As the weather heats up and the days get longer there are a number of things responsible pet owners should be thinking about to keep their pets safe over summer. A big one is snakes. Every year in Australia, over six thousand pets are bitten by a snake. Normally, snakes will go out of their way to avoid you, and if you spot one, it’s best to lead your dog or cat away if you can.
However, dogs and cats are usually curious by nature. A lot also have natural hunting instincts that will cause them to go after a snake rather than avoid it. That is why it is best to take precautions to stop you having to pull your pet away from a snake in the first place.
When you’re in the park during snake season – especially if it’s near water or a good food source, keep your dog on the lead so you can control them. At home, keep your garden areas tidy by clearing undergrowth, filling in holes, mowing the lawn and clearing away all the toys and tools that make great hiding places for snakes. It’s also a good idea to store firewood away from the house. If you’ve got a food source that attracts rodents, it will also attract snakes, so clean up any spilled food or uneaten pet food.
If your pet does get bitten, try and keep them as still as possible and get them to a vet as quickly as you can. The sooner they are treated with antivenom, the more likely they are to survive. Do not try and capture the snake or kill it, but do try to remember what the snake looks like if you see it as this can help your veterinarian a lot in treating your pet.
However, snakes can vary in pattern and colour a lot – so much so that sometimes even experienced handlers have trouble being sure what type of snake they’re looking at. So don’t put yourself or anyone else at risk trying to get a better look at a snake. It’s more important to get your pet in front of a veterinarian as quickly as possible.
Of course, your pet may come across a snake when you’re not there, so it’s important to know how to recognise if your pet has been bitten. Snake venom can cause your pet to vomit, shake or be suddenly weak. It can also initially present as something as apparently minor as dilated pupils. If at any stage during summer you notice any of these symptoms in your pet, if they start behave strangely or appear unwell, it's important to have them checked for a snakebite right away.
Don’t think of this as an overreaction. Snake bite injuries in cats and dogs are surprisingly common in Australia, whether you live in the inner city, in the suburbs or out in the bush. If you are in doubt, it is always better to get your pet checked.
If they have been bitten, time is a factor in determining whether they will survive, so get them to a vet as quickly as possible. Your vet will run a test that can rule snakebite in or out right away and it is better to be safe than sorry.