What To Do If Your Dog Is Bitten By A Snake

Most dog owners dread the thought of their dog being bitten by a snake. In many areas of the United States, venomous snakes are a real concern. Cottonmouths, copperheads and rattlesnakes are common in parts of the Southeastern United States with rattlesnakes more common in the Western states. Coral snakes are rare and are also found in the Southeast.

If your dog provokes a non-venomous snake. They may strike your dog and leave a small puncture or abrasion. These rarely need any treatment unless they get infected.

If you see a venomous snake bite your dog, then this is easy to diagnose. But if the snakebite is not witnessed, then it can get a little trickier. The symptoms will depend both on the amount of the venom delivered in the strike, the size of the dog and also the location of the bite.

Here’s what to look for in your dog:

Swelling at the sight of the bite.

Intense pain.

Red or dark skin around the bite site.

Puncture wounds with drainage of blood-tinged fluid

Try your best to remain calm as your dog will take his cues on how to respond from you. Be aware that your dog may be in severe pain and may try to bite you as you try to help him, so you may have to muzzle him in order to lift him. Carry your dog to your vehicle and do not allow him to walk.

Contrary to what you may have read, do NOT try first aid such as applying a tourniquet, ice, making cuts over the puncture wounds or trying to suck out the venom. Just get your dog to a veterinarian as soon as you possibly can.

The vet will likely hospitalize your dog and may require antivenin.

The best treatment is to try to prevent these bites from happening at all. Clear brush or tall grass away from your house and the dog’s yard. Place any wood piles well away from your house, as they are favorite snake hideouts. 

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By Ellen Britt

Dr. Ellen Britt has loved dogs since she was a child. She is particularly fond of the Northern breeds, especially Alaskan Malamutes. Ellen worked as a PA in Emergency and Occupational Medicine for two decades and holds a doctorate (Ed.D.) in biology.

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