Hong Kong is home to 52 species of snake, but fortunately only a small number of these pose a serious risk to dogs (or people).  If you suspect your dog has been bitten by a snake, get him to the vet immediately.  Secondly, if you see the snake responsible, try to either take a photo or remember what it looks like, but don’t ever risk getting bitten or try to catch the snake. Antivenin is species specific and the vet can’t treat with antivenin unless they know what type of snake is responsible for the bite.  If your dog is bitten by a snake you should stop any activity or exercise immediately and get them to the vet as quickly as possible. The good news is that most snakebites if treated in a timely manner by experienced veterinarians will not be fatal.

Emergency veterinary clinics are usually better equipped to deal with snake bites and more likely to carry the appropriate anti-venom. The Animal Emergency Centre on Hong Kong Island stocks the antivenom for Hong Kong’s most venomous snakes.

The five most common snakes in Hong Kong are the Bamboo Pit Viper, Chinese Cobra, Red-Necked Keelback, Many-Banded Krait and common Rat snake.

Bamboo Pit Viper

The Bamboo Pit Viper is responsible for around 95% of snake bites in Hong Kong every year. Its bite is venomous and extremely painful.

This snake is unique in that it will not necessarily slither away if disturbed – it hunts by ambushing its prey and is not worried about loud noises.  They are nocturnal, can see very well at night and may actively attack a dog that tries to approach it. They are one of the few snakes that will be aggressive.

Although bites from the Bamboo Pit Viper can be fatal, they are usually very successfully treated if your pet is taken to the vet quickly.

Cobras – The common Chinese Cobra or more rare King Cobra

The Chinese Cobra is next most likely culprit when it comes to snakebites in Hong Kong. It is active both day and night, however unlike the Bamboo Viper, it will not aggressively attack its prey and will usually try to escape.  If it can’t escape and is cornered, it will rear its head, spread its hood and strike the victim. Bites from the Chinese Cobra are very serious and the victim should be rushed to vet as quickly as possible for treatment.

The King Cobra is rarer, though some say even more dangerous. Hong Kong snake catcher Dave Willott says “It is very fast and (…) it is aggressive. The thing about them is that they can raise their body off the ground and within about half a second they can cover six foot. They glide. They are amazing. Obviously you have to be really careful”.

If you’re unsure what type of snake you’re dealing with, the presence of a hood over the neck area is a pretty good sign that it’s a venomous snake.