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Aussie backyard hazards hiding in plain sight – can you spot them?

Some simple preventative measures will minimise the chances of a shock encounter with a snake.

A spike in the number of Aussie dogs being bitten by snakes in recent weeks has led to one vet warning pet owners of three backyard hazards that may put their pets at risk.

Dr Liam Donaldson from Greencross Vet Hospital is encouraging pet owners to check their yards for the hazards which may be creating hiding places for snakes.

"Keep the grass short," he told Yahoo News Australia. "Cut back shrubs and bushes ... and especially check the backyard shed just in case there's any snakes that have been curled up over the winter."

The three dangers are marked by three red circles of an overgrown backyard.
Long grass, overgrown bushes and a backyard shed are three dangers increasing the likelihood of a shock shake encounter, a vet said. Source: Getty

Long grass, overgrown bushes and a backyard shed are factors which could entice a snake to the property and all three dangers should be considered if residents are attempting to minimise the chance of a snake and pet interacting.

"Just before spring hits, or right now, is the best time to do a general clean-up," he said. "Obviously be careful yourself too. Make sure everything's well cut back... we tend to find grass which is kept relatively short and tidy leaves less places for them [snakes] to hide."

Up to five dogs being bitten by snakes daily, vet says

Dr Donaldson said his clinic — which is part of the University of Melbourne situated in the southwest of the city — has received up to five dogs per day who have been bitten by snakes, with 11 admitted over the last weekend alone.

"With the warmer weather snakes are more active, especially in the last fortnight we've been absolutely inundated," he said.

Last week the vet treated a 10-year-old Chihuahua Pomeranian Cross called Lily after she was bitten by a tiger snake and the dog had to immediately receive antivemon to save her life.

Left, vet Liam Donaldson holds Lily in his arms. Right, a puppy lies in a vet cage labelled 'snake bite' with its front right paw bandaged up.
Vets across the country have been 'inundated' with dogs being bitten by snakes, with Dr Liam Donaldson (left) warning pet owners of the potential backyard dangers. Source: Supplied

Due to the sudden spike in snake bites, vets have been forced to "rely on each other for resources" after some clinics were caught off-guard. Greencross Vet Hospital sent life-saving vials down to a Geelong clinic last week after it ran out of antivenom.

What should I do if my dog is bitten by a snake?

It's crucial to take your pet to your closest emergency animal hospital if you suspect a snake has bitten it and calling ahead is strongly advised to help the team prepare for your arrival.

There are common telltale signs to indicate a dog has been bitten by a snake, Dr Donaldson said.

Common snake bite signs in dogs:

  • Vomiting

  • Collapsing

  • Dilated pupils

  • Wobbly walking / inability to walk

“In dogs we commonly see vomiting and collapse before a very quick recovery. This recovery is only short lived, before the toxin has its most fatal effect of causing breathing paralysis."

For areas with high snake populations, vets recommend pet owners take their dog to complete a snake avoidance course, much like a behavioural training course, which trains the animal to stay away from snakes if they encounter them.

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