Dog Health

What To Do If Your Dog Is Bitten By A Snake

June 23, 2022

dog bitten snakeIt’s crazy to me that it’s already officially summer!  For me and my two dogs, Kitsune the papillon and Fenrir the Alaskan klee kai, the nice warm weather means enjoying as much time as possible outside!  I especially love hiking with my dogs, yes even though they are small.  Spending time out in nature, just me and my pups, can be so relaxing.  But that doesn’t mean that I can completely let my guard down.  Not to be a complete downer, but there are a lot of potential dangers lurking in the woods.  Like snakes…in the grass.

When Kitsune was younger, he was bitten by a garter snake on the paw during one of our walks.  Thankfully, garter snakes, the most common snake species where I live, are non-venomous.  They are relatively small as well, so a bite from one isn’t really a bit deal.  Still, the bite on Kit’s paw was bad enough that it caused him to cry out, and limp a bit afterwards.  There was a bit of swelling and the bite area seemed to be tender.  As  directed by his vet, I gently washed Kit’s paw and had him rest for the rest of that day.  By the time I took him out to use the bathroom later that day, he was putting weight on his paw normally again.

We were lucky that the snake that bit Kit wasn’t venomous.  There are four main types of venomous snakes in the United States – Coral Snakes, Rattlesnakes, Copperheads, and Cottonmouth/Water Moccasins.  How your dog reacts to a snake bite will depend on many factors such as what kind of snake he/she was bitten by, the site of the bite, the age of the snake, etc.

Here are some steps to take if you know, or think, your dog has been bitten by a snake:

  1. Stay calm and try to safely identify the snake if possible.  Take a picture of the snake if you can do so quickly and safely.  If you don’t know much about snakes, just try to remember as much about it as possible.
  2. If you know the snake in question is a venomous species, or you are unsure, get your dog to his/her vet for treatment.  It may take time for symptoms to develop if the snake was venomous, and the sooner you get your dog medical care the better.
  3. Some sites will recommend using a tourniquet after a bite by a venomous species, however most vets now seem to recommend you forgo spending time doing this yourself and just get your pet into a vet ASAP.
  4. Keep your dog as quiet and calm as possible.  This may help to slow down the rate at which venom is spread.
  5. If you need to travel to get to a vet and your dog is experiencing a lot of swelling, benadryl may help.  If you don’t know the dosage for your dog call your vet and tell them you’re on your way, but ask how much benadryl is safe to give in the meantime.

Did you know…

The correct terminology for an animal, such as a snake, that bites or stings to inject toxins is “venomous”.  “Poisonous” refers to animals that are toxic when eaten.  It’s easy to think of it this way.  A venomous animal is dangerous if it bites you.  A poisonous animal is dangerous if you bite it!

General snake bite care

For most snake bites, venomous or not, your vet will probably shave and clean the area.  Depending on the severity of the bite your vet may prescribe medications such as antihistamines, pain medications, and/or antibiotics to prevent secondary infections.  If the snake was venomous your dog will most likely require strict motoring.  Antivenom can be given if necessary.  Your dog may require additional medications and supportive care based on the severity of symptoms.

Knowledge is power

Luckily, I’m quite familiar with our local snake species.  Back when Kit was bitten, I knew right away that the snake was nonvenomous.  With his vet’s blessing, I opted to care for and monitor Kitsune at home.

I know not everyone likes snakes, but it’s always a smart idea to have at least a basic knowledge of what species are present in your area.  It can save you a lot of stress to be able to identify when a bite has occurred from a nonvenomous species, or to be able to ID venomous species so you, or your pet, can receive the correct treatment as quickly as possible.

Comment below, has your pet ever been bitten by a snake?

dog bitten snake

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  • Reply (Miss) Edie the Pug August 23, 2017 at 11:44 am

    Oh my goodness, it sounds like Kit has been having quite the summer! When you said snake bite I had to read, because I just know I would panic! I think it’s a great idea to take a photo of the snake, because to be honest, I don’t know my snakes and at least the vet would know if I would have to be concerned. Thanks for the tips and I hope Kit’s summer gets better!

    • Reply Michelle @ Paw Print Pet Blog August 23, 2017 at 12:43 pm

      Thank you! I think he’s having a fun summer, despite his bad luck. You know how dogs are, he got bitten by the snake one day but was still super excited to go to the park again the next. I never really put much thought into what to do in this situation until it happened to us so I figured I’d pass on what we learned. Thanks so much for your comment!

  • Reply Debbie Bailey August 23, 2017 at 2:08 pm

    These are great tips! Especially the taking a picture of the snake part. That’s a great way to help your vet identify what kind of snake it was and whether or not it is poisonous. Poor Kit. I’m glad in this case it was not a venemous snake. Sounds like he’s having a summer a lot like my boy Ringo’s. He has allergies, he lost a toe nail, got attacked by a whole lot of fire ants about a week ago, then we both got covered in cactus splinters on Monday, and yesterday I had to do the heimlich on him because he was choking and couldn’t breathe. Hopefully Kit and Ringo’s summers both get a bit less “interesting” from now on.

