Sunning snakes a threat to pets

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Spring has well and truly sprung—and as the warmer weather and drier conditions lure snakes out of their winter hibernation, the Australian Veterinary Association (AVA) is urging pet owners to take precautions to prevent deadly encounters with these slithery reptiles.

AVA president, Dr Robert Johnson, said that while snakes tend to be most active—and most likely to attack—at the end of the day, people should remain vigilant at all times.

“Outside, keep a close eye for snakes in bushy areas or near water. It’s best to try to keep horses, cattle and sheep away from bushy areas if possible,” advised Dr Johnson.

“Dog owners should avoid snake-prone areas, particularly if they are walking their dog at the end of the day. Snakes can also venture into backyards—and over the spring and summer months, even city dogs and cats can be at risk.”

Sheds are another magnet for snakes, said Dr Johnson. “Snakes in sheds are probably looking for mice or rats, so keeping your shed clean can help to avoid this problem. They tend to be attracted to areas where there’s a good supply of rats and mice, wood piles and piles of rubbish.”

Dr Johnson said it is important for animal owners to recognise the signs of a snake bite are as they may not actually see their pet being bitten. The onset of signs in dogs is generally faster than it is for cats, and include:

  • Sudden weakness followed by collapse
  • Bleeding puncture wound
  • Swelling in the bitten area
  • Pain and discomfort
  • Neurological signs such as twitching, drooling and shaking
  • Vomiting
  • Loss of bladder and bowel control
  • Dilated pupils
  • Paralysis

“Horses, sheep and cattle are also susceptible to snake venom,” said Dr Johnson adding that symptoms include muscle tremor, laboured breathing and dilated pupils followed by paralysis.

“If you think your animal has been bitten, contact your vet immediately,” urged Dr Johnson.

“The chances of recovery are much greater if treatment is delivered early. If you can’t get veterinary attention immediately, applying a pressure bandage over and around the bite site can help slow the venom spreading to the heart—and try to keep your pet as calm as possible.”

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