Deadly taipan bite kills dog

Val Suhle lost her dog "Oyster" to a Taipan bite.
Val Suhle lost her dog "Oyster" to a Taipan bite.

A LEICHHARDT woman whose dog died after being bitten by what is believed to have been a taipan is a warning for Ipswich residents to be on the lookout for venomous snakes.

Val Suhle did not see the snake which bit her 10-year-old bullmastiff-rottweiler-cross Oyster on New Year's Eve, but a test conducted a few hours after the bite suggested it was a deadly taipan – a species rarely seen in Ipswich.

The vet who treated Oyster could not access taipan antivenom and, despite his best efforts to keep her alive through the ordeal, Oyster had to be put down on New Year's Day.

Mrs Suhle, who was left with a $2600 vet bill, said her experience should serve as a timely reminder to Ipswich residents that venomous snakes were active.

“Oyster was bitten about 3pm – she just collapsed, one of her eyes was rolled inside out and her back legs were paralysed within a very short time,” she said.

“By 6pm the vet told me it was a taipan and that they could not find any antivenene.”

Booval Vet principal Dr Scott Campbell said it was the second taipan bite he had seen in four months.

He said the antivenene was extremely expensive – about $1800 per vial – and stocks were low.

“By using it on a dog you could be taking it away from a person who needs it later,” Dr Campbell said.

“It is certainly not an antivenene which is carried routinely.”

Snake catcher Bryan Robinson said it was possible that heavy rain and flooding had forced snakes to higher ground and brought them into increased contact with people and pets.

“We have been fielding a lot of calls this summer, though mainly just for snake identification,” he said.

“With this consistent wet weather I would expect it to get busier.”

Mr Robinson said carpet pythons, common tree snakes and yellow-face whip snakes were the most common species found in the area.

Of the highly venomous species, the eastern brown is the most common in Ipswich, and red-bellied black snake numbers are increasing after their kind struggled for many years through the drought.

Mr Robinson said snakes were generally shy, and people should remain calm if they see one.

“About 95 per cent of bites happen to people who try to kill or catch a venomous snake,” he said.

“If you see a snake, leave it alone, let other people know it's there and call a snake catcher if you are concerned.”

Dr Campbell said Ipswich people could prevent their pets being bitten by keeping them away from scrubby areas.

Mrs Suhle said Oyster would not be forgotten. She will be cremated and her ashes kept in a box with her photograph on it.

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