Snake Bite in Pets on the Fleurieu

Google Maps location for Riverport Veterinary Hospital

Riverport Veterinary Hospital
1 Avoca Street
SA 5214

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08 8555 5690

Victor Central Veterinary Clinic
35 Crozier Road
Victor Harbor
SA 5211

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08 7522 4300


It’s that time of year again.

We have already treated multiple cases of pets that have been bitten by snakes so I thought a little update on these pesky locals was in order.

Let’s start the Q & A……..

What do I do if I think my pet has come in contact with a snake?

Straight to the point, I like it.  The answer is simple, take your pet straight to the nearest vet and phone them to let them know you are coming.  This may sound simplistic but the harsh reality is that each year many cats and dogs die simply because they were not treated quickly enough.  Forget about everything else you know or have read, just get in the car and come straight in.  We would rather run a couple of tests and tell you that your loved one has not been bitten, than have you think about it and delay treatment for 10 minutes.

What sort of snakes do we have in the area?

Common Brown Snake


The most common snakes in our neck of the woods are the following:

  • The Common Brown snake – this is the most common snake in our area and is highly venomous.  Do not mess with these guys.....
  • Tiger snakes – the numbers of tiger snakes have significantly reduced in recent years and are generally only seen around waterways
  • Red Bellied Black Snakes – we see a number of cases of black snake bites each year

Do I need to identify the snake and should I bring it in?

Not really and no thanks!

While most brown snakes are brown and most red bellied blacks have a crimson underbelly, snakes are notoriously difficult to accurately identify.  Unless you are an expert this is fraught with danger.  For example, tiger snakes don’t all have stripes and can in fact be black, red bellied blacks don’t all have red bellies and brown snakes can vary from very light in colour to almost black.  You get the idea……

Tiger Snake

But don’t you need to know which antivenom to give?

We would love to have an accurate identification of every snake that has bitten one of our patients but that is simply not the case.  Thankfully we have a combined antivenom available that is effective against the venom of all the snakes that we see locally.  A brown snake antivenom is available in isolation but generally the only reason we would use that would be to save money or if the owner is SURE that it was a brown snake bite.

Red Bellied Black Snake

To save money you say… snake bite treatment expensive?

It certainly can be but depends on whether you are a cat or a dog, how quickly your parents acted and how you respond to the first dose of antivenom. 

Either way, we would advise all dog and cat owners to insure their pets in case this or something else serious happens.

How do I tell if my pet has been bitten by a snake?

Like I said, if you are even vaguely suspicious then your first step should be to hop in the car.  But as you won’t always see your cat or dog playing with the snake here are some signs to look out for over the warmer period:

  • Collapse – dogs and cats will often collapse almost straight after being bitten but then seem to recover.  Please be aware that this “recovery” will be short lived and initial collapse indicates a severe bite.
  • Vomiting
  • Drooling
  • Paralysis – this generally starts with the hind legs and works it’s way forward.  Paralysis can affect the ability to breathe which is obviously a major problem.
  • Difficulty Breathing
  • Dilated Pupils
  • Anxious/Altered Behaviour

Symptoms generally appear quickly but can occasionally take 4 hours or more in dogs and 12-24 hours in cats.

Should I apply my first aid training and wrap the area?

It is extremely unlikely that:

a)      You will see where the bite occurred OR

b)      You will see evidence of a bite wound through the fur.

Furthermore, the majority of bites occur around the head and neck which is clearly not a safe area to apply a compression bandage. 

There are no proven home remedies for snake envenomation in dogs and cats…..sorry.

OK so is there any way of deterring snakes from my property?

Well this is a topic of some debate…..

There are a number of snake deterrent devices on the market.  Have any been proven to be 100% effective?  Not that I know of…… 

Do we think any of them work?  I think so……..











We have been using the Sentinel Snake Repellers for a few years now and they seem to help.  Plenty of people have told us that they no longer see snakes in the vicinity of these solar powered devices.

I personally use them, and as far as I am concerned if they even reduce the risk of my family (furry or otherwise) coming into contact with a snake then it’s a worthwhile investment. 

Another couple of things to keep in mind:

  • Snakes need shelter and rest – they will seek out dark places so be wary in the shed, under the house etc.
  • Rats and mice attract snakes – this is the circle of life……rubbish, overgrown vegetation and chook sheds attract rats and mice which in turn attract the snakes.

Can we end on a positive note please?


The vast majority of snake bite patients that are treated with antivenom and hospitalisation within a short period of being bitten stand a very good chance of going home.  Early season bites are often worse but on the whole the treatment success rate is high. 

Just remember, don’t mess around….get straight in the car and ring us on the way.

Happy Warm Weather!!

Post your comment


  • Do you know if any pet insurance cover snake bites? we have a number of snake away devices on our property and have never seen a snake since we had the installed

    Posted by steve Gasson, 10/10/2013 5:49pm (5 years ago)

  • Do you know if any pet insurance cover snake bites? we have a number of snake away devices on our property and have never seen a snake since we had the installed

    Posted by steve Gasson, 10/10/2013 5:48pm (5 years ago)

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