Whether you witnessed the event take place or found the puncture wounds later, discovering that a snake has bitten your dog can be a nerve-wracking experience.
First and foremost, start heading to the nearest veterinary office immediately if you notice any of the following signs:
- Redness and swelling near the bite
- Difficulty breathing
- Excessive drool
- Bleeding from the gums and orifices
If you haven't noticed any of those symptoms yet, or you'd like to prepare for a potential snake bite, keep reading to find out what you should - and shouldn't - do if a snake bites your dog.
This is a crucial first step. Staying calm is the most immediate action you can take to avoid worsening the situation. People who are panicking can't make rational, well-thought-out decisions. Time may be of the essence, but take one moment to take a deep breath if you need to. Your pet needs you to stay level-headed.
Not only will panic cause rash decisions, but your pup will also pick up on your energy. Your facial expressions, hormonal odor, perspiration, and tone of voice can cause your dog to get nervous, too. Nervous dogs have a more rapid heart rate, and a rapid heart rate will spread venom throughout the body faster.
Do Remove Your Dog From the Situation
Remove your dog from the situation as quickly as possible. Your fur baby may try to retaliate by attacking or killing the snake, but this puts them at risk for even more bites and, if the snake is venomous, a higher venom load in their bloodstream.
Ensure your own safety so that you’re well enough to nurse your dog, but remove him or her from the situation and put them somewhere safe as quickly as possible.
Don’t Try to Catch or Kill the Snake
As much as you may want to "get back" at the snake for hurting your beloved pet, most snakebite injuries on humans occur when the human is attempting to kill the snake. You can't make sure that your dog gets the care it needs if you end up getting bitten, too.
Another false misconception is that you need to take the snake with you to the veterinarian for identification. If you're in the United States, there are only two different types of snake venom. The kind of antivenom your pet may require can be determined by his or her symptoms.
Do Identify the Snake
If, and only if, it is safe and quick to do so, try to quickly make a mental note of the snake's appearance. Reptile Guide recommends identifying characteristics such as size, pattern, and color. If you're able to snap a quick photo of the serpent, that is even better. An expert can help you identify the species of snake that bit your dog, which will help you determine what kind of medical care your baby needs.
None of this is imperative, so focus on making sure you and your dog are safe first. Don't pursue the snake to try to identify it. It might be worth noting where the snake hides in case you'd like to have it professionally removed at a later time. If you don't disturb the area, the snake may stay hidden in the same spot for several hours.
Don’t Attempt to Remove the Venom
The myth that you can suck out the venom from a snake bite is often perpetuated in TV and movies. Unfortunately, this just isn’t realistic. Venom spreads through the bloodstream quickly, so don’t waste precious time trying to suck out or remove venom that has already been injected.
Do Tend the Wound
Rinse the bite are with water or, preferably, sterile saline solution. Part the wet fur and take note of the puncture wounds. If you suspect that your pet was envenomated, and it is physically possible, elevate your pet’s chest above the bite site. Gravity will help to slow the spread of the venom.
Non-venomous snake bites will appear like two sets of multiple U-shaped rows of tiny, pin-prick like punctures.
Venomous snake bites may appear similar, but will be accompanied rather quickly by swelling, redness, and oozing. If the bite was from a pit-viper, you should also be able to identify two large puncture wounds from the fangs.
Don’t Tie Off the Limb
A tourniquet may seem like a great idea to stop the venom's spread, but unfortunately, this will make the issue worse. Cutting off or hindering the blood flow to the affected limb concentrates the venom in one area while damaging the area's beneficial cells from lack of oxygen.
Do Watch for Symptoms
Early symptoms of envenomation start within minutes and include swelling and redness around the bite and vocalizations from pain.
Late symptoms of envenomation are trouble breathing, confusion, bleeding from the gums and orifices, lethargy, swollen lymph nodes, vomiting, and excess salivation.
If your pup doesn't experience any of these symptoms within twelve hours of the bite, it was either bitten by a non-venomous snake or experienced a dry bite from a venomous snake, and no venom was injected.
Don’t Use Home Remedies
Never give your dog pain medication or any other medication without the direct guidance of a veterinarian or other pet healthcare expert. Don’t waste time trying to find home remedies for snake bites on the internet. When it comes to snake venom, time is of the essence.
Do Call Your Veterinarian
Your veterinarian will be able to better advise you about when and if you should bring your dog in, things that you can administer or try at home in the meantime, and additional symptoms that you should watch for. They may be able to help you identify the snake that bit your dog based on a description or a photo.
Even if you’re already on the way to the office, if you can safely call, this will give the staff a head’s up and additional time to prepare the medications and materials needed to stabilize your pet.