Snake season is real, Summer is usually known to be the time of the year that we see snake bites at our clinic, however, it is important to note that any sudden warm weather conditions, even in winter, could lure these beautiful but deadly beasts from their hiding places as they search for some sunshine.
The biggest snake threats we have in the Helderberg are the Cape Cobra (Geelslang) and the puff adder (pofadder). There are other snakes in our area such as night adders and boomslang that can also cause some issues, however puff adder bites and cape cobra bites are what we see 90% of the time in the Helderberg.
How can I avoid my dog getting bitten by a snake???
Quite simply, there is very little you can do to prevent a bite once your dog has come across a snake. If your dog engages with the snake, the risk is high. Some dogs will just bark around the snake and alert you or the other dogs, however at the end of the day, the snake will do anything to defend itself, and it will use its venom. The good news is, if a snake is not under threat, it will sail away to the closest dark hiding place it can find as it is incredibly afraid of you and your pets. As long as it does not feel threatened, it will not lash out. The best thing to do to avoid anyone or anything getting bitten, is to keep your dogs on leashes when walking through fields of long grass and mountainous/rocky areas, avoid walks on very hot days, and avoid walks in areas with lots of nooks and crannies and hiding places.
There is a snake in my garden!! What do I do??
If at all possible, try and lure your dogs away from the snake, WITHOUT putting yourself in danger by coming within the snake’s striking range (about 2m is a somewhat safe distance). Dogs need to be kept inside until such point that the snake has been removed and the threat is gone.
Call the Helderberg Snake Removals (079-189-3807) or another reputable snake catcher to come and identify and remove the snake safely without causing further risk to you or your pets and family.
You cannot identify a snake by its colour. The Cape cobra can be anything from bright yellow to dark black almost, occasionally speckled even. You can try and take a photo from a safe distance if you see chance to do so, otherwise rather remove your animals from the threat regardless and phone the experts to come and assist you. A puff adder is slightly easier to identify thanks to its skin pattern and triangular head (see photos below).
My dog has just been bitten!! What do I do?? How much time do I have??
If one of your pets has gotten too close and got bitten, you need to notify your vet immediately and bring them through to the clinic as soon as you can. The reason we advise to call before you come through is to ensure that we are ready for you as you arrive and can take action immediately. The other reason is that snake antivenom is not always readily available, and although we keep stock at Teva, it usually takes some time to restock once it is used as there is a shortage throughout South Africa.
Depending on the amount of venom your pet took on, the symptoms can start within minutes. Cape cobras release neurotoxic venom, meaning it starts shutting down your pet’s nervous system. They will become partially paralysed, and eventually the muscles they use to breathe will become paralysed, and this is what causes death. The quicker you can get them to us the better, so that we can start treatment and start assisting breathing for them. Puff adders on the other hand have cytotoxic venom, which causes immense swelling, pain and death of cells. Regardless of the type of venom, pets can go into shock very easily and time is of the essence. Some pets may die within 30 minutes of the snake bite.
There is a small chance that your animal would have received a dry bite (a bite that the snake gives as a warning, with no venom), but rather bring them through anyway for observation and treatment if symptoms start.
In summary, snake bites can be treated, not all hope is lost. However, time is of the essence, and quick action will give your pet a fighting chance! All our staff at Teva are trained to deal with snake bite patients, however if we feel your pet is going to require further treatment and ongoing monitoring, we may need to refer them to a 24 hospital where they will receive around-the-clock nursing once we have stabilised them. Do not hesitate to contact us should you have any questions about snake bites and information regarding the effects and treatment of snake envenomation.