Knowing what to do when a dog is bitten by a snake could very well save his life. Identifying the type of snake will naturally dictate a more appropriate action, but most times the snake cannot be identified, and it is more important to administer immediate care. Veterinarians recommend taking critical action for a dog snake bite. Even non-poisonous snakebites will cause a dog pain, inflammation, and deadly infection.
Canine Snakebite Emergency
The procedure for treating a dog snake bite is not all that complicated, but it is best to rehearse to avoid the chaotic confusion that would undoubtedly follow. There are a few supplies that are needed and should be stored in the dog’s first aid kit.
- Benedryl (liquid or tablets)
- Pet stretcher
- Commercial Snakebite kit (found at local pet supply store)
- Cold Pack
- Ace bandage
It is estimated that an average of 15,000 dogs experiences a snake bite each year in the United States alone. Dogs are naturally curious and instinctively chase anything that moves. A snake bite can kill a canine within an hour if not properly treated, and while immediate attention is necessary, ultimately the dog should be taken to the veterinarian.
Most dogs are bitten on or near the neck and face, but bites to the body are ultimately more severe and dangerous, as the venom spreads more quickly. The severity of the situation is dictated by the size of the snake, the dog and how much actual venom has been injected, but the procedure is the same.
Dog Snake Bite – What to do
The first step is to check the dog for signs of shock. Dogs that are going into shock will appear woozy and weak. They will look confused and unaware of their surroundings. Their gums will turn dark pink or red, due to the innate lack of oxygen. Cover the dog with a blanket or towel to keep him warm and calm.
Then, above and beyond anything else, CALL YOUR VETERINARIAN for advice on the necessary steps to take. If you cannot get in touch with your vet, start with the next steps:
Give Benadryl (Diphenhydramine). The liquid is best as it is almost as fast as an injection. Give 1mg per pound of body weight or 1 tsp for every 12.5 pounds. You can alternatively give Benadryl tablets for larger dogs. One Benadryl tablet is 25mg, so if you have a 25-pound dog, you should give them 1 tablet.
Many dog snake bites can paralyze the respiratory system and bites to the face can make it difficult for the dog to breathe. If he stops breathing place both hands around his muzzle to seal the lips, and blow into his nose with two quick breaths. Watch to be sure the chest is rising and give 15-20 breaths per minute until he begins to breathe on his own.
It is very important to keep the dog still, as movement accelerates the spread of the venom. Remove his collar or harness to reduce bodily constriction. Find the bite site and thoroughly rinse with water. Now, vacuum the venom. Snakebite kits come with miniature vacuums that have been shown to reduce over 30% of the venom from the snake’s bite. This has to be done within three minutes of the incident. (This is why it is beneficial to keep a first aid kit within easy access).
Put a cold pack on the bite. Ice will not only reduce the pain but also bring down the swelling. The cold temperature will slow blood circulation as well, and help keep the poison from spreading. Apply the cold pack at 10-minute intervals.
Keep the snake bite wound below the level of the heart. This reduces the body’s ability to pump the venom efficiently, staving off the worst symptoms brought on by the poisonous venom.
Bandage the wound. It is still imperative to get to a vet! If the veterinarian is more than an hour away, it will help to apply constant pressure to the bite wound. If the site is on the leg or tail a constricting bandage can be used, if it’s a bodily injury apply pressure with your hand.
Follow Up Treatment for a Dog Snake Bite
After seeing the veterinarian, or professional at the emergency clinic, follow up care is essential. Most dogs who die from snakebites succumb within the first two or three hours. With immediate care and a visit to the vet they can survive beyond that point and fully recover.
But they won’t be completely out of the woods for at least five to ten days. Any snake bite, whether poisonous or not, needs to be treated with antibiotics to fight deadly bacteria from the snake’s mouth. The vet will probably administer an injection to be followed with weeks of oral medication. The antibiotics are essential as they not only treat the bad bacteria, antibiotics will also help heal the extensive tissue damage and inflammation caused by a snake bite.
Many vets will try anti-venom treatments, but this is only possible if the snake can be identified. Either way, the treatment the dog receives immediately following the bite will most likely be what saves his life.