Leanne Sims was absolutely horrified when she found her beloved pooch Lottie lying motionless under her fruit tree.
Outside for just 20 minutes on Tuesday afternoon, on what was the coldest day this week, her special doggo was bitten by a snake.
She didn't know that at the time however. With a quick call to a clued-in relative, she rushed her Kavoodle to the vet where her worst fears were confirmed.
Two anxious nights at the vet later after little Lottie received the antivenom, and Ms Sims urges everyone in Inverell and surrounds to be on the lookout.
"Because I live out of town, and I have chooks too, I always look out for snakes," she explained.
"Now I'm even more vigilant, especially now knowing how many are out and about - even in town."
It's a situation confirmed by Dr Gundala Rhoades, vet and owner of Gowrie Veterinarian Clinic. She says this year, they're seeing more snake bitten pets earlier in the season, and more often, especially in comparison to previous years.
She's already had about 12 patients since the start of September.
"We had one day where we had three come in," she explained.
"During the drought, we had hardly any - which is probably the only good side-effect of the drought - but definitely we've seen more than normal and earlier - October is normally when we see them begin to come in.
"The mouse plague would've provided very good fodder for them."
Dr Rhoades has attended to a Cavalier King Charles Spaniel, a Maltese, two Siberian huskies, two cats, a big pig dog, a Kelpie and a Jack Russell. Unfortunately, they lost a little dog on Thursday night who hadn't received treatment in time.
The Gowrie clinic has stocked up on antivenom in preparation for the massive season ahead, but Dr Rhoades warns it can be an expensive visit - ranging from a few thousand dollars or more - and highly recommends getting pet insurance.
She says the key to survival is to get pets in as soon as you see any abnormal behavior - if they are being too quiet, too excited, vomiting, drooling, lethargy, loss of appetite, lameness, a swollen face or body tissue, fitting, comas, or even just lying there.
"Symptoms vary so much depending on where the bite was, how much venom was injected, how long ago it was, which leg - and even year to year see we see variation in the snake venom," Dr Rhoades said.
"So really if they are acting abnormal in any way bring them in immediately. Some die after five minutes, some die after a week - but you have to always try."
To help slow the spread of venom as you get to the vet, try to immobilse your pet and prevent as much movement as you can. And if the bite is visible - which it often isn't - put a compression bandage on. That won't work if the face has been bitten, however.
Dr Rhoades says there are things to do to help snake-proof your backyard. The old faithful tips of trimming grass and pruning low-hanging trees or bushes, keeping pets away from wood heaps, or even putting fine netting up as a barrier.
There is also a solar-powered device you can set up in your backyard, sold in either hardware stores or online, that emit ultrasonic waves to scare snakes away.
Be careful of killing them though, as snakes are protected under the Nature Conservation Act 1992 and cannot be killed or taken from the wild.
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