A Guide To Snake Bites On Dogs (symptoms, signs and treatment)

Estimated Reading Time: 2 min | Last Updated: May 6th, 2022

Snake on a road

Animal Emergency Service treats thousands of cases of dogs who have been bitten by snakes in Australia each year. Although there are subtle differences between the symptoms and signs depending on the breed of snake, the main signs of a dog snake bite include:

  • Collapse followed by apparent recovery
  • Lethargy
  • Muscle tremors, shaking and reduced eye blinking
  • Dilated pupils
  • Sudden onset of weakness/wobbliness (ataxia)
  • Complete paralysis
  • Inability to control bladder and bowels
  • Irregular bleeding from the nose, bit site, mouth
  • Discoloured, dark urine (often bloody)

What is a snake bite?

There are many species of snakes in the world, and the most venomous snakes are found right here in Australia. Snakes are unlikely to bite dogs, cats, and humans; however, if they are stepped on, attacked or provoked they may bite, piercing through fur and flesh to deliver often a fatal dose of toxin.

As can be seen by the diagram below, venom is stored in the venom glad. Poisonous snakes use their fangs to bite through their victims’ flesh, and venom travels through the primary and secondary venom ducts down through the venom canal where it is injected into their prey.

Some species of snakes are classified as non-venomous, meaning that other than mild symptoms and site wounds, they are not dangerous to dogs, cats and humans. These bite wounds may also need attention at your local vet, and regardless of whether you are sure of which breed of snake has bitten your dog, it is always best to seek emergency vet treatment.

What are the dangers of snake bites on dogs?

  1. Snake bit sites can be difficult to identify on dogs
  2. Dogs may not show symptoms immediately after being bitten, but may have received a fatal dose of envenomation
  3. The longer the dog snake bit is left untreated, the more advanced the clinical signs and the lower the chance of survival
  4. The dangers of snake bites on dogs are high due to their natural hunting instincts
  5. The only way to identify a snake is to count the scales of the physical snake or perform a snake detection test in clinic
  6. Not all veterinary practices stock snake anti-venom, it is essential to ring ahead
  7. Snake venom can compromise the dog’s blood coagulation (clotting) and can cause them to bleed to death
  8. Snake bites can cause internal damage to kidneys, muscles, and the respiratory system

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