Copmanhurst resident Bill White with his dog Belle which recently killed two brown snakes but was bitten in the process.
Copmanhurst resident Bill White with his dog Belle which recently killed two brown snakes but was bitten in the process. JoJo Newby

$9000 well spent to save dog

NO doubt about it - Belle the kelpie cross of Copmanhurst is a survivor.

Belle has steel plates in her hind legs after she jumped from a moving car as an 18-month-old pup. That vet bill was $3000.

She suffered botulism at the age of two and was paralysed for several days - another $2000 vet bill.

But Belle's latest misadventure with two massive brown snakes has also earnt her hero status - at least from her master Bill White.

It was about 7.30pm on Tuesday, October 11 when Bill and his wife Therese were preparing Belle's dinner which usually has her bounding around in excitement.

"I leaned down to pat her and she just collapsed and she started bleeding from the mouth," Bill said.

"Then it was a hair-raising trip to Riverbank Hospital; I'm glad there were no police on the way - we'd called ahead."

Belle was given her first $850 vial of tiger/brown combination antivenom by Dr Susan Dwyer, who had taken a blood test to confirm Belle had been bitten by a snake. Still unable to walk, Belle began to have another seizure and another vial of antivenom was given.

Dr Dwyer stayed with Belle through the night, placing her in an oxygen cage with intravenous fluids helping support her kidneys.

"Her breathing was steady, however, we could not stop the flow of blood from her mouth and we were concerned that she may inhale it down into her lungs," Dr Dwyer said. "We examined the tongue and found at least two sets of fang marks, which were bleeding profusely, as snake venom stops blood from clotting.

"Unfortunately Belle started to deteriorate and at 3am that morning her owners were called to come in and say goodbye.

"However we had underestimated Belle's fighting spirit and by the time Bill and Theresa had arrived she had rallied. An oxygen line was placed into her nose and she was given more medication to help her through. She even started to lift her head when Bill rattled his car keys.

But Belle was far from out of the woods - she had not made any further improvements and at 9am the decision was made to take her to the Veterinary Specialist Centre on the Gold Coast.

"We had used all of the antivenom available and we were concerned that if her breathing worsened she may need to be placed onto a ventilator which we do not have here.

When she arrived on the Gold Coast, a snake- venom detection kit revealed that Belle had been bitten by a brown snake and two more vials of pure brown antivenom were given.

That night she was placed on a ventilator as her respiratory muscles had become so weak that she was unable to get enough oxygen into her lungs.

By lunchtime on Thursday Belle was taken off the ventilator and started to breathe on her own.

"Despite still being paralysed she was hanging in there and fighting every step of the way," Dr Dwyer said. "On Saturday we received a call from Bill and Theresa to let us know that Belle was recovering and would soon be able to come home. She had started eating and drinking and was slowly but surely getting to her feet."

It wasn't until Bill and Therese arrived home that they found what Belle had dealt with - two fat brown snakes at least two metres in length. Each was found in pieces about 20 metres from the couple's front door.

"She got stuck into em and ripped em apart, but she got bitten in the process," said Bill.

"If it hadn't been for the Riverbank Hospital (South Grafton), she would have died."

So what was the total bill from this escapade?

"You don't want to know," said Bill. Yes we do.

"$9000 in total," he said.

But Bill and Therese reckon it's money well spent. Belle is now housebound unless accompanied by her master.

"Snakes are out in plague proportions," Bill said. "She doesn't like it but she'll have to stay pretty much in the house over summer because she has a tendency to play with snakes."

Bill said neighbours had reported several snakes found in the Copmanhurst Public School grounds.

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