Monday, August 27, 2007

Warm weather's great, but what about the Snakes?

Although the warmer weather is wonderful, we now have a major problem literally rearing it's head, and that's our snake population is stirring in their burrows.

We are surrounded by tiger snakes, and every year we have a big confrontation, with one on the veranda, or the dogs get bitten. One dog in particular.... and that's our elder statesman poodle, Connor.

Connor has been bitten twice now, almost exactly a year apart, and has lived to tell the tale. Fortunately he is too old to fuss with them much now, but used to actively hunt them. The first time was in the dog run, where the snake must have come in for water. We were out for the day and came home to him drooling and staggering a bit. He had a nasty ear infection at the time, and was being treated for that, but we were a bit unsure as to why he was so unwell, and didn't take him down to the vet until the next morning. He had deteriorated a bit by the time he got there, and they were confused as well. His symptoms could have been a few issues. They took blood and he was diagnosed later that afternoon. The vet ventured that he mustn't have got a heavy dose, but gave him the anti venom treatment anyway.

He struggled for life for the next week, with blood in his urine, muscle breakdown, and all the other classic symptoms. Quite a few times I thought we might lose him. We live half an hour from the vet's, but I went down each day to sit on the floor next to him, and helped him to go outside for a walk when he was able.

It took him a long time to recover and lost a lot of muscle. His cheeks and top of his head were just skin draped over bone, and they still haven't filled over years later.

The next February, I found him down behind the hedge, vomiting and collapsed with shock. I had done a lot of research since the last time, and raced to get the Vitamin C injection I had stored in the fridge. Intensive Vitamin C doses are renowned for snakebite in animals, and it certainly helped Connor. His gums pinked up and he became much more alert. Looking back afterwards, I should have kept going with more shots, but after 5 hours, he slid somewhat and I took him to the vet for more anti venom. Twice is about the limit, and the have allergic reactions which can be more life threatening than none. He did have a reaction to that, but antihistamine was administered and helped a bit.

This vet was much more practised at diagnosing snake bite. She took some blood and left it for 7 minutes, saying if it hadn't clotted by then, it was definitely that. His eyes were also very dilated, and stayed that way when she shone the light in.

He spent two days in hospital and came home weakened again, but we were experts by then.

Connor couldn't stand long enough for a drink

I recommended to all our friends with dogs to have a vial of liquid Vitamin C in their fridge and a syringe. It keeps for about 2 years. Mine is older than that, so I had better get down to the vet and get some more.

We also use Shoosnake, a herbal snake repellent, which we spray around the runs and wood piles and anywhere they might like to hide. It has lovely pungent smell, with cloves and geranium and citronella. I really love it and walk around sniffing it when I have some on my hands. Hopefully the snakes don't.

I have also looked at electronic ones, where you insert a solar panel driven probe into the ground and it creates a vibration that snakes don't like. They're fairly expensive, but so is anti venom and vet care, I suppose. I will do more research to see if they work.

See the complete story of Connor's trials and tribulations at

Last year, I had a personal confrontation with one on the veranda, where there was only me, the snake, the dogs and a hoe. The snake came last in our battle to the death, but my little heart was pumping hard after that one. Snakes are protected, and I really would be more than happy to cohabit with them, but my dogs come first.

"If my doctor told me I had only six minutes to live, I wouldn't brood. I'd type a little faster."
...Isaac Asimov

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