Snake bite symptoms in dogs
Snake bite symptoms in dogs
Published in October 2022
Snake bite symptoms in dogs: What to do if your dog is bitten by a snake
The start of spring means that in many parts of Australia snakes are waking up and becoming active in our parks and gardens again. At this time of year, snake venom is considered to be more poisonous. It’s important to be able to identify snake bite symptoms in dogs, before it’s too late.
Before you take your dog for a walk, take a moment to stop and think. What can you do to protect your dog from a snake bite? And what should you do if your dog is bitten by a snake?
Common brown and king brown snakes are responsible for most snake bites across Australia. It’s estimated that anywhere between 6,000 and 60,000 dogs get bitten by snakes each year in Australia.
While we know that wearing strong shoes and long pants can help keep us safe from a snake bite, our curious dogs have no such safeguards. Noses down, they scamper after any rustling sound, and chase through the undergrowth after any interesting scent. It’s little wonder so many dogs get bitten around their mouths and noses.
Read on to find out:
- How to prevent snake bites on dogs
- What does a snake bite on a dog look like?
- Snake bite symptoms in dogs
- Pet first aid practices and what to have in your dog first aid kit
- Cost of snake bite anti-venom, and
- How long will a dog live after a snake bite.
How to prevent snake bites on dogs
The best place to start is with your own backyard. Clear away thick undergrowth or long grass around your home. Snakes are attracted to mice and rats, so keep rodents away from your property by covering up the compost heap and keeping chicken feed in a storage bin.
When walking your dog in summer keep it on a leash, especially around long grass or near waterways where there are lots of frogs. If your dog starts to bark, or wants to chase something, be on guard.
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How to tell if your dog has been bitten by a snake
It’s important how to know if your dog has been bitten by a snake. In some cases, the behavioural signs of a dog bitten by a snake will be fairly evident, but oftentimes it won’t be immediately apparent.
It’s hard to know if your dog has been bitten by a snake. A dog might initially show no outward signs of pain, but symptoms can develop later, which can be too late.
What does a snake bite on a dog look like?
Usually, snake bites won’t be too painful in the beginning and the marks from the bite will often be tiny due to the size of the snake’s fangs being quite small. With the added hindrance of dog hair, it can be hard to identify venomous bites without evident swelling, bruising or irritation.
Snake bite symptoms in dogs
How long does it take for snake bite symptoms in dogs to appear? If you suspect a snake bite, be vigilant and get to a veterinary clinic as soon as possible. A dog bitten by snake may not seem affected by it for up to 24 hours, and even bites that appear mild could have a lethal dose of venom.
There are some dog snake bite symptoms to watch for. It’s important that if your dog has been in contact with a snake that it’s taken to a vet to be assessed, even if there are no symptoms. If you wait until your dog shows signs of symptoms, it may be too late.
Snake bite symptoms in dogs that may occur include:
- Salivation, drooling, frothing
- Weakness in the back legs, unsteadiness
- Dilated pupils
- Respiratory distress
- Bloody urine
- Continuous bleeding from the bite wound
- Paralysis leading to coma or respiratory system failure
Try to safely identify the snake to help the vet administer the correct anti-venom. The snake’s markings, colour and size will help you identify it. The symptoms your dog suffers are also a clue as to what type of snake was involved.
Vets have a swab test they can perform to help with identification, but it will make things faster if you already have the important details, and time is of the essence.
The two most common snake bites in Australia are from tiger and brown snakes. According to The Veterinarian journal, 76% of pet snake bites in Australia are from brown snakes, with most of the victims being dogs, while 13% are from tiger snake bites. Unfortunately, these are some of the most poisonous snakes.
These are the symptoms that you might observe in your pet from the venom of these snakes:
Tiger snake bite dog symptoms:
If your dog has been bitten by a tiger snake, you’ll probably notice it straight away. Your dog will become agitated and hyperactive. Shortly after that, the dog might collapse with its tongue hanging out and laboured breathing.
Venomous snakes like tiger snakes can kill your dog very quickly if it doesn’t receive immediate veterinary attention and treatment.
Dog bitten by brown snake:
Brown snake bite symptoms in dogs usually take a while to present, so it’s important to know this dog snake bite timeline. The venomous bite of a spotted brown snake or brown snake is slower acting than a tiger snake, so you won’t usually see an immediate reaction from your pet.
Eventually, you’ll notice signs of progressive paralysis starting in the hind legs. The paralysis will take over. Then your dog’s tongue will hang out, it might froth at the mouth, and it will become lethargic.
Red belly black snake bite dog symptoms:
Despite not being particularly deadly to humans, red-belly black snake envenomation can cause a range of health issues that can result in the need for a blood transfusion, and even be lethal to a dog.
Unlike many other venomous snakes, the red-belly black snake will usually cause a visible puncture wound, which will likely become swollen, red, painful and may be leaking serum. Discoloured red or brown urine is a sign of envenomation. Other common symptoms to watch for are vomiting, diarrhoea, lethargy, increased thirst, and weakness.
How long after a snake bite will a dog die?
How long will a dog live after a snake bite? That will all depend on the type of snake that bit the dog and how quickly you can get veterinary assistance. It’s important to get to the vet immediately if you think your dog has been bitten by a snake. If left untreated, your dog can decline rapidly.
While the signs of envenomation (when venom is injected) might not be visible at first, depending on the type of snake bite and the amount of venom injected, your dog could die within 30 minutes to two hours.
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Pet first aid
If you call your vet immediately, they’ll be able to prepare for your arrival and have anti-venom ready to treat snake bites. As time is critical, these are some things you can do to help your dog’s chances of survival while you are travelling to the vet surgery:
- Don’t wash the bite wounds or apply a tourniquet.
- If the dog has been bitten by a snake on a limb, apply a pressure immobilisation bandage. Be careful not to bind the bite site too tightly or you’ll impede the blood flow.
- If the dog has been bitten by the snake on its body or head, apply pressure with your hand. Be careful to not impede the flow of blood or oxygen with too much pressure.
- Don’t let your dog walk. You must carry your pet to slow the flow of the snake venom.
- If the dog stops breathing on the way to the vet, try nose-to-mouth resuscitation.
It’s a good idea to have a dog first aid kit prepared in case of emergencies, and ensure you include pressure bandages and a blanket to keep them warm and calm.
How much does snake bite anti-venom cost?
Snake bite anti-venom can be very expensive. It usually ranges in price from between 4300 to $1,000 per vial but can cost as much as $2,000. The overall price will also depend on how many vials are needed to treat your pet.
While it’s the only cure for a snake bite, its success depends on how long it’s been since your dog was bitten by the snake. Before administering the snake bite anti-venom, the vet will examine your dog and advise you on the chances of your dog’s survival. After treatment, your dog will hopefully recover within 48 hours.
To find a quality veterinary clinic in your area, a Yellow Pages listed local vet can help.