How to Treat Snake Bites in Dogs

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Items you will need

  • Optional

  • Strip of cloth or gauze

  • Splint

Snake bites should be treated by veterinarians. A snake bite is a serious injury, regardless of whether the offending snake is venomous or not. However, you are your dog’s first responder when a snake bite occurs. Your success in providing your dog with first aid before he is transported to the veterinarian’s office may well save his life.

Examine your dog for signs of the bite. Most dogs are bitten on the head or neck, possibly because they attempt to sniff the snake. However, a dog also can be bitten on the paws, legs or body. The bite typically will show two small puncture wounds where the fangs entered your dog’s flesh. The area surrounding the fang wounds might be tender and swollen. It also may be discolored.

Keep your dog as inactive or immobile as possible. If your pet is small, pick him up and carry him. If he was bitten in an extremity, secure it using a splint -- even just a stick -- loosely and in a natural position.

Identify the snake. Take a photograph, if possible. If you cannot photograph the snake or guess what type of snake bit your dog, make note of any identifying features that you can see. In the event that you did not see the snake, tell your veterinarian where you were hiking and in what environment your dog was bitten.

Transport your dog to the veterinarian as quickly as possible. Because of the number of variables associated with your dog succumbing to a bite, including whether the snake has bitten recently, the time of year, bite location, species of snake and the health of your dog, it is best to treat all snake bites as extreme emergencies and to seek immediate treatment.

Tips

  • Bring the carcass with you to the veterinarian’s office, if the snake has been killed,.

    Some symptoms of a venomous snake bite also include muscle twitching and difficulty swallowing (coral snakes) or panting and lack of muscular coordination (pit vipers). Both types of venom can result in respiratory collapse and death.

    Bring your dog to the veterinarian as soon as you know he's been bitten, if you did not observe the bite. It may take several hours for symptoms of a snake bite to become apparent; the sooner the dog is treated once symptoms are observed, the better his chances for a complete recovery.

    Envenomation, commonly referred to as "poisoning," does not occur with every snake bite. It is best to assume that your dog has been poisoned if bitten by a snake, as even a bite from a nonvenomous snake can be painful and require treatment.

    If you are hiking and do not have access to a strip of cloth or to a splint, you can create a makeshift splint from a stick and something to hold it in place: use a shoelace for small dogs or the sleeve from a sweater or windbreaker for a larger dog, for example. If you have no supplies at all, simply hold your dog's limbs as still as possible, to prevent the venom from spreading quickly through his system.

Warnings

  • Do not apply a tourniquet to your dog’s extremity. You may unintentionally cut off your dog’s circulation, causing the loss of his limb.

    Do not apply ice to the area. Prolonged exposure to cold can cause damage to your dog’s flesh.

    Do not cut into the area of the bite with the intention of sucking out the poison. Sucking out poison can put you at risk.

    Do not wash the wound. Doing so may increase the speed with which the venom is absorbed.

Photo Credits

  • purplevine/iStock/Getty Images