The warm weather means snakes will now be up and about after a long period of hibernation, hungry and in search of food.
From mid-August until late May it is snake season.
More than 80 per cent of all snakebites in South Africa occur between January and April and in the early evening with people accidentally stepping on snakes.
With this in mind, the metro cautions community members and pet owners to be on high alert and keep an eye on their domestic pets as they may fall prey to snakes.
Compared to other parts of the country, the Gauteng Highveld has only a few dangerous snakes.
Over much of the greater Johannesburg region, the East Rand and further south, the rinkhals, stiletto snake and night adder are of concern.
North, east and west of Pretoria there are also the Mozambique spitting cobras, snouted cobras, puff adders, and boomslangs.
The rinkhals is common in grasslands, especially near vlei areas, where it is active during the day, hunting for toads and rodents.
This snake often has a permanent lair and is quick to disappear down its hole if it is threatened.
Some individuals will live down the same hole for many years.
If cornered, the rinkhals spreads a hood exposing two or three white bars on the chest and will spit readily.
They can eject their venom as far as three metres.
Otherwise, the snake will bite if spitting does not drive off the aggressor.
The venom of this snake is both neurotoxic and cytotoxic, causing pain and swelling but might also affect breathing.
Though considered potentially deadly, there have been no fatal bites in more than 40 years.
The other problematic snake is the stiletto snake.
It is usually active in the early evening, often after rain, and commonly ends up in swimming pools or is brought into homes by cats.
It is a small snake, usually dark brown to blackish and for some reason, people often mistake it for a harmless mole snake, even though it does not resemble it at all.
If handled in any way, even if gripped behind the head, this snake will bite.
The venom of the stiletto snake, though not considered potentially deadly, is potently cytotoxic causing pain, swelling, blisters and tissue damage that often results in the amputation of a finger.
There is no anti-venom for the bite of this snake and doctors can only treat symptomatically.
While cats are far too quick and intelligent to get bitten by snakes, dogs are instinctive hunters and many dogs end up in veterinary hospitals with serious bites.
• First aid for a snakebite:
In the event of a snakebite, get the victim to the nearest hospital with a trauma unit as quickly as possible.
It is very important that the victim receives the correct treatment as this may prevent a great deal of unnecessary pain and tissue damage.
Forget about tourniquets and other first aid measures – just get the victim to a hospital.
Less than 15 per cent of snakebite victims need anti-venom and treatment is very effective in most instances.
• Venom in the eyes:
Gently rinse the affected eyes under a tap of running water for 15 to 20 minutes and get the victim to a doctor.
The eyes will be examined, treated with local anaesthetic and antibiotic cream.
Most victims recover fully within two or three days.
Do exactly the same for your pet – straight to a vet.
• Pets and snakebites:
Forget about Allergex tablets, milk, charcoal and all the other myths.
It does nothing for the poor animal.
Get your pet to the nearest vet and in cases of severe envenomation, anti-venom will be required.
• Snakes in the garden:
If you spot a snake in your garden, keep a safe distance of five metres or more from the snake and call a snake remover.
There is a list of snake removers countrywide on the African Snakebite Institute’s website – www.africansnakebiteinstitute.com.
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