After seeing our first possible snake bite case today (fortunately it doesn’t appear to have been bitten), I thought it would be a good time to let people know what to do if they are concerned their pet has been bitten by a snake, or find their pet with a snake.
My advice is simple. Get your pet to a vet.
Often your pet won’t show signs of envenomation at first. They may appear quite normal, then collapse quite suddenly as the venom takes effect. Once this collapse occurs, we often only have minutes to treat them, so they need to be in a place where they can get treatment rapidly.
So what are the classic signs of snake bites?
In dogs, the “classic” snake bite has the dog appear to rapidly collapse, then appear to recover. This is a major red flag that you need to get to a vet urgently, as the dog is likely to collapse again very soon and they rarely recover from this without treatment.
In cats, they may have a similar appearance to dogs, or they may appear quite “floppy”.
If we have a client phone us unsure if their pet has been bitten, we will normally ask them to bring the pet straight down. When we examine the pet, we will normally check the eyes for the light reflex (it will be reduced if bitten), we may test blood clotting times due to snake venom being an anticoagulant, and also test the urine for muscle breakdown products.
If these tests indicate the pet has been bitten, we will immediately start them on an intravenous drip and give them antivenom. If we are unsure or the tests are negative, we will normally hopsitalise the pet for several house in case signs of envenomation take some time to appear.