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How To Protect Your Pets From Poisonous Snakes

By Species, By Topic, Cats, Dogs, Emergency Situations

Warm weather wakes up all sorts of critters, many of which are dangerous to pets. You are probably already defending your pet against ticks and fleas, but have you considered what might happen if it encounters a snake? This can happen even if you aren’t taking your dog on hikes in the wilderness. With human development encroaching on rural areas, many of the snakes’ normal environments may be pushed to new regions. In fact, your own backyard could be a potential habitat for poisonous snakes!

A dog in its own backyard may see the snake as an invader and try to remove the snake from its territory. What’s a pet owner to do?!? The first step is to monitor all the potential places in your dog’s yard area where a snake might hide. This includes woodpiles, rocks, and bushes. Or, just make it so your dog can’t access these serpentine hideaways, either by removing them, or fencing them off. If you are taking your dog on a walk or hike through an area that might have snakes, the best idea is to keep your pet on a leash. This will help you keep your dog from digging around under logs, rocks, and bushes. Also, walk less at night since the snakes tend to be nocturnal.

Despite your best efforts, your dog might get bit anyway. Most dogs will be bitten in and around the face. This the most frequently part of the body to swell up. The severity of how the venom affects your pet depends on the type of snake, the venom dose and the general health of the pet. The toxins, however, do more than just cause swelling. Coral snakes release a neurotoxin that attacks the nervous system, while rattlesnakes will release a toxin that affects the coagulation (clotting) of blood, and destroys red blood cells and other tissue.

If your dog is bitten, DO NOT attempt outdated first aid measures such as applying a tourniquet or making a cut to remove the venom with suction. Your best bet is rushing your dog to the nearest emergency clinic—the faster the better! While some bites from coral snakes may take a few hours to show symptoms, a rattlesnake bite can cause signs within the first 30 minutes. Many dogs will need intravenous fluids, antibiotics, pain medication and, in some cases, oxygen. If available, your pet should also receive antivenom. Due to the expense, many clinics will not keep antivenom in stock, but emergency clinics will have this available. Antivenom usually costs between $500 – $1,000 per vial and a severely bitten dog may require several vials within the first few hours of treatment.

Needless to say, it is much cheaper, safer, and easier to prevent the snakebite before it happens.

If your dog has been bitten by a snake, call CEDARCREST Animal Clinic immediately at 540-943-7577.

CEDARCREST Animal Clinic provides medical and surgical care for every stage of your pet's life including preventive wellness care exams and vaccines, spays/neuters, and a variety of specialized care for your dog, cat, avian, or exotic. We are home to the only veterinarian practitioner in Virginia to be double Boarded in Avian and Canine/Feline care and provide care for birds, small mammals, and reptiles of all sorts! Plus, we are home to Virginia's most exclusive dog boarding resort that includes heated floors, an expansive play area, and even webcams so you can watch your pet while you're away. We're located in Fishersville, Virginia, and serve Augusta County and surrounding areas including Waynesboro, Staunton, Harrisonburg, and Charlottesville. 

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