    • Reply Michelle @ Paw Print Pet Blog August 23, 2017 at 7:27 pm

      Aw I’m sorry that Ringo isn’t having the best of summers either! That must have been so scary when you had to do the Heimlich on him.

  • Reply DearMishu August 23, 2017 at 3:34 pm

    Wow thanks for the tips about snake bites, they are VERY helpful, only last week I saw one!

    • Reply Michelle @ Paw Print Pet Blog August 23, 2017 at 7:27 pm

      No problem! We see them a lot at our local park but this is the first time any of us have ever been bitten by one.

  • Reply Hindy Pearson August 23, 2017 at 4:13 pm

    Thanks for such great tips, because I wouldn’t have a clue what to do other than rush the dog to the vet. We used to live in Florida and there were snakes in our garden sometimes, not good since I have a phobia. One day my husband called at work to tell me he noticed the cats were on the patio looking at something – turns out it was a snake. We had no idea what kind, poisonous or not, thankfully the cats were fine and my husband got it out of there before I got home.

    • Reply Michelle @ Paw Print Pet Blog August 23, 2017 at 7:29 pm

      I’ve heard that Florida has a lot of issues with snakes (and other reptiles) that are released pets. It’s too bad people do stuff like that, it really gives reptile keepers a bad name. I’m glad your cats were fine!

  • Reply Luna C. Lupus August 23, 2017 at 5:00 pm

    This must have been such a scary experience! I honestly don’t know how I would react in a situation like that and am so thankful that you wrote this post. In Slovenia we only have two venomous species of snakes and they are rare so I’m not too worried but it’s always good to be prepared. Taking a picture of the snake is a great idea!

    • Reply Michelle @ Paw Print Pet Blog August 23, 2017 at 7:32 pm

      Thanks for your comment! That’s one thing that’s good about everyone having camera phones these days. I’ve heard people recommend trying to catch the snake so it can be identified, but a lot of people are afraid of snakes, and of course if it’s venomous you don’t want to risk someone else getting bitten too.

  • Reply Heather Wallace August 23, 2017 at 5:11 pm

    Poor baby! We live in a forested area and don’t usually have venomous snakes- mostly garter or rat snakes. But I do tend to check the yard first because I often see other wildlife that I need to shoo away. Great advice for any snake bites, human or dog.

    • Reply Michelle @ Paw Print Pet Blog August 23, 2017 at 7:34 pm

      Thanks! I’m jealous, I wish we lived in a forested area. We’re in the city but, go figure, still have to deal with wildlife here. We still have things like snakes and raccoons and there’s a hawk at our local park that makes me particularly nervous as he seems quite interested in the smaller of my two dogs.

      • Reply Heather Wallace August 24, 2017 at 8:29 am

        Oh yes, I lived in NYC and there was a lot of wildlife! My dogs are large so the owls and red hawks that live here mostly go after the smaller prey but we have a snapping turtle that comes every year to our yard to lay eggs. She’s the real threat! Oh, and coyotes too.

  • Reply jana rade August 23, 2017 at 5:30 pm

    Stay calm – that’s just about the hardest thing to do when there is something wrong with our babies. I hope I never have to find out how calm I’d manage to stay.

    • Reply Michelle @ Paw Print Pet Blog August 23, 2017 at 7:38 pm

      Right! Staying calm is easier said than done when something is wrong with a beloved pet. I’m generally able to keep myself calm during an emergency but am the type of person who will break down afterwards. All the stress gets to me but I’m usually able to get done whatever needs to be done before I freak out.

  • Reply Joely Smith August 23, 2017 at 7:34 pm

    I love reptiles but am by no means an expert on the types. We live in a rural area so this was very helpful – thank you so much!

  • Reply Sweet Purrfections August 23, 2017 at 8:47 pm

    Very happy to hear Kit is okay and the snake wasn’t venomous. We have 3 of the 4 poisonous snakes in SC (all except the Coral). I hate to admit it, but I have a huge fear of snakes.

    • Reply Michelle @ Paw Print Pet Blog August 24, 2017 at 7:49 am

      A lot of people do! I love reptiles, but I get it. Where I am we have two native venomous snakes but I have to admit that I’ve never seen the venomous species in the wild. Most of the species here are pretty harmless, although, as Kit proved, getting bitten by them still isn’t any fun.

  • Reply Pip August 23, 2017 at 10:22 pm

    Poor Kit! So glad he was OK. We live in a fairly urban area and there aren’t many snakes around. However, last week we were traveling out west with Ruby and I was so worried about snakes. Fortunately, we didn’t see any and stayed safe, but I definitely worried about it.

