Snake Bites and Your Pet
When a dog is too curious to leave a snake alone, it may get bitten – especially in Texas, where the risk of snakebites are high. The severity of the situation depends on several factors, including:
- Type of snake: Some snakes are poisonous, others are not. That said, some non-poisonous snakes have a more painful bite that can cause infection. Different venoms have different properties.
- Amount of venom injected: Because they are primed to hunt, snakes’ venom glands are fuller during the warmer months, resulting in a more damaging bite. This is also subject to the size and maturity of the snake.
- Area where the snake bit your pet: The closer the bite is to the heart, the quicker it spreads through the body. Snake bites often hit on the nose of the animal.
How to Treat a Snake Bite on a Dog
Approximately 80% of pets survive a snake bite if treated quickly, so a prompt response is essential. This involves recognizing the initial symptoms of a snake bite and immediately seeking care.
The following commonly touted measures are ineffective and potentially harmful:
Use of ice, cold packs, or sprays; incision and suction; tourniquets; electric shock; hot packs; delay in presentation for medical treatment (waiting until problems develop).
Recognizing the Symptoms
Although the intensity of snake bite symptoms will depend on the factors listed above, watch out to see if your dog is exhibiting any of these signs:
- Sudden weakness and collapse, followed by your pet getting up normally.
- Trembling, shaking, or twitching of muscles
- Diarrhea and/or vomiting
- Unsteadiness/weakness in hind legs
- Excessive salivation, drooling or frothing at the mouth
- Bloody urine
- Dilated pupils
- Presence of bite wounds and pain/swelling around a bite site
Snake Bite Emergency Care
If you suspect your pet has been bitten by a snake, seek veterinary attention immediately. Most pets will survive a snake bite if attended to immediately. Make sure to call the clinic ahead of your arrival so that the team can make the necessary preparations to treat your pet as soon as you arrive. You will probably be asked to identify the snake, but do not attempt to catch or kill it. After calling the veterinary clinic, administer first aid/emergency treatment to minimize the effects of the venom. Here are some things that you can do to treat a snake bite on a dog:
- If you see the bite wound, rinse the wound with water to remove some venom.
- Keep the wound below the heart, and keep your pet as still as possible to discourage the spread of venom.
- If your pet isn’t breathing, call the veterinary clinic for instructions for how to administer CPR.
- Keep calm. Pets can sense panic, which can cause them stress. An increase in stress levels may cause venom to be circulated in the body more quickly.
What Happens at the Veterinary Clinic When Treating a Snake Bite?
When you get to the clinic, based on the veterinarian’s assessment of severity, bloodwork results, and suspected type of snake, antivenom may be administered. In Texas, it tends to be a first-line treatment, as rattlesnake bites are common in our area. In most cases, it is recommended to hospitalize your pet for additional support care. When your pet gets discharged, it will need anywhere between 1-2 weeks of rest. Your pet may go home with medications. Give all medications as directed by your veterinarian.
How to Keep Your Pet Safe from Snake Bites
Most pet snake bites can be prevented by taking a few precautions:
- Keep your backyard clean. Snakes can easily be camouflaged by long grass, so make sure to cut your grass often, and do your best to clear your lawn of any food that may attract snake prey, as well as items that can be used as hiding places.
- Have your dog on a leash. Your dog will be less likely to have an unfortunate snake encounter if you are keeping a close watch.
- Enroll your pet in rattlesnake aversion training so they know how to recognize the scent, sound, and sight of a rattlesnake so they can avoid them.
- If you want to proactively protect against the possibility of a snake bite, ask your veterinarian about the rattlesnake vaccine. The vaccine is designed to reduce the severity of signs when a bite occurs. Despite a vaccine, always call your veterinarian when a snake bite occurs!
If your pet has been bitten by a snake, call us at 254-939-1884 immediately so we can help your pet!