Snake envenomation


Snake envenomation signs.

If you suspect that your pet has had an interaction with a snake it is important to take it to the vets as soon as possible.

Prompt treatment will increase the survival rate and if caught early enough, may reduce the stay in hospital.

If possible an identification of the snake will help with the specific treatment i.e. Photo supplied to a Licensed snake catchers for an ID, photo of snake to vets. If a dead snake is found, taking the body to vets as well as your pet. (Extreme care must be taken as a snake can still envenomate if dead). DO NOT attempt to capture or kill the snake. (Please call a licensed insured professional). Venom detection tests may be performed and also blood clotting tests.

There is a wide variation in the time of envenomation to the onset of clinical signs.

In dogs: Vomiting, salivation, collapse followed by apparent recovery indicates a potentially lethal dose (not that the dog has recovered) and symptoms can take up to 24hours to show. Envenomations may have a diverse range of signs: vomiting (sometimes with blood), trembling, excitement, weakness, difficulty walking, coughing up blood, dilated pupils, increased shallow breathing, paralysis and death.

In cats: the signs maybe more vague: Weakness, wobbly on feet, lethargy, difficulty breathing or rapid breathing, crying out, dilated pupils, disorientation, paralysis, coma and death. Often tail movement is present despite the cat being paralysed.

Why take to the vets? Early identification and appropriate antivenom administration will give your pet the best chance of survival. If the antivenom is given early it has a better chance to “neutralise” the venom, before it has time to cause too much damage to your pet. Prompt administration of the appropriate dose of antivenom is essential to prevent the paralysing effects of the slower acting neurotoxin (Eastern Brown) which is not easily reversed once affected. The neurotoxin may last for days and increase the animal’s hospital stay and potential complications.

If envenomation is suspected the animal should be kept quiet and immobilised to delay the absorption of the venom and taken to the vet straight away. Ring the vet to tell them you are coming in so they can have the appropriate equipment prepared.