One of the many nice things about living in the Bay Area is the abundance of great parks and trails available, as well as the ability to explore many of these sites with our dogs. Summer also means a greater number of snake sightings and snake bites, making the outdoors somewhat formidable. Do you know what to do in the event that your dog is bitten by a snake? SAGE’s Dr. Lynne Morris has advice on how to handle this unfortunate situation:
Keep your dog calm.
The faster your dog’s heart is beating, the faster venom is able to spread, so it’s important to keep Rover as relaxed as possible. Do what you can to restrict movement. Unfortunately, most snake bites happen quite some distance from cars, so limiting movement might be a challenge. If you’re able to carry your dog to the car, it’s good to do so.
Don’t attempt to treat the bite yourself.
There are many myths about what a pet owner should do after a snake bite and adhering to these myths may cause more harm than good. Don’t attempt to fasten a tourniquet. Additionally, Dr. Morris advises pet owners not to cut an “X” around the bite or attempt to suck the venom from the wound. Any attempts at first aid are likely to delay veterinary care.
Get your dog to the vet as soon as possible.
The earlier antivenom can be administered, the more effective it tends to be, so getting to the vet quickly is important. As many day vets don’t carry antivenom, it’s best if owners know where to find the nearest emergency hospital. Most dogs are able to recover with early and proper treatment. Dogs that have received the rattlesnake vaccine should not be considered protected from the effects of venom, and also need to be seen by a veterinarian as soon as possible.
Of course, prevention really is the best medicine. To help minimize your dog’s chances of being bitten, Dr. Morris recommends staying aware of your surroundings. Keeping your dog on a leash and staying on clear paths may also help to reduce potential run-ins with snakes. If you live in an area where there are likely to be rattlesnakes on your property or you do a lot of hiking with your dog, consider trying avoidance training. This is a training class where dogs are exposed to rattlesnakes that have had their venom sacs removed, and hopefully learn that a snake bite hurts and that they should leave a snake alone if encountered.