Achieving Balance and Harmony


What you need to know about Snakes

Photo by Stephen Grossman

There are many different poisonous snakes. Know the kinds of snakes you have in your area and what the poisonous ones look like. It’s not always easy to tell what kind of snake bit your dog, but if you do know, it can help your veterinarian determine the best treatment.

Rattlesnakes live in a variety of habitats. They can be found in deserts, forests, and wetlands, from sea level to mountain elevations. Rattlesnakes are most active in warmer seasons, from Spring to Autumn. In some areas they can be found year-round, particularly in southern latitudes.

Dogs are at risk. Dogs can encounter snakes whenever they are in a snake habitat. Curiosity or a prey drive can place your dog at risk, but like people, dogs can stumble over the location of a snake by accident, such as when running through a field of high grass, or chasing a completely unrelated scent.

Snakes’ head size doesn’t indicate how dangerous they are. Adult male brown water snakes have fat heads and they are non-venomous. Many non-venomous snakes flatten their heads when stressed and appear to have viper-like heads. Coral snakes are highly venomous and have skinny heads.

A snakebite can be serious. Even if your dog survives the immediate effects of a bite, it has the potential to cause permanent injury. The toxic components of snake venom are very painful and can have severe consequences.

A snake won’t necessarily give you warning before they strike. Sometimes rattlesnakes rattle before they strike, but don't count on it. A snake's best defense in the wild is its camouflage. A snake's first reaction is usually to lie perfectly still and hope that it goes unnoticed.

A baby snake is just as venomous as an adult snake. And they could be more dangerous as well. Baby snakes typically aren't developed enough to be able to control the amount of venom that they distribute. In a single bite, a baby snake may dispense all of its venom, where as an adult snake is able to size up its prey and will dispense only what is needed for the job. It will not dispense all of its venom to ensure that it is still able to defend itself if necessary.

A snakebite is always an emergency. Take your dog to a veterinarian for treatment immediately. Even bites by non-venomous snakes can lead to serious infections and antibiotic treatment may be needed.

Treatment of a snakebite is expensive. Antivenom injections can cost hundreds to thousands of dollars. And while they may be necessary, antivenom can have side effects that complicate a dog’s recovery. Other costs that may be involved in snakebite treatment include hospitalization, intravenous fluids or other medications.

What wild animals represent a threat to dogs in your area? Tells us in the comments.

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