Dr Simon Crouch is from the Jack Brockhoff Child Health and Wellbeing Program at the McCaughey Vichealth Centre for Community Wellbeing.
Dr Mark Davis from the University’s Veterinary Hospital said emergency services had recently seen a number of snakebites in dogs that needed anti-venom and critical care including life support.
“Snakes are now emerging from hibernation, becoming active in the afternoon and early evening which is when they may come into contact with pets,” Dr Davis said.
“People can avoid encountering snakes by clearing out potential hideouts such as piles of rubbish and long grass in backyards. When out walking, owners should keep their dogs in sight and avoid long grass and waterways, which snakes seek out.”
Dr Davis said owners often won’t see their pet actually being bitten so they need to be aware of symptoms which can include collapse, seizures, difficulty breathing or walking and vomiting, depending on the snake species. Tiger snakes are most common west of Melbourne and Brown snakes are frequently seen in the east.
If bitten, pets need to be kept as still as possible, not walked, and taken straight to a vet. Owners should call ahead to their vet so that they can prepare treatment such as anti-venom.
Staffordshire terrier Melon was treated at the University’s Veterinary Hospital after being bitten at home. Her owner Mrs Maree Smith said she heard her dog making an unusual bark and then found Melon had attacked a snake in the backyard.
“We had another dog bitten by a snake so we knew to keep him still and rush him to hospital. Melon stopped breathing and needed anti-venom, resuscitation and life support for three days,” Mrs Smith said.
“Our house backs onto a creek which attracts snakes, and Staffys are so inquisitive and protective that we have to keep a constant eye on them.”