Snake Bites and Your Dog: What You Need to Know
Even though snakes are not usually aggressive, they respond aggressively if disturbed, so a curious dog tries to “play” with a snake as it suns on a rock may quickly realize that they have chosen the wrong playmate.
General Snake Bite Facts
Most snakes are not poisonous; however, the venom they inject into our dogs can be very irritating nonetheless. With dogs, many snake bites occur on the face because they investigate the strange snakes by smelling them, but snake bites can occur anywhere on the body.
The area of the bite may show 2 to 4 fang marks which may bleed a little, but in many cases, puncture wounds are not evident. What IS evident is the swelling that occurs around the bite. Swelling occurs rapidly and the swollen area is sensitive and painful for the cat or dog. If left untreated, an abscess may develop as the venom destroys the soft tissue it invades. So, the first sign you may notice is a swollen muzzle.
Other Signs of Snake Bites
Besides being swollen, the bitten area may become red and bruised. The dog may rub his face with his paws. Tissue necrosis occurs pretty fast, so there may be a liquid feel (like a water balloon) to the swollen area and if the skin on top of the bite ruptures, pus or bloody fluid may be released. These signs are more severe when the snake is poisonous snake or when the dog is allergic to the venom of a non-poisonous snake.
If a significant amount of venom invades the dog’s bloodstream, he may appear agitated. Unfortunately, the more agitated the dog becomes, the faster the venom transfers throughout the body. Dogs affected may drool, have muscle tremors or seizures, become paralyzed or incontinent, and appear confused or dazed. Some of them have sudden bouts of vomiting or diarrhea while others have cardiac complications. These signs usually only occur in the event of a bite from a poisonous snake.
Emergency Care for Snake Bites
There isn’t much to do at home for the unlucky dog. If you think your dog has been bitten by a snake, try to keep him calm. Don’t wash or massage the area and don’t apply ice. These common first aid tactics can actually increase the spread of venom.
The best thing you can do is take your dog immediately to a veterinary emergency clinic. For poisonous snake bites, he may require hospitalization while IV fluids and anti-venin are given. For non-poisonous bites, anti-inflammatory medications may be sufficient. Both cases are usually treated with antibiotics to prevent the development of an abscess.
Are There Any Good Snakes?
While there are many species of “good” snakes in the grass, even friendly rat snakes and king snakes can make your dog feel badly after they inflict a bite, so when it comes to your dog, there are no harmless snakes. The poisonous snakes to watch out for include the rattlesnake, copperhead, moccasin and coral snake.
Since our dogs can’t tell the difference between poisonous and non-poisonous snakes, we have to be careful to monitor them when taking them on camping trips or hikes. In fact, many snakes lurk around wood piles and flower beds, so we have to watch them even in our own back yards.