Even in suburban regions, snakes can make their way into backyards during the spring and summer. Snakes become very active at this time of year, after remaining dormant during the cooler months, coming out to hunt, feed, find water, and to mate. Due to modern suburban sprawl, this frequently results in snakes finding their way into residential areas.
Pets (especially cats and dogs) are naturally curious, and in the presence of poisonous snakes, this can spell disaster. Every pet owner needs to be able to recognise the signs of snakebite in their pet, and to safeguard their pets as best they can from snakes in their domain.
How Can I Protect My Pet from Snakes?
Snakes are generally timid creatures which will avoid confrontation with humans or other animals wherever they can. Bites only usually occur if the snake is feeling threatened, has been hurt, provoked, or cornered. Never try to kill or catch a snake.
Snakes seek out food, water, and safe and secure places to hide. Remove the appeal of your property to snakes by clearing rubbish, keeping the lawn mowed and gardens tidy, and removing any attractive hiding places like wood piles. If snakes are common in your area (for example, you live adjacent to a creek or pond), consider snake-proof fencing or solar powered snake repellent devices. They aren’t foolproof, but they can help.
Pets can’t really be trained to stay away from snakes. You need to keep your pets away from snakes as much as possible. Keep cats inside. If you’re walking your dog in bushland areas, keep him on a leash, on the trail, and away from long grass and scrub.
How Do I Know if my Pet Has Been Bitten?
The signs of snakebite depend very much on the type of snake involved, and a bite earlier in the snake season will often be more severe, as venom glands are fuller at this time of year.
Most domestic pets which are bitten are bitten by brown snakes or tiger snakes – these snakes are more aggressive and their bites can be fatal.
Signs of bite include:
• Sudden weakness and collapse
• Twitching or shaking
• Dilated pupils
• Blood in the urine
What Should I Do if I Suspect My Pet Has Been Bitten?
Keep your pet calm and still, and get them to a vet immediately. Early treatment is critical to survival and recovery. If you know the location of the bite site, apply a compression bandage. Never wash the area or use a tourniquet. Never try to kill or catch the snake – it will retreat – but if you can identify it, this will be helpful to the vet.
Anti-venom, if delivered in time, can be life-saving – but it is expensive. Prevention is ALWAYS better than cure.
If you have a snake in your yard, keep away from it, but keep an eye on it. Call your local council for the number of a local snake catcher who will, provided the snake is on your property, come and safely relocate it.