Snakes are as ubiquitous in Texas as country music and BBQ. Luckily, of the four types of venomous snakes found here, the coral snake, copperhead, rattlesnake, and cottonmouth (also known as the water moccasin), are rarely aggressive without provocation.
Through an understanding of snake habitat and behavior, pet owners can help their best friends avoid a painful, and potentially life-threatening, pet emergency.
Important members of the food chain, snakes help reduce rodent, lizard and insect populations. However, the consequences of a snake bite can range in severity and cost.
It remains a high priority to seek emergency veterinary care right away. Venom can interfere with blood clotting and cause organ damage, and swelling can restrict the airway. Snakes bites can be fatal within 30 minutes.
Rural and Urban
You can reduce this type of pet emergency by knowing when and where your pet may be most likely to cross paths with a snake. Coldblooded animals, snakes are most active when it’s 80-degrees or more. They can be found in tall grass, bushes, rock or woodpiles, and water.
Prevent a Pet Emergency
On walks, keep your dog on leash. Train your dog to avoid snakes and consider the rattlesnake vaccine. While not 100% effective, it may minimize the amount of anti-venom needed to counteract a venomous snake bite.
Look Closely (From Afar)
Sometimes, snakes will “dry bite” their victims, as if to warn them. Other times, we may see a pet that was absolutely bitten, but not by a venomous snake.
- Look for a triangular-shaped head to discern whether it’s a venomous snake, but not too closely!
- Larger, older snakes typically have less venom than smaller, younger snakes.
- Bites that occur in the early spring tend to be more dangerous
You Know, You Go
Snake bites on the belly, back or chest can be more threatening, although bites on the face or neck can quickly restrict breathing.
Depending on the type of snake and how much venom entered the body, these severe symptoms may occur:
- Bleeding or dark colored drainage from puncture marks
- Breathing difficulty
- Vomiting or diarrhea
- Drop in blood pressure
- Pale gums
- Rapid heartbeat
- Nervous system signs, like tremors, seizures, or weakness may be apparent
Immobilize your pet ASAP to inhibit the spread of venom throughout the body. Rush your pet to the nearest pet emergency hospital. Do not:
- Apply a tourniquet above the bite site
- Suck venom from the wound
- Lance the skin
- Administer any medications prior to vet exam
This particular type of pet emergency requires quick actions. Based on obvious signs we can rapidly diagnose venomous snake bites, and blood counts help with confirmation and baseline values. We must also ascertain clotting ability and whether or not they’ve received sufficient antivenom to neutralize effects of the bite.
Intravenous fluids for cardiovascular support and treatment of shock, plus pain management medications, and antibiotics for the wound are usually necessary.