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How to spot a snake bite

Snakes are a real danger to travelling pets. Vet Kelly Zammit says fast effective treatment can be the difference between life and death.

Signs of venomous snakebite can vary, but include:

• Sudden weakness followed by collapse
• Bleeding puncture wound
• Swelling
• Twitching, drooling or difficulty blinking
• Vomiting
• Loss of bladder and bowel control
• Dilated pupils
• Ascending paralysis (hind legs affected first)
• Blood in urine
• Signs of shock such as pale gums, cool skin, and tremors
• Slow or laboured breathing

Get your dog to the vet as soon as possible and call ahead to ensure they have antivenom on hand. The quicker the antivenom is given the greater the chance of survival.

• Keep your pet calm and still to avoid speeding the spread of venom; don’t let it walk. Bach flowers Rescue Remedy can calm your animal and help reduce shock – give a couple of drops orally every five minutes. If you’re in an area common to snakes, it could be worth keeping some in your First Aid kit.

• Apply a pressure bandage if practical – a firm bandage of any material (ideally wide elastic crepe) over the bite site then continued evenly over the entire limb to the armpit or groin. If the bite is on the face or jaw, just apply pressure with your

• Never apply a tourniquet, wash or cut the wound site.

• Don’t give food or drink, except for small sips of water if you are a long way from the vet.

It may be necessary to give mouth to nose resuscitation on the way to the vet. If your dog is paralysed, keep his head down
to keep his airway clear.

Many people believe vitamin C delays the effects of snake bite. Vitamin C is not a treatment on its own, but it doesn’t cause harm and may do some good. Mix four teaspoons of crystals or powdered vitamin C in one cup of warm water and give 10mls orally every 15 minutes. The injectable form is best avoided as it is painful and can cause abscesses.

Of course the best treatment is prevention! Keep your dog on a leash and don’t let him explore holes or dig under logs. Stay on open paths and keep night walks to a minimum; snakes are nocturnal in the warmer months. If your dog seems unusually curious about “something” hidden in the grass, back off immediately.

This is the first in a regular series of columns for people who love to roam with their pets from All Natural Pet Care, Russell Lea NSW