Copperhead snakes are one of the most common venomous snakes in the US, and they can be found throughout much of the South and Midwestern United States. 

Oftentimes, dogs will chase little critters. And sometimes, these little critters can be quite dangerous. 

While most snakes are not overly aggressive and tend to retreat from danger, Copperheads will strike when provoked. 

Copperhead snakes are dangerous as soon as they’re born, as even the babies have fangs and can inject venom with a nasty little bite. 

If you live in an area with Copperhead snakes, it’s essential to know what to do if your dog gets bitten. Keep reading to find out everything you need to know about treating a Copperhead snake bite in dogs. 

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Map of where copperheads are located in the US

What to Do if Your Dog is Bitten By a Copperhead Snake

Copperhead snake bites can be fatal for dogs, especially if it’s a smaller breed that has been struck.

The first thing anyone should do if they discover that their dog has experienced a snake bite is to call the vet. Even if the snake isn’t venomous, a bite can cause a bacterial infection. 

Here are few tips that will help you identify a copperhead snake:

  • The snakes head is spade/triangular shaped head
  • The eyes are narrow slits vs. circular and dilated
  • Look for an “hour glass” pattern on the snake’s body
  • A short, thick body

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In any case, there are a lot of “copperhead lookalikes”. So regardless of what snake you think bit your dog, you should call your vet immediately. 

While not all Copperhead bites require antivenin, and sometimes they’ll even dry bite animals, it’s always better to err on the side of caution.  

Always be Prepared With an Animal Hospital 

In any kind of pet emergency, you must have an animal hospital on call. 

You should know which veterinary hospital is close by and whether they can treat snake bites with antivenin. 

Antivenin is not always available at every facility, so this information is important to know beforehand.

If you prepare yourself for an emergency, you won’t need to waste precious time researching and phoning local animal hospitals. Every minute is vital to save your dog’s life after they’ve been bitten by a snake. 

What You Can Do 

The first plan of action should always be to get your dog to a veterinary professional as soon as possible. 

However, in the case that you cannot reach a vet quickly or if you’re not certain that the bite is serious, there are some things you can do to ensure your pet’s safety. 

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First, it’s important to remain calm.

 A Copperhead’s venom travels through the bloodstream and it’s important that your dog does not become anxious and stressed as this will increase the distribution of venom through increased blood flow. 

If you remain calm and work to keep your dog as calm and relaxed as possible, the venom will move slower through the blood. 

When possible, carry your dog to the car instead of having him walk to limit the blood flow and the spread of venom.

Don’t wash the bite or apply ice, or in any way try to remove the venom. This can lead to worse tissue damage around the affected area. 

Symptoms of a Copperhead Bite in Dogs

A Copperhead bite will cause your dog to become sick and can be fatal if not treated quickly. 

As dogs are not immune to Copperhead venom, they will start displaying symptoms that will give you an indication that they have been bitten by a venomous snake

The severity of the symptoms depends on a few factors. 

These include the size of your dog and the location of the bite. Bites on the face or neck can lead to an obstruction of breathing due to swelling. 

First of all, most non-venomous snakes don’t have fangs so you should be able to recognize puncture holes on the bite site if your dog was bitten by a venomous snake such as a Copperhead. 

Immediate and Developing Symptoms

Copperhead bites will lead to some symptoms showing up fairly quickly, while other symptoms may take longer to present. 

Look out for immediate symptoms such as swelling, redness, and inflammation of the bite site as well as bleeding. Another immediate symptom may be excessive drooling and foaming at the mouth. 

Over a few hours, your dog may present with more serious symptoms such as vomiting, diarrhea and incontinence, sudden collapse, and paralysis. 

Your dog may show some of these symptoms or all of them. But if you recognize some of the more severe symptoms, such as lethargic movements and collapse, you need to seek veterinary attention immediately. 

Using an Antihistamine for Symptoms

Many dog owners advocate the use of Benadryl to assist with treating snake bites. 

It’s completely safe to give to dogs as long as it does not contain acetaminophen and pseudoephedrine.

Benadryl is an antihistamine that may work to provide relief from the symptoms. However, this should not be used in place of a visit to the animal hospital. But rather as a way of calming your dog down and helping them to feel a bit more at ease. 

It’s important to understand that antihistamines are not a cure for snake bites and will not reduce or slow the venom.

They will only help to relieve some immediate symptoms and keep your dog calm.

Recovery Time for Your Pet 

The time it takes your pet to recover from a Copperhead bite depends on how badly your dog was affected. 

If you catch the bite early and react quickly, taking your dog to the vet as soon as possible, recovery can be a few days. 

However, some recovery times can last up to seven weeks and in some cases, your dog may suffer permanent damage from a Copperhead bite. 

The age of your dog and its overall health will play a part in how quickly it recovers. In general, dogs recover quite well from Copperhead bites and although the snakes are very dangerous, the bite is rarely fatal. 

How to Prevent Copperhead Bites

Dogs are curious and interested in snakes, often pursuing them as they would another reptile or creature. If you’re walking or hiking in the wilderness with your dog, keep him on the path as wandering into tall grass and bushes is where he’ll likely encounter a snake. 

To avoid snake bites at home, ensure your garden is maintained and clean to keep out rodents and snakes that might otherwise find themselves a comfortable home there.

Mow the grass frequently, keep woodpiles and garden refuse away from the house, and trim your shrubs and bushes. Copperheads will create dens underneath sheds and large structures. 

So, if you do chance upon one in your yard, there is a high probability there are other copperheads in the vicinity. 

In Summary

If your dog gets bitten by a Copperhead, the most important thing is to get him to a vet as soon as possible. 

The reaction and treatment time can have a big impact on how quickly, and well, your dog recovers. Remember to stay calm and to try to keep your dog calm, and always have an animal hospital on call. 


About the Author: Jesse is a wildlife enthusiast and an amateur herpetologist (fancy name for reptile lover). He’s owned and cared for many reptiles, including his pet California Kingsnake Stanley. He also runs a wildlife publication focused on snakes called happyserpent.com.