SNAKE SEASON is well and truly upon us, with many of the reptiles slithering around looking for food, to breed and the best spot to catch some sun.
Unfortunately, their path might take them into your backyard, and according to the RSPCA, dogs will often try to chase or kill snakes resulting in bites, usually to the dog’s face and legs.
Cats, being hunters and chasing anything that moves, are also quite susceptible to snake bites.
Here are a few tips to try to minimise the attractiveness of your yard to snakes, how to keep your pets safe and what to do if they do get bitten.
Snakes are not social and will try to hide at any opportunity. They would rather get away from you and your pet rather than bite. So the first step is to eliminate the hiding places.
- Keep your grass (if you have any left) mowed short.
- Clean up rubbish piles (especially sheets of corrugated iron) and keep your wood pile away from the house.
- Put away toys and tools when you’ve finished with them.
- Don’t leave spilt food or seed out as it will attract rodents, which attract snakes.
- Keep pathways clear of leaf litter and overhanging shrubs.
- Keep cats indoors with access to a snake-proof enclosure.
- Investigate a snake-proof fence, although some snake catchers doubt their effectiveness.
- If you see a snake, call a snake catcher. Do not try to chase it or kill it (snakes are protected by law).
- When walking your dogs through bushy areas, keep them on a lead and don’t go in long grass
- If you prefer to let your dog off the lead, ensure they are trained to come when you call – well enough so that they will choose to return to you when confronted by a snake.
- Do not let your dog near a snake that you think is dead. It might not be, and even it if is, there may still be venom in the fangs.
- Do not let your dog investigate holes or go under rocks.
What to do if your pet is bitten
According to the RSPCA, signs of snake bite include:
- sudden weakness followed by collapse;
- shaking or twitching of the muscles and difficulty blinking;
- loss of bladder and bowel control;
- dilated pupils;
- blood in urine.
The signs can vary depending on the type of snake and how much venom was injected. If your pet is bitten, don’t waste time trying to identify the snake – take a quick photo if it is safe to do so, but don’t get too close, then get to the vet asap.
Don’t wash the wound or apply a tourniquet. The best you can do is try to keep them calm (which means you will need to stay calm too).
If you have a fair distance to go to the vet, you can apply a pressure bandage – a firm bandage over and around the bite site – to help slow the venom spreading to the heart.
Your vet will identify the venom through a blood test and administer the relevant antivenom. Recovery depends on many factors and could take weeks.
Antivenom and the subsequent vet bills will be expensive, not to mention the distress of seeing your pet suffering. It’s better to do everything you can to minimise the chance of a bite in the first place.