Snake season is usually from September to May. But sometimes snakes are earlier and sometimes they are later. There have been many, many sightings of snakes in the region already this year. Maldon Vet Clinic has already treated two pets for snake bite (both lived).
What snakes are found around here?
The poisonous snakes in Central Victoria are:
- Brown Snake,
- Tiger Snake,
- Black Snake (or Red-Bellied Black Snake)
- Copperhead Snake.
By far the most common snake in Maldon is the Brown Snake, but the other species have been found in Maldon and surrounds.
They are all deadly.
Which snake is it?
It is very difficult to tell the difference between the snakes. The Museum of Victoria has a fabulous display showing how there are variations of Brown Snake that look like Tiger Snake and vice versa. Colour alone cannot tell them all apart.
Confirmation of species requires counting the scales behind the eyes- clearly something for the snake experts only!
If in doubt, we use a multi- snake antivenom that covers all the poisonous snakes found in Victoria. There is also a Brown Snake only anti-venom available, if you can be 100% certain the snake was indeed a Brown Snake.
What’s in snake venom?
All the poisonous snakes of Central Victoria have variations of the same three toxin types:
- Myotoxin– causes muscle breakdown
- Neurotoxin– causes paralysis
- Anticoagulant– causes internal bleeding
All three toxins can be the cause of death to a pet.
What are the symptoms of snake bite in pets?
The symptoms of snake bite are variable: some pets show one sign, others another, some all of them! Initially there may be NO SYMPTOMS.
It can take up to 24 hours for symptoms to appear. Symptoms are not exclusive to snake bite.
- Initially may leap in air, vocalise, collapse, vomit, diarrhoea, or show nothing at all
- May seem to improve after some minutes and then act normally for up to 24 hours
- USUALLY progressive paralysis, often starting with weakness in the back legs
- May have dilated pupils (or not)
- May have pale gums (or not)
- May have trembling, vomiting, diarrhoea (or not)
- May have trouble breathing (or not)
- May have red or brown urine (or not)
- May have sudden death, or symptoms that develop slowly or rapidly
How do I know if my pet has been bitten by a snake?
It is sometimes difficult to determine whether or not a pet has been bitten by a snake.
If you suspect your pet has been bitten by a snake, phone your vet immediately. Symptoms may develop rapidly so prompt action is important.
In the absence of obvious symptoms, your vet can do some tests to aid determination that your pet has been bitten. These check for the toxins effect on your pet’s body. A venom detection kit is used in humans to determine if a snake has envenomed and which species of snake has bitten a person. Unfortunately, the snake detection kit is not only expensive and time- consuming, but it is not accurate in pets! We have had false negatives ( the kit said dogs had not been bitten, when they were), so we do not use it anymore.
Treatment for snake bite
Snake bite in pets needs prompt veterinary attention. There is antivenom available.
Once snake bite is diagnosed, your vet will administer medications including antivenom. The amount of antivenom required depends on the amount of venom the snake has injected. Treatment will require hospitalisation, often for many days, with intensive care. Snake venom is hard on the kidneys, so intravenous fluids are important. Antivenom is very expensive. Most pets can be saved with prompt and unfortunately, not all our pets will recover.
There is a suggestion that high doses of injectable Vitamin C can be used as first aid in snake bite. There is no evidence either way, although a 2017 study in rats found some reduction in oxidative damage to liver and kidneys if used in conjunction with antivenom. Maldon Vet Clinic uses Vitamin C as well as antivenom, just in case it will help, but the mainstay of snakebite treatment is antivenom.
NB Anecdotal evidence that Vitamin C has worked to save a pet might be because sometimes snakes bite without injecting venom (dry bite). Always call the vet!
How to avoid snake bite in pets
Most snakes will avoid contact with dogs and cats if they can. However, pets hunting and playing with snakes can lead to fatal consequences.
To avoid snakes:
- Clear long grass and piles of rubbish/branches in your pet’s garden.
- Walk your pet in cleared areas , away from long grass and waterways.
- Always keep your dog on a lead.
- Consider a snake proof pen for your pet, or keeping them inside when not on a lead.
The use of “snake repellers” that cause vibrations is controversial. Many now believe they have minimal use.
What to do if you see a snake
If you see a snake: Stay away from the snake, walk or run away if necessary. Keep yourself, your pets and children far away from the snake. Do not approach the snake.
All snakes are protected . If you see a snake in the bush, leave it alone and walk away. That is their home. If it is close to your home, call a registered snake catcher, who will catch and relocate the snake.
Chris 0423 627 145 – Bendigo and surrounds
Adam 0431 874 523 – Muckleford and surrounds
Jason 0407 723 239 – Castlemaine and surrounds
George 0428 195 941 – Bendigo, within 40km