Snake bites can cost an arm and a leg

According to the provincial government’s website, a puff ader is a thick-set slow-moving snake and is easily identified by its dark brown or blackish V-patterns on the back. Picture: Steve Meighan

As many of us head outdoors to enjoy warmer weather, it’s vital for pet owners to be aware of venomous snakes and the thousands of rand it could end up costing to treat an animal bitten by one, says a vet.

“If your pet is bitten by a puff adder or a cobra, it’s crucial to know that antivenom treatment is costly,” warns Dr Karyn Ann Levy, from Noordhoek Veterinary Clinic.

A single vial of antivenom costs about R3800, she says.

“Puff adder bites usually require three to four vials, and cobra bites need four to six vials. So the antivenom cost alone can range from R11 000 to R22 000.”

This excludes any other veterinary treatment, hospitalisation and, in bad cases, ventilator costs, she adds.

“For those living or walking in areas where snakes are prevalent, considering a medical aid plan that covers snake-bite incidents for your dogs might be a wise choice. Some vets may also request a deposit for the expensive treatment upon hospital admission.”

Steve Meighan, the owner of Deep South Reptile Rescue, says about 12 to 16 people, and even more dogs, are bitten by venomous snakes in the province each year.

“We get over 30 incidents of dogs being bitten by snakes each year throughout the entire Western Cape.”

Puff adders and Cape cobras are most often responsible for venomous bites, he says.

According to the provincial government’s website, the Western Cape is home to six snake species of medical significance, including Cape cobras, puff adders, berg adders, boomslangs, rinkhals, and black spitting cobras.

The Cape of Good Hope SPCA reports that among these six venomous snake species, the one generating the highest number of calls is the puff adder.

If your pet gets bitten by a snake, Mr Meighan recommends removing tight collars or any other restrictive items that could constrict swelling.

He stresses that it is crucial to stay at a safe distance of 2 to 5 meters when encountering snakes and to contact a professional snake catcher

“Trying to get closer, throwing things at the snake, or attempting to kill it can result in dangerous situations. If possible, take a photo of the snake for identification purposes.

“When you’re out walking, pay attention to where you’re stepping. Look ahead, but also keep an eye on the areas next to the path to avoid unexpected encounters, like snakes.”

Snakes can sometimes be found in open areas near these paths, especially during mid-mornings and late afternoons when they’re soaking up warmth from the ground.

“These are the times when people are more likely to come across snakes while walking,” says Mr Meighan.

“It’s vital for everyone to stick to the rules and only take their dogs to places meant for them, like beaches and parks. If you’re planning a hike with your dog, check if it’s allowed, and always keep your dog on a leash until you’re in a clear area where you can see what’s happening around you. In natural areas, it’s important not to let your dog roam freely to protect both your pet and the local wildlife.“

The Cape cobra is common throughout the Western Cape. It is active during the day and hides in holes in the ground and under large objects, according to the provincial government’s website. Picture: Steve Meighan