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snakebites on dogs

Snakebites on Dogs | Signs and Treatment

Summer is coming to a close and although cooler temperatures are on the horizon, we aren’t quite there yet.  Days aren’t as uncomfortably hot like they are during the summer, so it seems like the perfect time to get outside or go for a hike with our dogs.  But, something that you should be weary of as a dog owner are snake bites on dogs.

Dogs are notorious for being natural-born hunters.  While enjoying the outdoors, they tend to explore.  Dogs can often encounter snakes on their explorations and if a dog is too curious, they may not be leaving these slithery reptiles alone.  When a snake feels threatened, they will bite in self-defense.  And because there are different types of snakes – venomous and nonvenomous – not every bite is created equal.

Your dog may encounter a nonvenomous snake {ie. bull snake, garden snake or racer snake} and although these bites are painful and could cause infection, they are not fatal.   However, if your dog should encounter a venomous snake {ie. Copperhead, rattlesnake or water moccasin} then the venom could kill a dog within an hour unless you give first aid immediately.

What Are Signs of Snakebites on Dogs?

It’s always good to be educated on signs of snakebites.  In dogs bitten by a nonvenomous snake, swelling and bruising around the bite most often occur. Depending on the case, it may still be possible to see puncture wounds in the center of the injury and the bite may be very painful and possibly infected if not treated.

If your dog has been bitten by a venomous snake, look for signs of extensive and quickly spread swelling, bleeding or bloody discharge.  You may not always see the puncture wound from the fangs so keep that in mind.  Some snakes may be too young or too small for the puncture wounds to be visible, plus the swelling usually makes it harder to see.

Keep in mind that even if your dog has been bitten by a venomous snake, they don’t always inject venom.  Seek help immediately to avoid any health threats to your dog.

Seeking Treatment

If your pet is bitten by a snake, assume it’s a venomous bite and seek veterinary attention immediately. It’s always better to be proactive than waiting and potentially regretting it if your loved one rapidly gets worse.

A painful snakebite could cause your dog major stress.  It may be important to muzzle your dog to avoid being bitten.  Make sure that you keep your dog in a calm, quiet and warm state.  This helps reduce stress in your dog and keeps them as comfortable as possible while you seek help.  Stay calm.  Your dog can sense when you are panicked and high stress levels can cause the venom to circulate even quicker throughout the body.

If for some reason you are unable to take your dog to a veterinarian right away, here are some things that you can do to help minimize the spread of venom:

  1. Rinse the bitten area with water to rid the wound of excess venom.
  2. Keep the bitten area below the level of the heart to reduce blood flow to the area.

 Treatment Depends on These Important Factors

Treatment is varying.  It all depends on the size and species of the snake, size and age of the dog, and location of the bite.  If you’re able to, show your veterinarian a photographs of the snake or try to describe it with as much detail as possible.  Depending on which species, treatment could involve antibiotics, antihistamines, fluid therapy, treatment for shock, and antivenin.

It’s common for a pet to be hospitalized for 12 hours following a snakebite.  Sometimes, it is recommended that your pet stay in the hospital for 24 hours depending the severity of the bite.

In general, snakes like to avoid people and dogs.  If you happen to see a snake, be sure to avoid the area where the snake is located.  Keep your dog on a leash to prevent them from scaring the snake and causing it to go into a self-defense mode.  Snakes are prone to spending time in holes, on logs or on rocky areas.  Be alert and be cautious while hiking around these kinds of areas.

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