Snake Bites

Also covered in the Snake Bites section of this book, this answer will provide additional detail.



Last year my friend’s dog got snake bit. I have a new puppy and we plan to hike a lot and it’s already getting warm. What happens if we find a snake? What should I do if my puppy gets bit?


Dr. Nichol:

This is a subject that strikes fear into the hearts of most of us. The type of snakes you might run into has everything to do with the part of the country where you plan to hike. Coral snakes, like those found in the eastern and southern portions of the US, are shy and mostly active at night so they are seldom a problem. Rattlesnakes, copperheads, and cottonmouth water moccasins, on the other hand, are known to be more aggressive.


So which pets are at risk? Most injuries result from a curious dog playing aggressively with a snake. Bites are usually found on the head. The amount of venom injected into the pet is influenced by the size of the snake and just how mad he’s gotten. But the activity of the pet after the bite is an even greater factor in recovery.


Remember the old cowboy movies when they would suck out the venom to save the patient? We have since realized that venom absorbs much too fast for this to help. More to the point, allowing the pet to be active after a bite will cause the venom to be carried to other areas of the body faster and increase the risk. So the best first aid is to control activity and to get the pet to a veterinary hospital as quickly as possible. Knowing what type of snake caused the bite is important because the antidote, called antivenin, is specific to the venom. In New Mexico most snake bites result from pit vipers like rattlesnakes. In addition to antivenin, the doctor will also treat a snake bitten pet with intravenous fluids, antibiotics, and pain management. Other problems resulting from rattlesnake bites include shock, bruising of other tissues due to poor blood clotting, tissue death at the site of the bite, and a whole lot of pain.


The best defense against snake bites in pets is to keep them on a leash while hiking. As a responsible pet owners we must use common sense because very often our pets are just too goofy.