snake on ground flicking tongue

Snake Bites in Dogs

LAST UPDATED 23 August 2022

This article is written by Pet Circle veterinarian, Dr Jenny Eales BVSc

Australia has some of the most venomous snakes in the world including taipans, various brown snakes, red bellied black snakes, eastern small-eyed snakes, tiger snakes and death adders.

One of the things we all dread is our precious dog being bitten by a venomous snake. Here is what to do if it happens to your beloved dog.


What to do if your dog has been bitten by a snake

Signs and symptoms of snake bite

Treatment and what to expect

How to reduce the risk of snake bite

What venomous snakes are found in where you live?

Further Reading

What to do if your dog has been bitten by a snake

tiger snake on rocks
Being bitten by a snake is a life threatening emergency, so if there is any possibility that your dog has been bitten, take them straight to your closest veterinary clinic / veterinary emergency centre.

Never try to kill or capture the snake unless you are a qualified snake catcher. You could easily be bitten and as snakes are protected under the Wildlife Act 1975, it is illegal to capture, harm, disturb or kill them. If you can get a photo (from a safe distance), great! Take a quick snapshot and show your vet. Or try to remember the colour or patterns on the snake. If the snake is already dead (especially if it looks as though your pet has killed it), then you can collect the snake (use gloves and avoid touching the head - dead venomous snakes are still venomous!) and take it with your pet to your closest vet.

Don't worry if you haven't seen the snake or are unable to get a photo. The most important thing to do if you are worried that your pet may have been bitten is to get them to the closest veterinarian as soon as possible. There are several types of anti-venom available for animals including one that covers several different species of snake, and your vet will discuss with you the best one to use to treat your pet.

It is important that you remain calm and keep your pet calm. Carry your pet to your car (if possible) and get them to the nearest vet. Do not allow your dog to run around; restricting your dog's movement helps to slow the spread of the venom through their system so keep them as still as possible. Call ahead if you can, and arrange help to get your dog out of the car and into the vet clinic if needed.

The most common places pets are bitten by snakes are on the front half of their bodies - i.e. face, chest and front legs. Please note that you are unlikely to see a snake bite wound - unless you actually see them bitten it is normally impossible to see where the bite is.

If you do know where your pet was bitten, you can apply a pressure bandage and get them straight to the closest veterinary clinic or hospital.

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Signs and symptoms of snake bite

You may see some, or all of the following signs or symptoms:

  • Sudden collapse, sometime followed by getting up and acting normally
  • Weakness
  • Shaking/Trembling, shivering
  • Ataxia (unsteady gait, wobbling)
  • Dilated pupils
  • Excessive panting
  • Salivation
  • Vomiting
  • Loss of bladder and/or bowel control
  • Paralysis
  • Abnormal bleeding
  • Blood in urine/dark urine

Please never assume a snake is non venomous on looks alone. Snakes of the same species can look very different to each other. Size doesn't matter with regards to whether a snake is venomous. Eastern small-eyed snakes (Rhinoplocephalus nigrescens) can be very small and are extremely venomous. Baby snakes (of any venomous species) can also carry a lot of venom.

Vets can identify the snake using scale counts and other methods. There are also snake identification sites that you can post a picture of the snake on and qualified snake catchers will tell you the most likely species it is.

With any venomous snake bite emergency treatment is needed straight away. Please be extremely careful and seek veterinary help if you are concerned that your pet may have been bitten. It can sometimes take up to 2 days for symptoms of snake bites to show!

Treatment and what to expect

vet treating dog

Your veterinarian will need to do some tests if you are unsure if your pet was bitten or to confirm the symptoms. These may be blood tests, urine tests or both.

Your dog will have an IV cannula placed (usually in one of their front legs) so your veterinarian can give them antivenom, and any other medications needed along with IV fluids.

Your dog will be kept in the veterinary hospital for treatment and monitoring, sometimes for a week or more. Some dogs may need more invasive and intensive treatment.

Unfortunately not all dogs survive snake bites. It depends on how quickly they are found and treated after envenomation and the venom load they received from the snake. The best thing you can do is get them to your closest vet straight away.

How to reduce the risk of snake bite

border collie running through grass

Unfortunately we cannot completely remove the risk of snake bite in Australia. However there are some things you can do to reduce the risk that your beloved pet is bitten.

  • During high risk times (spring/summer) keep your dog on a lead when out walking and don't allow them to run off into long grass and bushy areas or explore any holes in the ground.
  • Keep your yard clean and free from debris, and keep your grass mowed (many dogs are bitten in their own backyard!)
  • Use snake-proof fencing around your yard if you are in a high risk area.
  • Keep any potential snake food or water sources to a minimum and consider fencing or blocking off access to areas like ponds etc. if you are in a high risk area.

What venomous snakes are found where you live?

black snake in mulch

Some sites that have information what snakes are found in different areas of Australia:

Further Reading

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