Avoiding, Identifying, and Caring for a Snakebite


Snakebite awareness day taking place in September might not be a coincidence because September is a peak month for snakebites! Snakes are less active in the daytime during the hottest summer months, meaning fewer interactions with people and pets. As the temperature cools down, snakes increase their daytime activity, leading to more “uh-oh” moments, like snake bites.

It is important to be able to identify a snakebite in order to take proper care of your pet. First, always call your veterinarian.  This call could be one to save your pets life.

Keeping your Pet Safe from a Snakebite

“It is our responsibility to keep our pets safe.”

When we, humans, see a snake we often take off in the opposite direction at a high rate of speed. When our pets see a snake, they don’t always have the same response. A pet has a tendency to be more curious than frightened and this can result in a snakebite. With this being the case, it is our responsibility to keep our pets safe. The following steps can be taken to keep your pet safe from a snakebite.

  • Consider a Vaccination- We offer a rattle snake vaccine here at Whitesburg Animal Hospital, PC. If you have any questions, reach out to us.
  • Keep Your Dog on a Leash
  • When Hiking, Stay on the Trail
  • Avoid Dense Grass or Large Rocks

My Pet Has Been Bitten by a Snake. Will He/ She Die?

“There are approximately three thousand species of snakes in the world with less than five hundred venomous species.”

It depends on the species of the snake that bit your pet. In North America, there are about twenty-five species of venomous snakes. The most common venomous species of snakes in North America include:

  • Rattlesnakes
  • Copperheads
  • Cottonmouths or Water Moccasins
  • Coral Snakes

Signs of a Snakebite

“The puncture wounds from the fangs may not be visible due to either the rapid swelling or the small mouth size of young or small snakes.”

Non-Venomous Snakebite- Swelling and bruising around the bite are the most common clinical signs. In some cases, it may still be possible to see the paired puncture wounds from the fangs in the center of the wound. The bite may be very painful and may become infected if not treated by a veterinarian. There will be very little progression of the swelling unless infection develops. Most swelling resolves within forty-eight hours in uncomplicated cases.

Venomous Snakebite- Clinical signs with Venomous snake bites vary based on the species of snake. As a general rule, there is extensive swelling that often spreads rapidly. Bleeding or a bloody discharge often occurs at the site of the bite. The puncture wounds from the fangs may not be visible due to either the rapid swelling or the small mouth size of young or small snakes.

What First Aid Treatment Should I Do on My Way to the Veterinarian?

First aid is aimed at reducing rapid spread of venom in the body.

  • If possible, carry the dog rather than allowing the dog to walk.
  • Bathe the wound with cold water to control swelling
  • If a limb is affected, apply a tourniquet using a tie, stocking, etc. Loosen for approximately half a minute every five to ten minutes.
  • Keep your pet quiet and warm on the journey to the veterinarian.