You probably saw the heart-breaking image of this brave pup that intervened when he encountered a snake on a hike with his Mom. This is a real danger you and your pet need to be aware of this time of year. Depending on what part of the country you live in there are different deadly snakes you could encounter. Common deadly snakes in the Eastern US include Copperheads or Cottonmouth snakes. The Western US is always weary of Rattlesnakes (Todd, the pup in the photo, was bitten by a rattlesnake in Arizona).
Lets first talk about prevention. There are precautions you can take to lessen the odds of your having this issue come up. Your dog or cat can be in danger of a snake even if you have not left your own yard. Some precautions you can take around your house and yard include:
-Snakes like hiding places. Keep debris cleaned up around your yard. Brush should be cleared out around flowers and shrubs and walkways. If you stack fire wood store it indoors. Toys and tools etc. should be kept off the ground.
-Clean up and spilled food or even bird seed in your yard. This attracts rodents and the rodents are prey for snakes, so your will inadvertently attract them.
-Some say that pouring white vinegar around the perimeter of your yard will discourage snakes. Snakes absorb it through their skin, so they will not want to slither over it.
If you plan to be out hiking or walking with your pet, you need to be cautious.
-If you live in the Western US there is a vaccine that your can give your dog for rattlesnake bites. There are mixed opinions on the vaccine so check with your vet for advice. But the claim is that if your dog has been vaccinated it could reduce the pain and risk of long term affects if they are bitten. The vaccine is only for Diamond Head Rattler’s; it provides no protection against venom from the Coral Snake, Water Moccasin, or the Mojave Rattlesnake.
-Basic and specialized training. A dog has a natural curiosity that can be deadly. Basic training such as a “leave it” command is essential if you are in the outdoors. You must be able to discourage your dog from investigating of you see a snake or any other creature for that matter. It is important to keep your dog on a leash so that you can see the threat as they see it and give them a command. There are specialized training classes for rattlesnakes. The training uses negative reinforcement to teach a dog to avoid the sound of the rattlesnake. Again, this not for everybody but you can seek details from a professional and determine of it would be right for you and your pet.
If your pet is bitten-
If your pet is bitten by a snake it may be life threatening. The most common place for your pet to be bitten is around the face or neck. Regardless if it is venomous or non-venomous it will be painful. Your dog will have severe pain if it is venomous though. You may or may not see the puncture holes from the bite. You will usually always see swelling, bruising or bleeding from the bite area.
Venomous snake bite symptoms could be:
- Shaking and tremors
- Excessive salivation
- Panting, shallow breath
- Muscle weakness or even paralysis
- Loss of bodily function or incontinence
You must get your pet to an emergency vet either way. Even if it is a non-venomous bite your vet will probably want to prescribe antibiotics, anti-inflammatories or antihistamines. If it is a venomous bite your vet may administer an anti-venom. Symptoms do not always happen immediately so don’t be fooled into thinking they may be fine and it will just run its course. A minor bite may improve within a couple of days with medication, but poisonous bites can be take weeks of recovery and can result in dead tissue, organ damage, loss of blood pressure or death.
Snake bites are nothing to mess around with. It is better safe than sorry in this instance.