What to do if your pet is bitten by a snake

Early fall brings pumpkins, falling leaves and baby snake season, as snakes are born and hatch from late summer to early fall. Cool weather also makes snakes more active, putting our curious dogs and cats at higher risk of poisonous bites.

It’s a good idea to get your pet to the nearest veterinary clinic in the safest and fastest way possible if they fall victim to a snake, whether or not you think the snake is venomous.

Dr. Lance Wheeler, resident veterinarian at the Texas A&M School of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences, advises pet owners to familiarize themselves with venomous snakes native to their area.

Texas is home to 15 potentially dangerous snake species or subspecies, according to the Texas Department of Parks and Wildlife, the majority of which belong to the viper subspecies. Vipers include various rattlesnakes, copperheads, and moccasins or water moccasins. Only one snake in the cobra snake family, the coral snake, is native to Texas.

Snakebite symptoms to watch out for in dogs, cats and other pets include bite victim shaking or twitching, difficulty breathing, hind limb weakness causing collapse, loss of control bladder and intestines, vomiting, paralysis, salivation and enlarged pupils.

a coiled rattlesnake

If an animal is bitten, it is important to keep it as calm as possible. high blood pressure will increase blood flow and circulation of venom throughout the body.


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It’s not always easy to spot bite marks on our furry friends, as bite marks are easily concealed in their fur. If your pet shows signs of weakness and fatigue, call the vet.

Treatment for a venomous snakebite begins at home with prehospital care and varies slightly between pit viper envenomation and coral snake envenomation.

“With viper envenomation, the most important thing is to keep the animal as calm as possible,” Wheeler explained. “The higher their blood pressure, the more anxious they are; this will increase blood flow and increase the circulation of venom throughout the body.

“So try to keep them calm. Go to the nearest veterinary clinic,” he said. “I know it’s tempting to go somewhere that has anti-venom, but the nearest vet can always stabilize them, assess them, and then quickly transport them somewhere else if they need help. anti-venom.”

While it’s important to know what to do if your dog or cat has been bitten by a potentially venomous snake, it’s also important to keep in mind that not all venomous snakebites have high levels of poisoning. poisoning. Your pet may not have been injected with venom, even if the snake inflicting the bite is venomous.

Your veterinarian will perform medical tests to determine whether or not your pet needs antivenom. The most important thing pet parents should do is get a suspected snake victim to the nearest hospital or veterinary clinic while remaining calm and keeping the animal as still as possible. once a bite has been detected or the animal begins to show symptoms of envenomation.

Wheeler also advises pet owners against practicing common myths associated with snakebites before heading to the nearest clinic.

“It’s not very useful to put ice or heat on these guys,” he said. “It has not been shown to be helpful to incise or aspirate the bites where the biting incident occurred. No tourniquets or pressure bandages either.

Ice packs, hot compresses, and tourniquets can cause dramatic tissue damage by isolating venom in one area. Isolation of the venom concentrates exposure and can lead to severe damage to muscles, skin, and other organs in the area.

Wheeler explained that aspiring a pet’s snakebite is complicated by its fur. Research into the benefits of aspirating the snakebite to remove venom suggests that the time needed to do so would be better spent getting the victim to the nearest veterinary clinic.

The most important thing to keep in mind is safety for you and your pet. Although identifying the snake can be helpful, you should not risk your personal safety by trying to capture the snake. This wastes time that you could be using to get your pet to the vet. If you suspect your pet has been bitten by a snake, take it to the vet immediately.

Instead of trying to capture the snake, Wheeler recommends taking a photo from a safe distance. He also recommends leaving dead or decapitated snakes behind, as they can still poison you and your pet. If you are unable to identify the snake, err on the side of caution and get to the veterinary clinic with your pet as quickly and safely as possible.

If you are able to safely identify the snake as venomous, pay close attention to whether it is a viper or a coral snake.

Coral snakes are easily recognized by their bright red, yellow, and black stripes; however, they are also easily confused with Scarlet Queensnakes. To differentiate a coral snake from a scarlet king snake, note the color of the head and the order in which their colored stripes are drawn. Coral snakes always have a black head with a striped pattern of black, yellow, red, yellow, black.

If the snake is a coral snake, pre-hospital treatment may require the animal’s parents to perform mouth-to-nose ventilation en route to the nearest veterinary hospital, as the coral snake’s venom can trigger respiratory paralysis, which that slows or stops the breathing of the victim animal. .

Coral snake venom is the most toxic, but coral snake envenomation only occurs in about 60 percent of coral snake exposures, according to a 2011 study published by Drs. Lyndi Gilliam and Jill Brunker. While many theories exist as to why exposure to the coral snake only results in venomation in 40% of exposure cases, Wheeler noted that it’s still important to take your pet to the vet on time. as soon as possible if you suspect it has been exposed to a coral snake.

“No one has coral snake antivenom, so just go to the nearest animal hospital,” Wheeler advised. “The most common cause of death from coral snake envenomation is [an abnormally low concentration of oxygen in the blood]. So we have to hospitalize these guys for at least 48 hours of monitoring because clinical signs can develop up to 36 hours after envenomation.

If you discover your pet has been the victim of a snakebite this season, stay calm and take them to the nearest veterinarian as quickly and safely as possible for an examination. This will help you and your pet get outside to enjoy the fall season change.

Pet Talk is a service of the School of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences, Texas A&M University. The stories can be viewed on the web at vetmed.tamu.edu/news/pet-talk. Suggestions for future topics can be directed to [email protected]

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