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Snake Bites in Dogs: Venomous vs. Non-Venomous

Snake Bites in Dogs: Venomous vs. Non-Venomous

Ah, the great outdoors – the perfect playground for our canine companions! But, just like us, our furry friends can sometimes stumble upon some unexpected and downright dangerous surprises lurking in the wild. And when it comes to snakes, well, let’s just say it’s a situation you never want to find yourself (or your pup) in.

Identifying the Culprit

You know the old saying, “the devil’s in the details”? Well, when it comes to snake bites, that couldn’t be truer. You see, the symptoms and treatment for a venomous snake bite versus a non-venomous one can be as different as night and day.

According to VCA Hospitals, there are around 3,000 species of snakes in the world, but only about 500 of them are actually venomous. In North America, we’ve got roughly 25 species of venomous snakes, with the most common being rattlesnakes, copperheads, cottonmouths (also known as water moccasins), and coral snakes.

Now, if your pup gets bitten by a non-venomous snake, you’ll likely see some swelling and bruising around the bite site. You may even be able to spot the paired puncture wounds from the snake’s fangs. The bite will be painful, and there’s a risk of infection if it’s not properly treated by a vet. But the good news is, the swelling usually goes down within 48 hours, and there’s not much progression beyond that (unless an infection sets in).

Venom-ous Consequences

On the flip side, a venomous snake bite is a whole different ballgame. According to Lemonade, you’ll typically see extensive swelling that spreads rapidly, along with bleeding or a bloody discharge at the bite site. And those tell-tale puncture wounds? Forget about it – the swelling can be so severe that you might not even be able to see them.

The venom of North American pit vipers (rattlesnakes and cottonmouths) contains those nasty toxic proteins that can wreak havoc on your pup’s body. We’re talking local tissue and blood vessel damage, red blood cell destruction, bleeding or clotting disorders, and problems with the lungs, heart, kidneys, and nervous system. It can even cause shock, low blood pressure, and pH imbalances in the blood. Yikes!

Meanwhile, coral snake venom is all about the neurological damage, leading to neuromuscular problems. And the really scary part? There may not be much to see at the bite site itself.

Racing Against the Clock

If you suspect your dog has been bitten by a venomous snake, time is of the essence. Animal Emergency Service stresses that venomous snakebites are considered medical emergencies, requiring immediate attention. That’s because the venom can start wreaking havoc on your pup’s body in a matter of minutes or hours.

Your vet will need to determine if the snake was venomous and if envenomation (venom injection) actually occurred. Luckily, about 20-30% of pit viper bites and 50% of coral snake bites are “dry” bites, meaning no venom was injected. But don’t take any chances – get your dog to the vet ASAP.

If it’s a venomous bite, the vet will likely administer antivenom, which is the only treatment that can directly neutralize the venom. They’ll also monitor your dog’s condition closely and provide supportive care like pain medication, fluids, and blood products if needed. The prognosis really depends on a variety of factors, like the type of snake, the amount of venom injected, and how quickly your dog receives treatment.

Preventing the Unthinkable

Of course, the best scenario is to avoid a snake encounter altogether. The American Kennel Club recommends keeping your pup on a leash when you’re out hiking, and avoiding areas where snakes like to hang out, such as long grass, woodpiles, and rocky outcroppings.

You can also try snake avoidance training, which uses a safe, muzzled snake and a low-level electronic stimulation collar to teach your dog to steer clear of these slithery creatures. And if you live in a snaky area, consider getting your dog vaccinated with the rattlesnake bite vaccine – though its effectiveness is still being studied.

At the end of the day, being prepared and staying vigilant are your best defenses against the dangers of snake bites. And if the unthinkable does happen, remember to keep calm, get your pup to the vet ASAP, and let the experts handle it. After all, your furry friend’s life could be at stake.

Speaking of experts, did you know that I Have Dogs has a whole team of veterinary professionals who are dedicated to keeping our canine companions happy, healthy, and safe? From articles on pet care to product recommendations, they’ve got you covered. So why not check them out and let them help you navigate the wilds of dog ownership?

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