Snake Bites: What To Do If Your Dog Gets Bitten

With their curiosity and natural hunting instincts, it is uncommon for your loyal four-legged friend to cross paths with snakes. Dogs, being human’s best friend, are exposed to various situations with the possibility of encountering both harmless and dangerous animals.

As a pet owner, you understand the many reasons why you should own a dog, especially an American bully. Therefore, deciding that you won’t have a dog to avert possible snake bites is impossible. As such, you should be in the know of what to do if your dog gets bitten.

Just to mention, snakebites are common during summer as they come out from their hibernation. The cold winter condition force snakes to hibernate in a bid to save energy. That said, if your dog is exposed to a biting snake, below are some details on how you should handle the situation.

Types of Snake Bites on Dogs

venomous snake bite on dog

There are approximately 20 venomous snakes living in the United States. Fortunately, not all species of snakes are harmful. Non-poisonous snakes often have a painful bite site that can cause infections.

These snakes, such as the Garter snake, lack fangs that produce venom. Instead, they have rows of teeth that don’t produce any venom.

On the other hand, poisonous snakes have fangs that produce venom. During the bite, there are chances that a poisonous snake won’t inject any venom when it bites.

However, the situation becomes fatal if they do, especially if immediate attention is not sought. Distinguishing bites between poisonous and non-poisonous snakes is of immense importance.

If a non-poisonous snake bit your dog, there won’t be any puncture wounds commonly associated with poisonous snakes. However, as mentioned, a bite from a non-poisonous snake may become infected. Therefore, immediate vet attention is necessary, as well.

Snakes That Cause Complications 

snakes that cause complications

The severity of snakebites on your pooch depends on the type of snake. Some specific snakes have fatal bites, and dog owners should watch out for. Some of the snakes that cause complications include:

  • Rattlesnakes – these snakes have brown or reddish skin with clear patterns on the back and tail rattles. Pit vipers of the rattlesnakes have slit-eyed pupils, such as those of cats, while non-poisonous have round pupils. They also have pits below their eyes, rough scales, pair of fangs on the upper jaw, and wide arrow-shaped heads.
  • Copperheads – these snakes have a red-brown color, hourglass markings, and distinctive copper-colored head. They extend more than 3feet long and commonly found on wood piles or leaf litter.
  • Water moccasins – as the name suggests, water moccasins are predominantly found around swamps and streams. They extend up to 6feet long and are black or dark brown in color. The inside part of the mouth is white, probably the source of its “cottonmouth” nickname.
  • Coral snakes – Their small black-nosed head with a vividly banded body recognize coral snakes – coral snakes, which could be yellow, white, red, or black. The red and yellow bands always follow each other, which makes it easy to distinguish them from king snakes.

Understanding the different types of snakes makes it easy to identify the snake that bit your dog. Providing such information is helpful to the vet as they can easily identify a treatment plan.

Symptoms of Snake Bites on Dogs

snake bite symptoms in dog

The crucial part of knowing if that dog has been bitten is witnessing the snake bite happening or physically seeing the snake. However, if you didn’t witness or saw the snake, there are specific signs that are synonymous with snake bites.

Note that symptoms of snake bites appear within 24 hours after the bite. However, the effects of the venom take effect on the dog’s system immediately. The symptoms include:

For non-venomous snakes:

  • Bruise and swelling around the bite
  • Visible puncture wounds
  • Bleeding from the site
  • Pain and subsequent infection

For venomous snakes:

  • Visible shaking and tremors
  • Ptyalism or excessive salivation
  • Rapid but shallow breathing
  • Visible tissue damage
  • Bleeding from the wound site
  • Vomiting
  • Incontinence
  • Blood in urine
  • Dilated pupils
  • Altered mental status
  • Ataxia or loss in coordinated body movements
  • Tetraparesis or limb weakness
  • Significant muscle contractions
  • Collapsing

What to Do Immediately Your Dog is Bitten 

dog bite by snake what to do

If you have confirmed that your dog has been bitten, based on the symptoms above, some safety measures can help save your dog’s life. That said, below are what you should or what not to do following a bite.

