What do I do if a snake bit my dog?

First off, you should look at the bite and decide whether you think the snake was poisonous or non-poisonous. Poisonous snakes have very distinct bite-marks. If the snake was poisonous, it will generally look like your dog was bit by a vampire - two separate holes from the fangs. If the snake was non-poisonous, it will generally look sort of like a horseshoe-shape, without the two holes. If you aren't sure, then you need to just assume that it was poisonous, because there is a high risk of fatality. If you are SURE the snake wasn't poisonous, then treat it like you would any other physical injury. This is not a risk you want to mess around with, though, because fur can obscure the bite and it can be hard to tell. If you have any doubt at all, go to the vet.


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Second, identify the snake if you can, because it will help the vet. There are only a few kinds of poisonous snakes in North America - coral snakes, moccasins, copperheads, and rattlesnakes. If you want pictures, go here for rattlesnakes, here for copperheads, here for cottonmouth moccasins, and here for coral snakes. Different snakes are more or less dangerous - rattlesnakes being probably the most poisonous. Your vet may opt for a more aggressive treatment if that's the case.

If the snake that bit your dog was poisonous:

1) GO TO THE VET NOW. Do not sit around trying to treat the wound. You cannot do much about it - but your vet may either have an anti-venom around or may have anti-inflammatories that can help the dog dramatically. Keep the dog calm. If you have two people, have one drive and have one sit with the dog in the car and keep it from moving around. Movement will increase the blood flow of the dog, spreading the venom.

2) If you cannot go to the vet for some reason: if the dog is bitten on the torso, it will be much more at risk (because it is closer to the heart and the venom will get pumped around). If the dog was bitten on an extremity (the most common) such as the legs or the tail, then try to slow down the venom by bandaging tightly between the snake bite and the dog's heart. So, if the dog was bitten on the foot, put the bandage above the foot on the leg. Don't make it too tight, but it should be very firmly on the dog.

Then, have someone sit with the dog to keep it calm and keep it sitting down. Movement is bad. Do not use ice on the wound, as it can increase absorption of the venom. Also, trying to suck out the venom usually doesn't work and can make the person sick who does it. Putting your mouth on the bite will usually infect the wound and is very dangerous for the dog. Putting ice on it will damage the tissue and can force an amputation.

3) Try to call around and find someplace that will help you. Animal shelters and poison control are potential options.

4) Someone should go kill the snake if you've got an extra person once the dog is kept calm. Take a long shovel and slam it down at the base of the snake's neck. Keep your distance, you do not want to get struck. Keep the head and the body in a bag - they will help a vet identify the snake. A shotgun can also do the trick if you're out in the country (but I'd make sure I knew what kind of snake it was first - it will mangle the body).

5) Watch out for bites from the dog. Often the pain is so great that the dog will lash out if you touch the wound.

What are the symptoms of a snake bite in dogs?

Usually weakness, drooling or panting, and then after awhile collapsing into shock or death. It varies depending on how much toxin got into the dog from the snake. The bite area itself will appear red and swollen. It also depends what kind of snake. Usually they are VERY painful to the dog, and you will know something is wrong.

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