Snakebite in dogs (symptoms & treatment) – VOSD Expert Advice™

Treating Snakebite in Dogs | VOSD Vet Advice

Nonpoisonous snake bites are painful and can cause infection, but venomous snake bites can kill a dog within only an hour unless you give first aid for snake bite. Most of the time snakes do not want to confront any animal that is not prey. But is a dog is too curious to leave a snake alone, the dog may be bitten. 

Where are dogs at risk of snakebite

Dogs in apartments are the least at risk. Dogs in houses with gardens in the city are a little more at risk. Dogs in houses in suburban and rural environments are the most at risk. 

Identifying a snakebite

The first symptoms of snakebite usually included agitation, panting, drooling, and weakness. A bite is not always easy to detect since many dogs are covered with fur unless the bite is on the face or neck. The first symptom on the site is massive swelling and it is easy to mistake the swelling having been caused by an insect. If you suspect a bite check the site for bite marks with your palm going against the grain of hair so skin is visible. Most of the time a non-poisonous snake bite is a tiny horseshoe-shaped teeth marks since they do not have fangs. 

The severity of the situation depends on the size of the dog in relation to the snake, the number of bites and how much venom is injected. Venoms are of two types: neurotoxic (affecting the nervous system) or hemotoxic (affecting the blood and vessels). The venom of many snakes contains both neurotoxic and hemotoxins.  

The swelling will usually be followed by vomiting, diarrhoea, seizures etc. Snakebites will cause the dog to dog to collapse others will cause massive bleeding internally and through the body orifice etc. In some cases, the flesh will discolour in minutes as the venom breaks down tissue. This will be followed by shock, paralysis, coma and death. Even if the bite isn’t life-threatening, it needs immediate medical care because it can cause irreversible damage internally. 

Before getting to a vet

  1. Do NOT try to bleed the snakebite and do NOT attempt to suck venom through those a cut or a fang mark. Do NOT try to handle the snake. 
  2. If the bite is on an extremity such as a leg try putting on a tourniquet by tying with a string snugly a couple of inches above the bite wound such that a finger will pass under the tourniquet. If a string is not available use the sleeve of a shirt 
  3. Make sure you have another person with you to handle the dog as you get to a vet. 
  4. Have the description of the snake ready if possible since a snake specific anti-venom is the best option.
  5. The poison will cause swelling and may cause nostrils or windpipe to swell shut. To prevent more injury remove the collar or harness. If breathing stops be prepared to give your dog mouth to mouth resuscitation. 
  6. Keep your dog as immobile by keeping in a crate or having a person restrict the dog’s movements because all movement will speed up the spread of venom. 
  7. Turn up the AC in the car to the max. The cold will slow down circulation. You may also apply an ice pack directly to the wound. Ice or anything from the freezer kept in a plastic bag to prevent fluid melting on the dog is a good ice pack. Keep the ice pack on till you reach the vet. 
  8. If you can see bite marks, rinse the wounds with water or a wet wipes to get the venom. 

Treatment for snakebite

Once a vet has examined the dog they will:

  1. Administer the appropriate antivenin that neutralizes the effects of the snake venom. As said snake specific antivenin is preferred to generic antivenin. 
  2. This may be accompanied by administration of other drugs such as Dexa to prevent the dog from going into shock, IV, painkillers and anti-inflammatories to reduce discomfort.
  3. Even when initial symptoms subside the danger is not over. Over a 36-72 hr window, secondary symptoms will appear as the toxin get accumulated and damages internal organs including kidneys and liver etc causing acute kidney disease, liver disease or multiple organ failure. The dog needs to be monitored for up to a week or more for all danger to subside. 

Prevention of snake bites

  1. For the most part, snakes will share the habitat with you for food. Make sure there is no rats which are the number one food source for snakes. Rats will be where there is open human garbage or food source. Keep the surroundings clean.
  2. Make sure that you clear the underbrush and any place a snake can be hiding. 
  3. Never leave your dog unsupervised even in your own yard. 
  4. While out walking, control your dog with a leash at all times. Do not allow your dog to explore holes in the ground or dig under logs or rocks. Stay on open paths. If your dog is curious about “something” hidden in the grass, back off immediately.
  5. If you live a snake-endemic region and a high-risk area invest in a vacuum pump for snake bites and in antivenin (which must be kept refrigerated) and learn how to inject when required. 

The information contained in VOSD Vet Advice™ is not intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical action which is provided by your vet. You assume full responsibility for how you choose to use this information. For any emergency situation related to a dog’s health, please visit the nearest veterinary clinic.