Dogs (and cats) love a good chase! This can get them into a spot of trouble when the moving target is a snake, this is why bites are common on the face and legs of pets. Nine-year-old Kelpie Cross Jake found out the hard way that a black snake was in no mood for play time.

One Saturday afternoon at their Wonglepong home, this once energetic dog was suddenly dull and unexcited to greet his owner Tracee as he usually would. Even more of a surprise, Jake refused all food at dinnertime. A few hours later, things went downhill as Jake’s face began to swell. He started gingerly walking and seemed uncomfortable and straining to go to the toilet, after which he would excessively (and uncharacteristically) sniff at his urine. Jake’s hypersensitive snout could sense something was very wrong.

After Tracee awoke at 2am to Jake vomiting, she raced him into Animal Emergency Service at Carrara. As an adventurous outdoor dog with access to toads, snakes, spiders and rat bait, the cause of Jake’s symptoms was at first a mystery. Dr Ella collected a urine sample and performed a Snake Venom Detection Test which confirmed: Black Snake positive.

Jake was immediately administered antivenin and admitted to hospital for monitoring. One cause for concern was his hyperventilating. Being at least 12 hours after the bite, Jake was a high risk for acute kidney damage and the neurotoxicity affecting his breathing. The following 48 hours were crucial to evaluate the progress of Jake’s kidney function and clotting times.

Jake luckily remained stable and was discharged a few days later. Black snakes have mild neurological toxicity and coagulation issues compared to a brown snake, but higher muscle, kidney and red cell toxicity. The damage to muscle and red cells can exacerbate the kidney toxicity potentially leading to acute kidney failure. Acting fast is the key to snake bite survival. If you suspect your pet has been bitten, please contact your local vet or the Animal Emergency Service.


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