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Snake bites – what you need to know

Australia has 10 of the most venomous snakes in the world. However, bites to humans are rare, and with the development of anti-venom, fatalities number around four to six a year. With dogs the story is a little different.

According to PetSure data, pets being bitten by snakes is more common than you would think.

Snakes become more active in spring and early summer. As the weather warms, pets tend to wander further afield, sometimes finding themselves in a territory where they are at risk of a snake bite. The top two postcodes for snake bite claims according to PetSure were both in NSW – Bungendore and Queanbeyan.

Since 2013, PetSure has paid more than $4.2 million in claims for dogs suffering from snake bites, and more than $1 million was paid for cat claims.

Treatment

The main effects of Australian snake venom are lower motor neurone paralysis, prolonged or excessive bleeding, the rupturing of red blood cells (haemolysis) and muscular weakness.

Unfortunately, treatment can be costly. Anti-venom, hospitalisation and necessary supportive care will be required, and in some instances, ventilation will be needed to assist the pet to breathe. The associated intensive care costs can be thousands of dollars. In fact, where ventilation is used claims costs are more expensive.

Many vets now have access to mechanical ventilators, and can refer these cases to emergency and referral hospitals. Animals on ventilators may require multiple vials of anti-venom, which also increases the cost of treatment. Up to 10 vials could be used on some dogs in order to save their lives.

Tips to help protect your pet  

While prevention is always better than the cure, it is not always possible to keep your inquisitive pets safe. However, there are some basic things you can do that may help.

  1. Avoid walking in long, grassy areas (especially in the warmer months).
  2. Keep your dog on a leash to prevent them from approaching snakes.
  3. Keep your backyard clean of rubbish and keep the grass short.
  4. Look for the signs of a snake bite. Most pets get bitten around the head, neck or front legs. You may see the bite site and it may be swollen and painful. Other signs include weakness in the back legs, drooling, trembling or vomiting. Your pet may collapse initially and then be normal shortly afterwards.
  5. If you think your pet may have been bitten by a snake, take them to your nearest vet as soon as possible.

Any advice is general only and may not be right for you. Cover is subject to the policy terms and conditions. You should consider the relevant Product Disclosure Statement or policy wording available from the relevant provider to decide if a product is right for you. Insurance products are issued by The Hollard Insurance Company (ABN 78 090 584 473; AFSL 241436) and administered by PetSure (Australia) Pty Ltd (ABN 95 075 949 923; AFSL 420183) through our Authorised Representatives and our distribution partners.