How Axle rose from snake bite sick bed

AXLE the working dog from The Lagoon is one lucky pooch.

The kelpie was bitten by a snake while working sheep on Monday and is alive today thanks to the quick thinking of his owner.

Too many pets in the Bathurst region are lost during summer to the deadly venom of brown snakes and tiger snakes which inhabit the district in large numbers.

Cases such as Axle’s are all too common for Ewald Jooste and the team at the Stewart Street Veterinary Hospital. 

They have had several owners rush their dogs to the practice in recent weeks as warmer weather brings the reptile population back to life after winter hibernation.

“They come in fits and starts and it’s really a reflection on the weather and higher temperatures,” Mr Jooste said.

“We had Axle come in on Monday night. His owner worked him in the morning and found him laying paralysed in his cage that afternoon.

“From the symptoms there was no doubt he had been bitten by a snake. He probably unknowingly stepped on one. Dogs like that don’t go out of their way to play with snakes, but terriers just can’t help themselves.

“Luckily his owner acted quickly and made it here in time so we could administer the anti-venom.”

Mr Jooste said the time between a pet getting bitten and getting help is critical. 

“It depends on a number of factors,” he said. “If a small dog gets bitten by a big snake then you don’t have much time. There’s more time if it’s a big dog bitten by a small snake.

“That’s tough if you live half an hour or 40 minutes out of town. If that’s the case then get the dog in the car and let us know you’re coming. It’s good to be able to identify what type of snake it was, but that’s difficult. We use the tiger/brown combination anti-venom because they are the most common types in this area.”

Mr Jooste said dogs that have been bitten by a snake are often wobbly on their feet, they shake, have saliva around the mouth and have trouble breathing.

Cost of treatment is also a factor for owners when they have a pet bitten by a snake. 

“There’s not going to be much change from $1000 and two thirds of that is the cost of the anti-venom,” Mr Jooste said. 

“It’s a massive economic decision to make. For someone with a working dog, well, some guys pay thousands of dollars for a good one and don’t even think about the cost.

“But if you’re a struggling family it’s a very tough call to make because we can’t guarantee 100 per cent if we can save the animal.

“Saying that, if we get the animal and it’s still alive, we can save them most of the time.”

Mr Jooste said a lot of local people walk their pets in the Peace Park by the Macquarie River.

“I would advise keeping that dog on the lead down there,” he said.  “Off leash and you run the risk of it running into a snake in the long grass.

“Carry a stick with you and make plenty of noise. Snakes will generally try to get out of your way.” 

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