Here in North Carolina, we have to watch for snakes, both venomous and nonvenomous. Over the past month or so, Rainey has been getting into altercations with snakes. Thankfully, they have mainly been the nonvenomous kind. But, the other day, she sniffed out a copperhead (and probably saved my elderly neighbor in the process). But it got me thinking, what do I do if my dog is bitten by a snake?
As a dog owner, it is important to know what to do in the event of a snake bite, as it can mean the difference between life and death for your furry friend. While snake bites are not as common as other types of injuries, it is still important to be prepared and know what steps to take.
Table of Contents
- 1 What to do if your dog is bitten by a snake
- 2 How to prevent your dog from being bitten by a snake in the future
What to do if your dog is bitten by a snake
Hopefully this will help you feel more prepared for this emergency and learn how to prevent future bites.
Step 1: Know your local snakes
This is great advice even if you don’t have pets. You should familiarize yourself with common snakes in your area, when they are most active, and learn what juveniles and adults look like. The other day, Rainey cornered a baby snake near the house. After I threw a bucket over it, and was thinking I’ll need to move, I called a snake-loving friend of mine who reassured me that it was a harmless baby rat snake (which was great news as I almost had a heart attack when he had asked me to grab a photo of it). Knowing what snakes you and your dog may encounter will help you become more vigilant.
So, it is important to try and identify the type of snake that bit your dog, as this will determine the type of treatment they will need. If you are able to safely do so, try to take a picture of the snake, or at least note the color and markings on its body. This information will be helpful to the vet when they are treating your dog.
Step 2: Remain calm and keep your dog still
One of the most important commands you should teach your dog is “Come.” Most snakes will bite as a last resort and instead will use defensive postures to try and scare off a possible attacker. So, you can help to prevent an attack, if you see your dog near a snake, by calling them to you.
But, if you are too late and your dog is bitten by a snake, it’s really important to try and remain as calm as possible and keep your dog still. If your dog panics and starts to run around, this can cause the venom to spread more quickly throughout their body. Speak to your dog in a calm and reassuring voice and try and get them to move as little as possible. You should get any other animals away from the snake, and try and grab photos of it.
Step 3: Get to the vet immediately
Depending on the size of your dog and what kind of snake bit them, your dog may not show any signs of illness for several hours. But it’s very important to call your vet immediately. Left untreated, snake venom can cause serious harm to your dog. You should monitor your dog very closely for any changes in their behavior or health.
Step 4: Keep your dog’s heart rate low
On the way to the vet, try to keep your dog’s heart rate as low as possible. This will help to slow the spread of the venom and reduce the risk of serious harm to your dog’s body. Avoid holding your dog, as this may cause their heart rate to increase. Instead, try to place them on a flat surface, such as a blanket or towel, and keep them as still as possible.
Step 5: Provide first aid
While getting to the vet is the most important thing you can do for your dog, there are also a few first aid steps you can take to help reduce the risk of harm. These steps include:
- Keeping the affected limb below the level of the heart
- Keeping the limb immobilized and as still as possible
- Cleaning the bite wound with soap and water
It is important to note that you should not attempt to suck out the venom, cut the bite wound, or use a tourniquet, as these actions can cause more harm than good. If your dog is bitten by a nonvenomous snake, you may not need to go to the vet. But, you should clean and disinfect the bite area. And make sure to keep an eye on the area in case any infections begin.
Step 6: Monitoring your dog after treatment
Once your dog has received treatment, it is important to watch for any changes in their behavior or health. Your dog may need to stay at the vet for a few days for observation and treatment. Or they may be sent home with medication. In either case, it is important to follow your vet’s instructions carefully and keep an eye on your dog to ensure that they are recovering as they should.
How to prevent your dog from being bitten by a snake in the future
While snake bites can be frightening and dangerous, there are a few steps you can take to help prevent them. These steps include:
- Keeping your dog on a leash when you are out on walks
- Avoiding areas that are known to have snakes, such as tall grass or rocky outcroppings
- Keeping your yard clear of debris, wood piles, leaf piles, and bushes where snakes can hide
- Keep your grass mowed regularly, snakes don’t like open spaces where they can easily be grabbed by predators
- Remove any water features which can provide a water, hiding, and food source
- Training your dog to “leave it” and “come” as soon as you call
There is no way to prevent snakes from coming into your yard. There are products on the market that claim to deter snakes, however their effectiveness isn’t really proven. And many are full of chemicals that could do more harm than good to you, your dog, and the environment.
The most effective way to get a snake to move is by spraying it lightly with a hose. This keeps both you and the snake safe. There are a lot of beneficial snakes, so we don’t want to be killing all the snakes we find.
Snake bites can be serious events that require prompt treatment and close monitoring. By being prepared, you can help to protect your dog. And this also ensures that they receive the care they need if they are bitten by a snake. If you have any concerns or questions about snake bites, we recommend that you speak with your veterinarian. Your vet will be able to provide you with more information and guidance.