How To Treat A Dog Snake Bite

By Anton Hout, author of The Guide to Aussie Training & Care

Carrying a dog snake bite kit on outings could be a good idea, especially if you live in an area where poisonous snakes are common. Whether or not you have a kit, you need to know how to handle the emergency. It could be a life or death situation.

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Try To Identify The Snake

The most common poisonous snakes are the rattlesnake, water moccasin, copperhead and coral snake. The species are native to specific areas of the world. Looking at pictures of snakes that live in your area (or those areas you visit commonly) is a good way to become familiar with them.

All snakes produce venom that causes adverse reactions such as swelling. A visit to the vet's office is in order, regardless of what species was involved.

Trying to identify the species is less important than your own safety. Don't waste time on it if you live a long distance from the vet.

Rattlesnake caution sign.

Dani Simmonds

Dog snake bite awareness is key to prevention.

Antivenin is sometimes used for treating a dog snake bite from a poisonous species. Not all veterinary offices stock it. To be prepared for the situation, keep your vet's emergency phone number programmed into your phone. If the office does not stock the antivenin, they should be able to get it in a matter of hours. Calling ahead will speed up the order process.

Commercial snake bite dog kits do not come with antivenin. Veterinarians can supply you with an emergency dose to keep in your kit if your dogs are at high risk. Hunting and herding dogs are examples of high risk dogs.

Be Aware of the Signs of Shock

Shock is one of the symptoms of poisonous snake bites. The venom may cause swelling in the upper respiratory system making it hard for the animal to breathe. The venom of coral snakes and rattlesnakes paralyzes the upper respiratory system. The bites are most dangerous if they occur around the head or near the heart. Learning how to perform artificial respiration could save your dog's life.

Rinse Away or Pump Out Venom

Ven-Ex Snake Bite Kit, Bee Sting Kit, Emergency First Aid Supplies
Ven-Ex Snake Bite Kit, Bee Sting Kit, Emergency First Aid Supplies.

A dog snake bite kit comes equipped with a pump that can be used to suck out about 30% of the venom. You should never attempt to suck out the venom using your mouth. If you do not have a kit, rinse the area thoroughly with water. Some of the venom will remain around the wound and can enter the blood supply if it is not rinsed away.

Take Steps to Reduce Circulation

Tourniquets are no longer advised for a dog snake bite, because they do more harm than good. In order to slow the venom's movement through the bloodstream, keep the wound below the heart, if at all possible.

You can keep an Ace bandage in your snake bite dog kit. The bandage should be applied in an area between the wound and the heart. For example, if bitten on the leg, the bandage would go above the wound, below the heart. This slows circulation without causing damage to tissues or arteries.

If possible, you can use a cold compress or icepack to slow circulation and keep swelling to a minimum. Keeping your car air conditioner on as you drive to the vet will help, too.

Be Calm, But Move Quickly

Having a snake bite dog kit on hand is one thing that will help you remain calm. Being calm is important, because your pet will be hurt, angry and more likely to bite. It's not a bad idea to keep a muzzle with you on outings. Even dogs that have never bitten will attack when they are hurt, especially as you try to touch and treat the affected area.

The importance of getting to the vet quickly cannot be overstated. Most dog snake bite fatalities occur within 2 hours of the incident. If you will be in a remote area, an antivenin shot is a good investment. icon

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