What to do in the event of a snake bite on your dog

If your dog gets bitten by a snake, it’s crucial to act quickly. However, try to remain calm and not panic. Most snakebites on dogs are not fatal before reaching the emergency vet, but the outcome depends on various factors like the dog’s size, the type and size of the snake, the amount of venom delivered, and the location of the bite on the dog. If you suspect a venomous snake has bitten your dog, follow these guidelines:

What to Do If a Venomous Snake Bites Your Dog

Immediately call your veterinarian or local emergency veterinary clinic and inform them about the snake bite. Inquire if they have antivenom available. If necessary, drive to a clinic that carries antivenom, even if it’s further away. Antivenom works best when administered promptly, but it can still be effective hours or even days after the bite.

Discuss the veterinary treatment protocol with the veterinarian, which should include bloodwork to monitor severity, opioid pain medications, and potentially antivenom. If the veterinarian recommends Benadryl, NSAIDs, or steroids, talk to them about the Unified Treatment Algorithm for snakebites applicable to both humans and dogs. They may suggest IV fluids and hospitalization for a period of eight to 48 hours.

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If the veterinarian declines to administer antivenom due to concerns about allergic reactions, the misconception that antivenom can only be given once in a dog’s life, or the idea that antivenom is effective only within the first hours after the bite, advocate for your dog and refer them to the Unified Treatment Algorithm for snakebites. Consider joining the National Snakebite Support Group on Facebook for personalized advice from experts and preparation for your dog’s treatment.

Treating snakebites can be expensive, ranging from hundreds to thousands of dollars. Most veterinary emergency clinics require upfront payment, but some offer financing options like CareCredit. It’s wise to have pet insurance to cover unforeseen costs.

Effective Venomous Snakebite Treatments

Effective treatments for venomous snakebites on dogs include:

Antivenom

Antivenom is the primary treatment to combat snake venom effects. It binds to the toxin, preventing damage to tissue cells. Antivenom can be expensive, ranging from $400 to $800 per vial. Most dogs may require more than one vial. It takes about an hour to infuse one vial of antivenom intravenously. Not every dog bitten by a venomous snake needs antivenom, but it can mitigate severe pain and swelling.

Opioid Pain Medication

Snakebites are extremely painful, and opioid pain medication is essential. Even if antivenom is not needed or unavailable, the veterinarian should administer an opioid injection for pain relief and provide strong oral pain medications. NSAIDs like carprofen are not sufficient for snakebite pain.

Ineffective Venomous Snakebite Treatments

Avoid these ineffective treatments for snakebite on dogs:

  • Tourniquet or Constriction Bandage: These techniques can increase venom absorption and cause local tissue damage.
  • Sucking Out the Venom: Suction devices remove only a small amount of venom and may worsen the situation.
  • Antihistamines: Not effective against snakebite venom.
  • Electric Current: Ineffective in treating snakebites.
  • Ice: Confines venom and increases local damage.
  • NSAIDs to Control Pain: Not strong enough to manage snakebite pain and can worsen bleeding tendencies.
  • Corticosteroids to Control Swelling: Ineffective for snakebite treatment.
  • Subcutaneous Fluids: Could increase bleeding and bruising in venom-affected dogs.
  • Antibiotics to Prevent Infection: Rarely necessary for snakebites.
  • Rattlesnake Vaccine: Ineffective in addressing snakebite effects.
Yorkshire Terrier waiting to take its medication.Yorkshire Terrier waiting to take its medication.
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Signs of Venomous Snakebite in Dogs

In addition to visible wounds, dogs may show signs of snakebite such as pain, hiding, vomiting, diarrhea, swelling, and bruising. The severity of symptoms may vary.

Can I Treat My Dog’s Venomous Snakebite With First Aid?

Do not attempt to treat your dog’s snakebite with first aid. Instead, remove the dog’s collar, keep them calm, and head to the nearest emergency vet with antivenom. If you suspect a non-venomous snake bite, contact your vet for advice and treatment.

What If I Didn’t See the Snake That Bit My Dog?

If your dog was bitten by an unseen snake, get them to safety and seek veterinary help immediately. It’s crucial to treat the envenomation symptoms promptly without identifying the snake species.

How Bad Is My Dog’s Snakebite?

Assessing the severity of a snakebite on a dog can be challenging. Regardless of the snake species, if your dog displays symptoms of envenomation, treat it as a medical emergency and seek professional help.

Snakebites do not always have visible fang marks and can present differently in each case. It’s essential to take any snakebite seriously and seek veterinary care.

Are Some Snakebites More Dangerous Than Others?

While certain snakes may be more venomous than others, all venomous snakebites require immediate medical attention. Bites on highly vascularized areas of the body are more critical and should be treated promptly.

What Is a “Dry Bite,” and How Can I Tell?

Consult a medical professional to determine if the snakebite was a “dry bite.” Observation and monitoring are crucial to assessing the severity of the bite and deciding on appropriate treatment.

What If My Dog Is Bitten by a Coral Snake?

If you suspect a coral snake bite, seek urgent veterinary care. Coral snake bites can be serious, and specialized treatment may be required. Antivenom for coral snake bites is essential for recovery.

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Are Some Dogs at Greater Risk for Snakebite?

Small dogs, very young or old dogs, and those with respiratory issues are at higher risk of experiencing severe symptoms from snakebites. Flat-faced dogs may be particularly vulnerable due to facial swelling.

How Can You Help Prevent Snakebite on Dogs?

Know the common venomous snakes in your area and take precautions to avoid snake encounters. Keeping your yard clean and avoiding snake habitats can help reduce the risk of snakebites. Limit outdoor activities at night and in areas known for venomous snakes.

Prevent access to snake prey by controlling rodent populations and attracting natural predators like owls and hawks. Avoid using ineffective snake repellents and consider snake aversion training for dogs in high-risk areas.

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What to do in the event of a snake bite on your dog

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