Family Friendly Snake Repellent
If your dog is bitten by a snake, there may be no cause for
concern, as the majority of snakes are nonpoisonous. The bites of harmless
snakes show teeth marks in the shape of a horseshoe, but there are no fang
In the United States, there are four poisonous varieties: Cottonmouth
moccasins, rattlesnakes, copperheads and coral snakes. The diagnosis
of poisonous snake bite is made by the appearance of the bite, by the
behavior of the animal and by identification of the species of snake.
(Kill it first, if possible.)
Pit Vipers (Rattlesnakes/Moccasins/Copperheads)
Identify these species by their large arrow-shaped heads, pits below
and between the eyes, elliptical pupils, rough scales and the presence
of fangs in the upper jaws.
The bite: There are two puncture wounds in the skin (fang marks).
Signs of local reaction appear quickly and include swelling, excruciating
pain, redness and hemorrhages in the skin.
Behavior of the animal: Signs and symptoms depend on the size
and species of the snake, location of the bite and amount of toxin absorbed
into the system. The first signs are extreme restlessness, panting, drooling
and weakness. They are followed by diarrhea, collapse, sometimes seizures,
shock and. in severe cases, death.
Except for the coral snake, all poisonous species in North America are
pit vipers. Note the elliptical pupil, pit below the eye, large tangs
and characteristic bite.
Identify this snake by its rather small size, small head with black nose
and vivid colored bands of red, yellow, white and black-the red and yellow
bands always next to each other. Fangs are present in the upper jaw.
The bite: There is less severe local reaction but the pain is
excruciating. Look for the fang marks.
Behavior of the animal: Coral snake venom primarily is neurotoxic.
Signs include vomiting, diarrhea, urinary incontinence, paralysis, convulsions
Treatment of All Bites: First identify the snake and look at the
bite. If it appears your dog has been bitten by a poisonous snake, proceed
1. Restrain the dog. Snake bites are extremely painful.
2. Apply a flat tourniquet above the bite. It should not be as tight
as an arterial tourniquet (see Wounds) but should be tight enough to
keep venous blood from returning to the heart.
3. Using a knife or razor blade, make parallel cuts one-quarter inch
deep through the fang marks. On a leg, make them up and down. Blood should
ooze from the wound. If not, loosen the tourniquet.
4.* Apply mouth suction unless you have a cut or open sore in your mouth.
Spit out the blood. If poison is swallowed, the stomach will inactivate
it. Continue for thirty minutes.
(*Cutting a snake bite is no longer the recommended practice
for treating poisonous snake bites)
5. Loosen the tourniquet for thirty seconds every half hour.
6. Keep the dog quiet. Excitement, exercise and struggling increase
the rate of absorption. Carry your dog to the veterinarian.
Specific antivenoms are available through veterinarians. Snake bites
become infected. Antibiotics and dressings are indicated.
Copyright 1998, Macmillan Publishing. All rights reserved.