Keeping Your Furry Friends (Dogs and Cats) Safe
It is in your dog and cat’s natural instincts to run, hunt, fetch and chase target/prey. As we all know, dogs and cats want to win over their opponent, especially if it is a moving object – A Snake is amongst their best opponents and not every dog or cat can win over a snake. Almost 6,500 pets were bitten by poisonous snakes in Australia last year, and during the warmer/summer months when snakes are coming out of hibernation and are most active, this life-threatening emergency is more likely to happen. Wagga is no exception to having snake bites and is home to brown snakes. How can you prepare for and prevent snake bites on pets and what measures you should take immediately if you want to save your precious pet?
How Cats and Dogs Get Bitten by Snakes
Nowadays, snakes are found all around and not just in the farms or open areas. You may believe your dog or cat is safe from snake bites if you avoid going to dog parks or bodies of water like lake and beach; but in fact, they are more likely to be bitten in and around their own home.
Between their natural hunting instincts and curiosity, your pets are likely to encounter snakes and react in a defensive or curious way, especially to protect their home. During the warmer season, snakes come out of hibernation, snakes begin their search for food, shelter, or water. It is now the time your furball and the cold-blooded snake encounter your dog or cat encountering one of them.
What happens when a snake bites your Dog or Cat
When a snake bites your dog or cat, it injects venom from its fangs into the tissue underneath the skin, spreading all over the circulation system. Snake venom can cause a variety of damage to vital functions, organs and tissues. The toxins in the venom attack the nervous system, interfere with the body’s clotting mechanisms, cause extreme pain, organ damage, interfere with breathing, and cause paralysis.
Steps to Prevent Snake Bites
Some simple precautions can help a lot to limit your pet’s exposure to snakes:
Safety Outside of Your Home
Giving consistent attention to your home and surrounding and below care routine when tidying your yard would help limiting your pets’ contact with snakes:
- Mow your lawn and keep the grass cut short around your house
- Check for any potential hiding spot for snakes in your yards or in sheds
- Check all the tools and instruments you use are empty and properly sealed and do not act as a hiding spot for snakes.
- Cover up all the holes in the ground
- Clean up any spilled food, fruit, or birdseed off the ground; rodents are attracted to spilt foods and snakes prey on rodents the most
- Make sure your garage and sheds are all tidy to avoid attracting rodents and snakes.
- Store and stack piles of your unused stuff away from the house
- Dig fences at least a foot deep into the ground and with no space between fences to prevent snakes from entering your property
Limiting access and reducing the number of hiding spots for snakes helps you to keep snakes away or at least restricted.
Dog and Cat Training Tips for Safety
Teaching your dog and limiting your cat’s wonder outside access are some ways to protect them. You can train your dog to avoid snakes in these ways:
- Train you to listen and obey you and return to you when you call him if there is a snake encounter.
- Do not allow your dog to dig under rocks, go in the shed fetching or chasing something, run through tall grass, or explore holes as these are places snakes like to rest.
- Always walk your dog on a leash and keep him by your side when you are not at home.
Cats are challenging to keep away from snakes because of their natural instinct to hunt and they're over curiosity.
- Keep your cat indoors
- Create or purchase a large “catio”.
How do you know when snake bites on pets occur, and what symptoms should you be looking for?
What are the Common Signs of Snake Bites in Cats?
Cats are most frequently bitten as compared to dogs. Because cats have the tendency to wander around outside, you may not witness a snake bite, and may not know what, when and where exactly it all happened and what type of a snake it was. Also, cats are very good at hiding their pain from their injuries until they are life-threatening. In some cases, it may take up to 24-hours for symptoms of poisoning to be seen, and as the venom spreads closer to the cat’s heart, your cat's health is already critical reducing its chances of survival. Some symptoms :
- Bite marks or swelling around the site of the bite
- Frequent Urination\Diarrhea
- Dilated pupils
- Sensitivity to light
- Increased respiration
- Drooping eyelids
- Pain (this may or may not occur based on the amount and type of venom)
- Muscle weakness
- Drunken gait (lack of coordination)
- Dilated and fixed pupils that do not respond to light
- Rapid pulse and heartbeat
- Change in meow
- Blood or tea-coloured urine
- Difficulty breathing or shallow, increased breaths
- Blue-tinged gums (from lack of oxygen)
- Twitching or shaking
- Blood in urine
- Weakness, severe lethargy, or collapse
- Breathing trouble (shallow and rapid)
- Ataxia (loss of body function movements)
- Loss of bowel and bladder control
- Bleeding from the site of the snake bite
- Excessive salivation (drooling)
- Difficulty blinking or dilated pupils
- Collapse or paralysis
Understand that it is possible for your dog\cat to exhibit some or all of these symptoms if snake bit, or even other symptoms entirely. If you suspect or know that a snake has bitten your pet, take him to the veterinarian immediately. The sooner your dog receives treatment, the better his odds are of surviving the bite.
First Aid for Snake Bites
What should you do if your dog or cat has been bitten on by a snake? According to the Australian Veterinary Journal, although cats are more likely than dogs to be snakebitten, they have a 91% chance of survival with antivenom treatment than dogs, whose survival rate is 75%. Therefore, if you suspect that your pet has been bitten, getting him to a veterinarian as quickly as possible is key to increasing the odds of saving his life.
Antivenom by Vet
If possible, try to remember as much about what the snake looked like and report those specifics to the veterinarian. Should circumstances allow, consider contacting a snake catcher to come and remove the snake from your property?
Once your pet arrives at the veterinarian’s office, a series of events will occur. First, the veterinarian will assess your pet and administer a broad antivenom to neutralise the spread of poison through the body. Supportive care, such as intravenous fluids or feeding tubes or oxygen, is likely the next step in the care of your pet. Paralyzation may require manual bladder expression until the pet can urinate on his own. Tests such as a complete blood count, faecal exam, blood smear, clotting times, and cultures to check for bacterial infections may be necessary as well.
Recovery from a snake bite takes between 24 and 48 hours if your pet sees a veterinarian promptly after the snake bite; however, if the toxin is especially damaging, your pet may need an extended stay at the hospital. Each pet reacts differently to treatment, and your pet may need to be on antibiotics for a few weeks after the bite. It is imperative that you keep your dog or cat as quiet possible during the recovery period.
Keep Your Pets Safe from Snakes
By taking some common-sense steps, you can limit the chance a snake will bite your cat or dog. Careful attention to your property, immediate surrounding areas, and proper pet training can prevent your pet from being on the receiving end of a nasty, potentially life-threatening snake bite.
Do you have any tips for other pet parents as you are? Please comment below and help others to keep their pets safe.