  • Do immediately contact emergency vet services – snake venom enters the blood system immediately the snake delivers the bite. This means emergency vet services are required as soon as possible.
  • Do keep the wound below the heart level – this practice applies for both humans and dogs. Whereas it may be common sense to elevate the wound, the exact opposite is true for snakebites. The goal of doing this is to prevent infected blood from reaching the heart.
  • Don’t suck the venom out – you shouldn’t entirely believe what you see other people doing. Once snake venom enters the bloodstream, it can’t come out. Therefore, trying to suck venom from your dog’s wound is akin to trying to remove a vaccination administered in your system.
  • Don’t try to scare the snake away – if your dog has been bitten, he/she might be trying to strike back. Your goal should be ensuring that you get out of this danger with your pet. Keep distance since snakes have a wide striking distance.
  • Don’t use a tourniquet – most people believe in the use of a tourniquet to prevent the spread of snake venom in the dog’s bloodstream. However, restricting blood flow near the area bitten concentrates the venom in one area. Since accumulating blood is de-oxygenated, it can lead to necrosis. Snake poison is hemotoxic, meaning that it damages the red blood cells, blood proteins, and platelets that facilitate normal blood clotting. Concentrating the poison in one area leads to blood clotting and sequential necrosis.

Diagnosing Snake Bites on Dogs

how to diagnose snake bite in dogs

Identifying the species that bit your four-legged friend is the easiest way of diagnosing snakebites. This makes it easy to establish if the bite on the dog is poisonous or harmless. In most cases, the owner or anyone who witnessed the bite makes the diagnosis of snakebite.

Regardless, if you suspect that a snake has bitten your canine friend, don’t hesitate to rush him/her to a vet clinic as an emergency. Always try to remain calm to prevent your dog from sensing panic.

Don’t allow the dog to walk, but instead carry him as you provide reassurance with voice and actions.

Before taking the dog to the hospital. Don’t try home remedies such as the use of tourniquets and ice packs. If possible, bring with you the dead snake or take a picture for easy identification and diagnosis by the vet.

The veterinarian will determine the best treatment intervention based on the information provided. Some vets prefer using a snake venom detection kit to make their diagnosis.

Treating Snake Bites on Dogs 

how to treat snake bite in dogs

Treatment of snakebites is hugely reliant on the type of snake. For non-poisonous bite, the bite wound is cleaned thoroughly, and the vet will prescribe antibiotics, antihistamines, and anti-inflammatory medications accordingly.

For venomous bites, an anti-venom will be required. The vet will also locate, mark, and clean the bite site. The remaining treatment plan will depend on the severity of the bite and type of snake that caused the condition.

The poison injected by the snake can cause shock, paralysis, and constriction of the windpipe. As such, you should remove the dog’s collar or harness to ensure that the airways remain unrestricted if the body swells.

You should as well be prepared to provide rescue breathing to the dog at any time.

Note that though anti-venoms are available, veterinarians don’t prefer using it. This is because there is no universal anti-venom that can be used. Besides, the costs may be prohibitive as well.

As such, most dogs suffering from snakebites are treated symptomatically for swelling, pain, and infection. Anti-venoms are used if chronic respiratory distress occurs.

Prognosis of Snake Bites

can dog survive snake bite

Probably the most important goal of seeking medical attention after a snakebite is getting immediate recovery. Fortunately, the odds of your dog surviving the bite are high if the dogs receive immediate veterinary treatment.

Conclusive studies show that the prognosis of snakebites and full recovery depends on several factors. The size, age, the health status of the dog, and the time taken before receiving treatment determine the chances of prognosis of the dog.

In the event of successful recovery, close follow-up is essential for the assessment of wound healing and testing to evaluate how the body systems, muscles, and other organs are coping with the treatment.

During this period, ensure that you find the best dog food for your American bully that will ensure a speedy recovery.

The Bottom Line 

The majority of snakebites on dogs occur when the pets are in the wrong place at the wrong time. Therefore, you should put several prevention measures in place to avoid such situations.

Among them include keeping your backyard clean, vaccinate your pet, keep them on a leash, and snake-proofing your yard. Regardless, if you can’t avoid such accidents, the guide above will help you get a starting point following a snake bite.

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