A Geelong woman whose dog almost died after being bitten by a venomous snake has warned other pet owners in the area to stay alert as the number of snake and dog encounters increases.
Soraya Ferrer describes her beloved family dog Luna as “very quiet and calm and very placid”.
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So when the 10-year-old pooch started growling aggressively on Sunday while at her parent’s property in Lovely Banks, it was very unusual.
Ferrer’s father opened the front door to investigate and found Luna with a snake in her mouth, which he quickly identified as the highly venomous tiger snake.
“My dad believed that the snake was going for Luna’s water bowl, which is kept at the front door,” the 31-year-old told 7NEWS.com.au.
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The dog had managed to kill the snake, however it wasn’t clear whether Luna had been bitten or not.
Thanks to quick-thinking by Ferrer’s mum, Luna was rushed to an emergency vet clinic in Geelong.
During the 40-minute journey, Luna took a turn for the worse.
“She started getting … lethargic and she vomited twice on the way,” Ferrer said.
It became obvious she had, in fact, been bitten.
According to the RSPCA, symptoms dogs may exhibit if they have been bitten by a snake include sudden weakness, shaking or twitching of the muscles, vomiting, paralysis and blood in urine.
Luna began displaying symptoms of a snake bite on the way to the emergency vet hospital, such as lethargy and vomiting. Credit: Supplied
When Ferrer’s family arrived at the vet, they were told some startling news.
Luna was the ninth dog that had been bitten by a snake to present at the emergency centre that day. As a result, there was only one vial of anti-venom left.
“The vet said that they’ve never experienced this many snake bites on one day before,” she said.
“It was a pretty unprecedented day.”
Jack Gatto, owner of Bellarine and Surfcoast Snake Catching, confirmed there had been an increased number of snake sightings in the Geelong and Bellarine regions compared with the same time last year.
He said it was unusual to see this many snakes at this time of year, as the weather had not been consistently warm.
“This time last year, we were lucky to get one to two call-outs a day,” Gatto told 7NEWS.com.au.
“But now we’re getting somewhere from six to eight, we’ve even had up to 10 call-outs a day.
“It is unusual in the way that it hasn’t really been warm enough for long enough to see the amount of snakes that we’re getting at the moment. If there’s a week full of 25C or 27C days, the following week, we’ll probably get a few more call-outs because the snakes have kind of warmed up and are a little bit more active.”
Snake season in Australia usually runs from late spring to mid-autumn.
Gatto said spring marked the start of mating season, which caused males to venture out in the hopes of finding a breeding partner.
One of the most common snakes found in the Geelong, the Bellarine and Surf Coast areas are Lowlands Copperheads. Credit: Facebook / Bellarine and Surfcoast Snake Catching
He also said new developments being built in the area could be contributing to the increase in sightings as the reptiles were drawn out of their natural habitat.
“They certainly don’t have anywhere to go as far, it’s not like they can cruise off, and you know, go live somewhere else. They have to just adapt, so that’s why we’re coming into contact with them,” the snake catcher said.
The City of Greater Geelong has received 15 reported snake sightings so far this season, including three in August before the season had even started.
Last season council received a total of 46 reports.
The snakes most often found in Geelong, the Surf Coat and the Bellarine are eastern browns, lowland copperheads, tiger snakes and red-bellied blacks.
According to Gatto, tiger snakes most commonly interact with dogs.
The issue also isn’t just isolated to the greater Geelong area, with the team at the Greencross Vet Hospital at the University of Melbourne recently noting they had been treating three to five dogs or cats a day for snake bites.
“Primarily it’s dogs who are presenting with snake envenomation, but it’s also not uncommon to also see cats,” Greencross Vet Hospital emergency and critical care specialist and clinical director Dr Liam Donaldson said.
“We have even had a rabbit who suffered tiger snake envenomation – luckily the owners were aware and brought the little one in quickly for treatment.”
While the one vial of anti-venom did slow down the effects of the toxins coursing their way through Luna’s body, it wasn’t enough to bring her back to full health.
She was in desperate need of a second vial.
Luckily, the vet clinic managed to get a hold of one from a veterinary hospital in Werribee.
Luna stayed at the vet for several days before coming home on Tuesday night, however Ferrer said the 10-year-old was not yet fully recovered.
“She’s still not 100 per cent there, I’m … taking care of her because she needs to be hand-fed … and she has to have minimal movement,” she said.
“It’s still touch and go. She is struggling to eat, which is still a bit worrying, so it’s just gonna be four weeks of constantly monitoring her, watching her, making sure she’s eating and drinking.
“It’s super stressful.”
While Luna is recovering at home, her owner Soraya said she hasn’t fully healed and has to be constantly monitored. Credit: Supplied
The financial burden has also weighed heavily on Ferrer’s family, with the entire ordeal costing her parents almost $8000.
A vial of anti-venom alone costs $2000 a pop.
Ferrer, who made a viral TikTok detailing what happened to her dog, said she wanted to get the word out there so that not only Geelong residents, but all dog owners, remain vigilant as the months get warmer.
“I don’t want any other pet owners to experience what my family have experienced,” she said.
“We were really fortunate that Luna, so far, is stable and safe.”
To keep your dogs safe and avoid what could be a fatal situation, Gatto said the easiest thing to do was to keep your dog on a leash.
“(If) you let your dog off the lead in a nice bushy area, I know it helps the dog, but is it really worth the risk of (the dog) getting tagged by a red belly or a tiger (snake)?,” he said
The other important thing is to keep your backyard well maintained by mowing the grass if there is any and removing anything on the ground that a snake could hide under.
“If (there is) a place that has shelter, a food source and fresh water, generally you have the potential of having a snake,” Gatto said.
City of Greater Geelong acting director of city infrastructure Shaun Broadbent told 7NEWS.com.au the council may install signs in public locations where snakes have been sighted.
If a snake is spotted in the area, he said the best thing to do was “remain calm” and keep your distance.
“The best strategy is usually to leave the snake alone and try to avoid the area if possible, as the snake will likely move on after a while,” he said.
“As needed, we engage a professional snake catcher to investigate snake sightings in public areas such as nature strips and city-managed reserves.
“The snake catcher can relocate snakes to suitable habitat if necessary.”
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