Dog Snake Bite: the inquisitive nature of dogs makes them prone to trouble. If you therefore, live in an area with a high population of venomous snakes you want to practice extra caution. Preventing an accident from happening is key to responsible dog ownership. When hiking, camping or simply walking always try to stay on the path and keep your dog safely with you on leash.
Owners of dogs who live in rattlesnake prone habitats may be delighted in learning that recently, Red Rock Biologics has created a special vaccine for dogs prone to rattlesnake bites. Such vaccinations help neutralize the venomous toxins before they start doing extensive damage. Another precautionary measure is to have your dog undergo a specialized training that allows dogs to learn to avoid snakes.
Having mentioned all preacuationary measures, let’s say your dog still gets bit. At a first glance, owners should be able to recognize a bite from a poisonous snake from the bite of a non poisonous snake. In the Unites States, there are four snakes that should cause concern: rattlesnakes, copperheads, coral snakes and cotton mouths. Because these snakes are so fast to strike, owners may not be able to visibly see the snake and therefore will have to rely on the appearance of the bite.
A poisonous pit viper bite will have two fangs. Such fangs leave typical fang marks which will appear as two bleeding puncture wounds. In some cases, should you own a long haired dog the actual puncture area may not be clearly visible. However, your dog will appear visibly in pain and the tissue surrounding the bite area may appear swollen and discolored. In some cases, however, swelling may not be present nor will any local reaction be visible.
Should the bite appear to be from a non poisonous snake -(therefore with no fang marks)- simply clean the wound and monitor for signs of infection. If there are fang marks instead, your primary goal should be to take your dog at once to the closest veterinary hospital.
Systemic symptoms may develop within a short time or after several hours. It all depends on the dog’s over all health status, the amount of venom injected, the species of the snake, the area bitten, and the size of the dog. Affected dogs will typically exhibit the following symptoms:
- Dilated Pupils
- Pale gums
- Eventually, death
While proceeding to the nearest veterinary hospital is of upmost importance, there are some precautions you can take to prevent things from going for the worst.
- Keep your dog calm
The more nervous your dog is, the faster the blood will flow causing the venom to spead faster through the dog’s system. You do not want the venom to spread fast, so try to keep your dog from becoming too excited or scared. Just as excitement and fear causes the heart to beat faster and pump more blood spreading the venom, struggling and moving a lot will have the same effect. If possible, try to limit the amount of movement and if plausible, carry the dog yourself.
- Keep your dog from moving
Just as excitement and fear causes the heart to beat faster and pump more blood spreading the venom, struggling and moving a lot will have the same effect. If possible, try to limit the amount of movement and if plausible, carry the dog yourself.
- Do not wash the wound
The more you deal with the bite area the more the venom is absorbed. Washing the wound has a similar effect as massaging, and you do not want to massage more venom in the skin.
- Do not apply ice
Ice will only damage tissue without doing any good. While this may seem like a good way to slow down the swelling, in reality it does no good.
- Do not suck up the venom
Not many people are aware of the fact that by doing so, they may absorb some of the venom as well through their mucous membranes in the mouth. Also a human’s saliva is rich of bacteria possibly causing an infection.
- Do not apply a tourniquets
Dogs have had to have their legs amputated because owners have cut off their blood supply causing irreparable tissue damage and death (necrosis).
Your dog will be given anti-venin injections. It may be helpful if you could describe the snake as there are different anti-venin depending on the species. The vets will also provide respiratory and circulatory support. Antihistamines will be administered and so will fluids. Most dogs will need to be hospitalized.
Try your best to practice effective precautionary measures when stumbling upon snake habitat. According to Red Rock biologics, each year about 300,000 pets are bitten by venemous snakes. Treatment of antivenin and the hospitalization may easily amount to thousands of dollars. Not to mention the fact that some dogs may have to live with the damage resulting from a serious snake bite all their life.
*Disclaimer: All remedies suggested are not to be used as a substitute for professional veterinary advice. If your pet is sick please refer to your veterinarian for a hands on examination. If your pet is exhibiting behavior problems please refer to a professional pet behaviorist.