    • Reply Michelle @ Paw Print Pet Blog August 24, 2017 at 7:53 am

      Thank you! 🙂 The funny thing is that we live in a very urban area too. It’s surprising sometimes just how many types of wild animals you can run into in the city. The beach we go to all the time is in the city we live in, although it’s a lot less urban than the rest of the area that surrounds it.

  • Reply Amy Hempe August 24, 2017 at 12:20 am

    Poor pup! Some neighbors in the ‘burbs have been finding snakes in their yards. Occasionally on the news i’ll hear about a rattlesnake in a front yard. The option of never going outside ever again isn’t really feasible, so preparation is the next logical course of action. Ugh. Me & Indiana Jones share the same feelings here. But this is just one of those things we can’t be surprised about, especially in the mountains.

    • Reply Michelle @ Paw Print Pet Blog August 24, 2017 at 7:53 am

      Right. It’s one of those things that you hope you never have to deal with, but it’s good to be prepared and know what to do just in case.

  • Reply Kia August 24, 2017 at 9:12 am

    Aw, so sorry he got bit! Glad everything turned out fine. This is such a timely post as we saw a snake in our backyard recently, but thankfully Simba wasn’t outside at the time. I will be pinning this!

  • Reply Clare Reece-Glore August 24, 2017 at 9:57 am

    Well done article! The tips are excellent. I like snakes too and so cool to see someone use the “venomous” term correctly.

  • Reply Shayla Oliver August 24, 2017 at 11:31 pm

    Great tips! We have a couple snake avoidance classes here, but it’s always good to be prepared! Sometimes they are sneaky!

  • Reply Cathy Armato June 24, 2022 at 7:13 pm

    This is so important for dog owners! Snakes are out on the trails, in the grass, and hard to see. Poisonous snakes can be deadly. We lived in Phoenix for nearly 10 years and it was always a worry

  • Reply Kamira Gayle June 25, 2022 at 4:28 pm

    Oh, I’m sorry that happened to Kit. I’m glad that the snake was nonvenomous. I didn’t even know the difference between poisonous and venomous. Thanks for educating me on this difference. I didn’t have any experience with snakes with my pets. My cat once escaped through the front door onto the porch and got a spider bite. Luckily when I took her to the vet to get checked they only needed to prescribe her penicillin. Thanks for sharing your tips. I’ll have to pin this post to share with my dog moms and dads.

  • Reply Marjorie Dawson June 25, 2022 at 6:01 pm

    I always think of snakes as living miles from anyone in the middle of nowhere not something a dog walker comes face to face with! I am glad Kitsune only met a ‘harmless’ snake not a nasty one too.

    Your advice about taking a photo if you can is something so obvious but something I might have forgotten so well done on an important tip I will remember from now on.

  • Reply Terri June 25, 2022 at 6:50 pm

    Snake bites can be very scary! A few years ago a good friend of mine was out on her daily hike with her dog pack when a rattlesnake bit her pup several times. It was in the spring, which apparently is when the rattlesnakes venom is the most deadly. She had her daughter with her. They were one mile away from her car. My friend ended up carrying Luke back to her car and racing him to the vet (another 30 minutes away). Even though Luke was a puppy at the time, he was a large 75-lb pup. She got to the vet and Luke went into basically ICU. It was touch and go for about 7 days. The vet said the two things that saved Luke were that he had a rattlesnake vaccination and that he was carried to the car, rushed to the vet, and not allowed to move. They weren’t sure if his kidneys would function normally or not with that much venom in his system. But after a few months, he was back to normal. It was a long haul (literally and figuratively) for Luke and my friend. I’m certain a smaller dog wouldn’t have survived that kind of attack.

    This is a very valuable article. I really appreciate you writing it. I’m sharing it with all my dog friends.

  • Reply Ruth Epstein June 26, 2022 at 1:53 pm

    WOW poor Kitsune but as you said your knowledge of snakes really helped, it is one of my biggest fears but living in a city I do not worry that much but its always good to know, understand and be prepared. Thanks for the great post

  • Reply jana rade June 26, 2022 at 7:13 pm

    I admire snakes but they scare me, especially when it comes to my dogs. I keep an eye open at all times. Fortunately, we mostly have just garter snakes around here–still, though.

    What I find scary that antivenom isn’t something veterinary clinics normally have. Up here, they don’t. The only chance a dog would have is human emergency.

  • Reply Dorothy "FiveSibesMom" June 28, 2022 at 7:35 pm

    Oh, what a terrifying time that must have been! Snakes and me…no, no, nope, no. This info is excellent to have and I’ll be Pining/sharing for certain. I am so glad Kitsune was okay…when I had my FiveSibes, I did worry about snakes. While we lived in a small city, our yard had almost every type of wildlife, and with Huskies, it was all free game! Many days spent rescuing squirrels and possums playing possum from them! Thankfully, we never had a snake encounter. If we did, I might be the one need resuscitation!

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