or vomiting immediately after a bite, followed by apparent recovery. Veterinary attention must be sought as these “pre-paralytic signs” indicate that the animal has received a potentially fatal dose of venom.
EFFECTS OF TOXICITY
Snake venom contains toxic substances that affect muscle and nerve tissue and the ability to clot blood.
Antivenom is available and may be administered by a veterinarian once the type of snake involved is ascertained. Envenomation test kits may be required. In severe cases, multiple doses of antivenom may be required, especially when bites are inflicted by brown snakes, tiger snakes and taipans. Additional supportive care may include hospitalization, intravenous fluids, antihistamines, adrenalin, antibiotics, oxygen and in many cases ventilation to facilitate breathing until the animal recovers.
Best P (1998) Snake envenomation of companion animals. Conference Proceedings “Toxicology” Post Graduate Foundation in Veterinary Science: University of Sydney.
Heller J, Mellor DJ, Hodgson JL, Reid SWJ, Hodgson DR and Bosward KL (2007) Elapid snake envenomation in dogs in New South Wales: a review. Australian Veterinary Journal 85(11):469-479.