What Happens if My Pet Gets Bit by a Snake?

Dr. Ashley Gray

Spring is an exciting time of year where we start to come out of our winter hibernation mode and explore the great outdoors again. The weather starts to get beautiful as the flowers bloom, and we see an influx of wildlife in our backyards and parks. If you have your pets in a backyard, go to parks often, or hike in the mountains, you may come in contact with some critters that could cause harm to your pets. One of the most common injuries we see this time of year through our emergency department is snake bite wounds. Snakes are most active between March and October, which can pose a threat to your pets. The most common venomous snakes we see in the greater Charlotte region are Copperheads and certain types of Rattlesnakes.

I would like to provide you with some tips to try to decrease the amount of snakes in your yard so that you can help keep your pets safe at home.

  • Keep your yard tidy by cleaning up and removing any undergrowth, leaves, toys, wood, and tools that can be hiding places for snakes.
  • Keep all walkways and paths around your house clear.
  • Try to prevent and remove any food, bird seed, etc, which can attract rodents, which are prey for snakes.
  • It is favorable to walk your pet on a leash so you can control where they go in your yard if it is wooded or has areas that could hide snakes.
  • It is important to know that snakes can strike at a distance equal to about half their body length. If you see one, it is imperative to head back the way you came from.
  • You may want to familiarize yourself with what the common venomous snakes look like in the event you witness a snake bite so that you can better prepare your emergency veterinarian as this can guide your pet’s treatment.

Below are signs you may see if your pet experiences a snake bite so that you can quickly bring them in to us or your local emergency veterinarian to be seen.

  • Local or Generalized Swelling in the region of the bite (if generalized swelling, it can cause other signs such as difficulty breathing based on location of bite)
  • Bleeding
  • Extreme pain
  • Low Blood Pressure
  • Dead tissue around the region of the bite
  • Shortness of breath or Respiratory Difficulty
  • Weakness
  • Kidney failure

If your pet experiences a snake bite or you notice some of the above clinical signs, you must remain calm as well as try to keep your pet calm by reducing their activity. If your pet was bit around the neck region, remove their collar to decrease issues with swelling. Bring him to us or your local emergency veterinarian right away so that your pet can get immediate veterinary attention. Treatments you may read online to do at home such as icing, tourniquet, alcohol, sucking out the venom, etc will not help and ultimately waste precious time when it comes to giving your pet the best care. Your veterinarian will assess the wounds, determine the current health status of your pet, and discuss next steps in their diagnostic and treatment plan.

We hope these tips help keep your pets safe this spring and summer. If you have any questions, you can always call us for advice!

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