It’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:
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- Keep your dog as quiet and calm as possible. This may help to slow down the rate at which venom is spread.
- 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?