This information should be read in conjunction with the detailed background information on Australian snakebite.
These widespread snakes are included not because they are particularly dangerous, but because they frequently cause bites. Envenomation may result in both local and general symptoms, but there is no evidence that they are potentially lethal, and therefore bites do not require antivenom therapy. The whip snakes grow to about 60-100 cm and are thin of build, the average adult having a diameter approximating 1 centimetre. This is considerably smaller than any of the lethal snakes. The yellow faced whip snake (D. psammophis) is usually green to grey anteriorly, shading to a russet brown towards the tail, and with distinctive cream hash marks on either side of the eye. The black whip snake (D. atra) is brown to black with lighter sides.
Few formal studies on the venom of this snake have been published, but it is not considered lethal to man. Bites usually cause local pain and swelling, sometimes with a mild systemic illness, but there is no evidence of paralysis, coagulopathy, myolysis or renal failure.
NOTE: Venom of this snake may give positive results either as brown snake or as tiger snake on VDK and this may cause confusion in interpretation.
Be aware of this in interpretation of VDK results and in deciding on the need for antivenom therapy. Whip snake bites do not normally need antivenom therapy, but may warrant admission overnight if there is significant local swelling, for elevation of the bite site. If antivenom were to be considered, the preferred antivenom would be CSL Tiger Snake Antivenom.
Small snakes from NE Australia with poorly characterised venom. Little information available on clinical effects.
Small snakes from southern and western Australia with habits similar to death adders. Minimal venom or clinical data available.
Small, relatively common snakes of eastern Australia preferring, as the name suggests, wetter areas. May cause local pain with non-specific general symptoms (nausea, abdominal pain). A low grade defibrination coagulopathy has been demonstrated. In severe envenoming, consider CSL Tiger Snake Antivenom.
Small snakes with very small black eyes found in coastal areas from WA across the top end and down the eastern coast. The eastern small-eyed snake (R. nigrescens) is common (although bites are rare) in populated areas on the east coast and is reported as the cause of one death from delayed myolysis. In severe envenoming, consider CSL Tiger Snake Antivenom.
Isbister GK, Dawson AH, Whyte IM. Two cases of bites by the black-bellied swamp snake (Hemiaspis signata). Toxicon 2002;40(3):317-9.
Shea GM. The distribution and identification of dangerously venomous Australian terrestrial snakes. Aust.Vet. J. 1999;77(12):791-8.
Sutherland SK, Tibballs J. Treatment of snake bite in Australia. In: Sutherland SK, Tibballs J, editors. Australian Animal Toxins. 2nd ed. Melbourne: Oxford University Press; 2001. p. 286-342.
White J. Clinical Toxicology of Snakebite in Australia and New Guinea. In: Meier J, White J, editors. Handbook of Clinical Toxicology of Animal Venoms and Poisons. 1st ed. New York: CRC Press; 1995. p. 595-618.