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Pets and Snake Bites: Act Quickly!

As the weather warms, our slithery, venomous snake friends become more active. And snake bites are a very common problem in the summertime. Our pets are very curious creatures and tend to lead with their noses and their front limbs, so that’s where we see the most bites (on the face and front legs). These bites often cause extreme pain, swelling and bruising, and that’s typically what you as an owner will notice first, if you don’t happen to see the snake itself. You may also see puncture marks that may be bleeding or oozing.

What should you do if you suspect your pet has been bitten?
Bring him/her in immediately to your veterinarian or to Greenbrier Emergency Animal Hospital. Besides being extremely painful, snake bites can cause skin sloughing, shock, dangerously low blood pressure, bleeding abnormalities, and — in rare cases — death. Upon your pet’s arrival at the clinic, we will likely clean the wound; start medical therapy to make your pet feel more comfortable and maintain blood pressure; and perform diagnostics, including blood tests. Often, your pet will need to stay in the hospital for a short time, depending on the severity of the injury. Most snake bites in our area do not require anti-venom, however.

Although snake bites are very painful and can have very serious consequences, most pets do very well with prompt treatment — so if you suspect your pet has been bitten, act quickly to bring them in. Keep your pet as calm as possible. And if you see the snake, remember what it looked like, but DO NOT PICK IT UP! It can bite you, too!

© 2010 Greenbrier Emergency Animal Hospital. All rights reserved.

  1. Reply
    Katrina Thraves

    Unfortunately our sweet dog Rab was one of the rare occasions where death occurred by snakebite. We are still reeling from the shock of our loss. I think we acted immediately, other than the time it took to drive to town; I think the Greenbrier Emergency Hospital took all the appropriate action available, but I don’t understand why he died, especially being fairly young, fit and, according to the bloodwork, able to fight off the venom. My uninformed opinion is that the bite to his gum probably entered his bloodstream so quickly, it caused more damage than his body could throw off. We are heartbroken, but thankful for your care.

    • Reply
      Dr. Stewart

      Everyone at Greenbrier is very saddened by Rab’s passing. You reacted perfectly and swiftly and all the possible supportive care was given to him. Sometimes the venom is more potent that the dog can handle, and the dogs can have more severe reactions. It is possible that he had multiple bites from multiple snakes which added to the severity of his condition, as well as the bite locations. We are very sorry for you and your family and are available anytime for questions or thoughts. Thank you for your reply to our post.

  2. Reply
    N fabish

    My cat was bitten several times on two paws, in my garage. There was cat hair of a different color and blood on the floor. The vet thought it could be a snake that caused the multiple bite based on snake behavior. I thought, because I am having a problem with a neighbor keeping a Feral Cat Colony with cats that keep coming into my garage that the “crime scene” was more likely caused by one of the cats, especially because of the hair. How do I tell the difference. The cats legs swelled and got infected.

    • Reply
      Dr. Stewart

      Great question. Usually snake bites swell very fast and are painful immediately, while cat bites take time to abscess an grow. There is an old saying that if you hear hoof beats it’s probably a horse and not a zebra, which means cat bite might be more likely given the “crime scene.” However, having not seen the case or the cat, I would trust your veterinarian’s opinion. Either way, pain medication, antibiotics and supportive care are essential. Make sure your cat is up to date on its rabies vaccines and good luck!!

  3. Reply

    I think my kitten has been bitten by a baby snake. Shes very playful and the rest of the kittens i guess were playing with it , and they killed the snake. Now only one of the kittens have a faint meow, and is walking slowly, and swishing her tail back and forth constantly. What should i do?

    • Reply
      Dr. Stewart

      Sorry for the late reply, this message was lost in a sea of spam. Bring the Kitten to the vet ASAP. Anything like this needs immediate attention.

  4. Reply

    All snakes can be dangerous for humans and animals, but the most dangerous are taipan (an Australian snake) and krait (this snake can be found here on Asian southwest). If your pet or any person go bitten by one of these snakes, go IMMEDIATELY to the local hospital and talk the type of snake who bite the animal, if you know these snakes. :) it’s only an advice.

  5. Reply
    Malinda Pierce

    My cat of less than year old was bitten by a snake. Not sure what kind, but I know it was a large snake due to size of bite. I was unable to take him to a vet because they wanted money up front and I live paycheck to paycheck. I gave him tramadol the first night for the pain. He made it through the night. At that point I was still unable to see the bite. I continued with the tramadol and started him on amoxicillin. Tuesday is when he was bit Thursday is when I finally could see where he had been bitten. One tooth mark looks clean but the other is brownish in color and the skin and fur is falling off. I need to know what is my next step.

    • Reply
      Dr. Stewart

      You need to find a vet that will help. I do not know any of the snakes in your area or even if it is venomous or just a bite. Sounds like a non-venomous snake and that you are looking at dead skin and possible infection. If that is the case follow an abscess or bite wound protocol from the blog.

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