SURVIVOR: Dr Victoria Churchill and Dr Jenny McCleary from Silkstone Veterinary Surgery with Cooper, who was bitten by a red-bellied black snake.
SURVIVOR: Dr Victoria Churchill and Dr Jenny McCleary from Silkstone Veterinary Surgery with Cooper, who was bitten by a red-bellied black snake. Rob Williams

Vets warn of surge in snake attacks on dogs

AN IPSWICH vet has warned of a 40% increase in snakebites on dogs from browns and red-bellied black snakes so far this spring.

The Booval Veterinary Hospital has treated 22 dogs for snakebite since the beginning of September - six more than the same time last year.

Veterinary surgeon Jason Wendt said it should serve as a reminder for both dog and cat owners to keep a lookout.

"The survival rate for dogs that have been bitten by brown snakes or red-bellied black snakes is good - provided they receive treatment early," Dr Wendt said.

"Occasionally the owner does not realise their dog has been bitten until it collapses hours later."

Dr Wendt said the symptoms of snakebite did not always become obvious immediately.

"You can have a dry bite, where venom doesn't go in, but you can also get bites where the venom goes in, but the dog doesn't show the clinical signs," he said.

Most vets carry antivenom for both brown snake and black snake bites. The cost of the antivenom varies from $400 to $900 per vial.

One of these vials saved Cooper, the two-year-old staffy-cross, after he was bitten on the throat by a red-bellied black at the weekend.

The owners were not aware that Cooper had been bitten until he appeared lethargic and shivering early the next day.

He was rushed to Silkstone Vet, where staff were run off their feet treating four other snakebite cases the same day.

Cooper received "tiger-brown antivenom", which acts against several types of snake venom.

Vet Jenny McCleary said he was a very lucky dog, and urged people to get pets straight to the local vet if they had reason to suspect they had been bitten.

"The vet can conduct a blood clotting test, which in most instances can help them decide if the pet has been injected with venom," she said.

Venom at work

  • Red-bellied black snakes produce a neurotoxin that affects nerves, an anticoagulant that prevents blood clotting, and a myotoxin that affects the muscles.


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