How to Treat Canine Snakebites


| 5/25/2017 7:30:00 AM


Tags: Pets, Snakebite Treatment, Dog Snakebite,

dog and snake on stump 
Snakes will try to avoid your pet, but still stick to open paths while walking, and keep your dog at your side. Photo by iStock/sbrogan
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I sometimes see snakes on my property, and I’m worried that one of them will strike my dog. How can I identify and treat a canine snakebite?

A canine snakebite isn’t always easy to diagnose, especially if it’s an unobserved bite and your pet has a heavy coat of hair that could hide wounds. With pit viper bites, you can usually see single or multiple bleeding puncture wounds. The initial symptoms are marked swelling, which is due to tissue destruction and body fluid “leaking” into the damaged area. Clinical signs may develop immediately or could be delayed for several hours. Bruising and skin discoloration often occur within hours of the bite because the venom prevents blood from clotting. There is usually intense and immediate pain at the site of the bite (which helps differentiate snakebites from other causes of swelling), and swelling is generally progressive for up to 36 hours. You might also see collapse, vomiting, muscle tremors, and depression in breathing.

Dos and Don’ts

If your pet is bitten by a snake, assume it’s a venomous bite and seek veterinary attention as soon as possible! If the swelling isn’t in your pet’s face, then muzzle your pet (if you can do so safely) to avoid being bitten. Snakebites are very painful, and even the gentlest pet may unintentionally snap at you. If the swelling is in your dog’s face, avoid touching this area. Immobilize the part of your pet that has been bitten by the snake, if this can be done safely, and try to keep the area at or below the level of your pet’s heart. Try to keep your pet calm and immobile, and carry it if necessary.

Don’t try to suck out the venom! Don’t attempt to “make an X” and cut open the area around the bite (you will only create a wound). Don’t bother to use a snakebite kit or extractor pump (they’ll actually do more harm to your pet — and your wallet). Don’t apply ice to the area; this will constrict the blood vessels locally and concentrate the venom, causing severe muscle damage. Don’t rub any substances into the bite; the venom will have entered the bloodstream, and any substance applied topically will be ineffective. Don’t apply a tourniquet; you’ll only succeed in causing further tissue damage and possibly necessitate a limb amputation. Don’t allow your pet to move about freely.

And finally, don’t attempt to capture the snake for later identification!




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