How to deal with a snake bite.

A snake bite is cause for concern, but not panic.A large number of snakes are non-poisonous and there are many factors that can prevent a bite from a known poisonous snake being fatal.

These factors include:

1) The species of the snake - not all venoms are equally toxic.

2) The amount of venom injected into the animal during the bite.

3) The location of the bite - most pets get bitten on the head or front legs.

4) The size of the bitten pet.

5) The general health status of the bitten pet.


Their are two main "groups" of venom. Cytotoxic (or haemotoxic) venom attacks and kills body tissues (cells - including blood cells and vascular tissue) while neurotoxic venom attacks the nervous system. Most venomous snakes have elements of both with one form being predominant and thus giving rise to the symptoms observed.

Clinical symptoms vary depending on the type and dose of venom injected by the snake as well as where on the body the animal was bitten. Symptoms may be seen within minutes to a couple of hours after the bite.

Clinical symptoms include panting, restlessness, vomiting, diarrhoea,unco-ordinated gait, weakness, collapse and sometimes death.

What to do.

The best course of action is to get your pet to a veterinarian as fast as possible. If you have seen the attack then a good description of the snake will help. If the snake has been killed, take it along for identification purposes.

Keep your pet as quiet as possible - increased activity will increase the rate of absorbtion of the venom.
DO NOT try to wash the wound, apply ice or interfere with the wound in any way. This is likely to be counter productive.

Potentially fatal snake bites can be successfully treated at a veterinary hospital. IV fluids, respiratory support and the administration of anti venom are some of the measures that can be undertaken.

The sooner a snake bite is treated, the better the chance of survival for the animal.Likewise the more information you can provide about the type of snake involved, the more specific the treatment the veterinarian can give your pet.

So, as with all emergencies, and difficult as it is in these situations, you need to remain calm, be observant, and act with speed and decisiveness.

Lastly, remember that most snakes inhabit specific habitats and therefore occur in fairly well identified geographical areas. It is thus possible, without much effort, to learn to identify the venomous snakes that occur in your area. This will not only help you to avoid those areas where the snakes are most likely to occur, but you will be in a much better position to judge the potential seriousness of any snake bite.