I think my dog has been bitten by a snake?! Unfortunately this is a common cry at this time of year. Some pets get unlucky and chance upon a snake and end up bitten “accidentally”. However, most bites occur when pet's are actively hunting snakes and get the full venom dose, sometimes with multiple bites while attacking snakes. Both of my dogs Foxy and Epponnee have been bitten 3 times needing anti-venom. At our practice in Greenbank I have positively identified several different venomous snakes biting then being killed by pet's including Eastern Browns, Red Belly Blacks, Yellow Spotted Blue Belly Black Snakes, Yellow Whip Snakes, Black Whip snakes, and one Taipan.
Symptoms and guidelines for treatment.
An easy rule is that is if you suspect at all, for any reason, that your pet may have been bitten by a snake, call your vet and immediately and as calmly as possible take your pet to the vet. Time is critical. Once pet's start to show symptoms of snake envenomation the clock is certainly ticking and the best time to treat them is before symptoms start.
The type and severity of symptoms of envenomation is influenced by the type of snake, size of pet bitten, time of year, amount of snake agitation prior to the bite, where the pet is bitten, how active the pet is afterwards and amount of hair on the pet to act as some protection.
Symptoms may start with initial excitation, even brief seizure style episodes (brown snakes especially) which may subside over 30 minutes, returning to normal only to become progressively paralysed over the following few to several hours. Sudden collapse and death may occur. Whip snake may leave a bite site reaction for a few days of soreness and swelling. Taipans, browns and black snakes may not leave swelling or any visible bite mark. Lethargy transitioning to weakness and paralysis and suffocation especially from browns, taipans and black snakes can occur. Blood clotting problems causing bleeding, bruising and bloody urine are common. Organ failure can occur up to a week later causing death.
It can be very difficult to say definitively if a pet has or hasn't been bitten on symptoms alone. We can do blood testing to diagnose if your pet has been bitten by a snake, which also tells us what type of snake and which antivenom to use. If treated early enough most snake bite cases go home happily a few days later. If in doubt get them checked out.