So your dog had an unfortunate encounter with a copperhead? Here’s what to do.

It wouldn’t be summer time in North Carolina if we weren’t speaking about copperheads.

The state’s unofficial summer time mascot is on the market on a regular basis, doing its snaky factor: luxuriating in our warm, humid weather; lurking in brush, ready for the possibility to munch on a mouse or lizard; and taking up social media as images of their Hershey Kiss-marked our bodies are shared far and broad with warnings to “beware!”

And it is prudent to take warning round these snakes, essentially the most prolific venomous snake on this a part of the state. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, round 7,000 to 8,000 people are bitten by snakes (of all types) yearly within the U.S. (Of these circumstances, about 5 will probably be deadly.)

The greatest protection with a copperhead isn’t any offense.

Copperheads aren’t aggressive, however they’re territorial, and can strike in self-defense in the event that they really feel threatened. So when you see a copperhead, give it broad berth and go away it alone.

But attempting telling that to your dog.

A copperhead within the grass at Hayden Cavender ‘s shop in the Little River community on Monday, July 18, 2016. Cavender of The Snake Chaser said copperheads are usually the snakes that bite dogs in the area.

Help your dog avoid snakebites

Whether from curiously nosing up to a snake to say hello, plunging face-first into a bush to retrieve a ball, or simply walking down a sidewalk during an evening stroll, dogs seem to find themselves bitten by snakes (particularly copperheads) an awful lot each summer.

It’s unimaginable to utterly eradicate all dog-snake encounters, however there are issues we will do to reduce the probability that they’re bitten. The American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA) has this advice for avoiding snake bites:

When strolling your dog, all the time maintain it on a leash and monitor its conduct carefully.

Don’t let your dog nostril round in bushes, thick floor cowl, piles of dried leaves or rock crevices — all nice locations for copperheads to hang around.

Walk on trails the place you may see effectively forward of you, to be sure there are not any snakes in your path (but additionally remember that you may encounter a copperhead even on a neighborhood sidewalk).

For cats, the ASPCA suggests holding them indoors.

Another good piece of recommendation is to eliminate snake-harboring habitats in your yard, akin to woodpiles, tarps, pine straw, dry stack partitions and luxurious, low-growing groundcover.

This pit bull was bitten on her front leg by a copperhead in a Matthews, NC neighborhood in 2018. The owner immediately took 9-year-old Amira to the emergency vet and said she was back to normal after treatment.

This pit bull was bitten on her entrance leg by a copperhead in a Matthews, NC neighborhood in 2018. The proprietor instantly took 9-year-old Amira to the emergency vet and mentioned she was again to regular after therapy.

Symptoms of a snakebite on a dog

If you didn’t see the encounter, there are nonetheless methods to decide if your pet was bitten by a snake.

Pain at wound website.

Dr. Steven Marks, affiliate dean and director of NC State Veterinary Medical Services, mentioned that the majority snakebites happen on a pet’s limb. If bitten on a limb, the proprietor will discover the animal “carrying” the leg, as a result of will probably be painful.


There may even be swelling and bleeding on the wound website, however relying on the coat of the animal, you will not be in a position to see the precise chew or the quantity of swelling.

Snakebites on the face, nostril and tongue are additionally quite common, mentioned Marks, and simpler to spot.

If there may be a chew on the face or nostril, you’ll see speedy, noticeable swelling. You may additionally have the ability to make out fang marks.

Salivating or bother respiratory.

Bites on the tongue or torso are extra dangerous, Marks mentioned, due to the blood provide, that means the pet can get sick quicker. In some circumstances, bites on the tongue or face might truly impede a pet’s regular respiratory.

The dog may additionally turn into nauseated or will salivate due to ache, notably if the chew is in or close to the mouth.

First factor to do if your dog is bitten by a snake

Sometimes, even after taking precautions, canine will discover themselves on the unsuitable facet of a snake encounter.

Raleigh resident Karin Singleton’s 8-year-old dog, Jake, had one such unfortunate run-in with a snake in late April.

As Singleton labored inside, Jake went into the yard by the doggie door, then returned a few moments later with one facet of his face visibly swollen. Singleton might see puncture wounds close to his nostril and knew what occurred.

After a fast name to her vet, Singleton took Jake in for care instantly. Because of his measurement — Jake is a Great Pyrenees Shepherd combine — his therapy was fairly easy: after a Benedryl injection, some ache medicine and antibiotics for the wound, Jake made a fast restoration.

“The same evening, he was already better,” Singleton mentioned. “And two days later, it was like it never happened. It was a very, very positive outcome.”

Singleton did the best factor for Jake, in accordance to Dr. Marks’ recommendation: she acted rapidly, and acquired him skilled care.

Here’s extra information from Marks on what to do if your dog has been bitten by a snake.

Stay calm.

First and foremost, don’t panic. Try to maintain your pet calm and nonetheless.

“Stay calm and keep the pet calm,” Marks mentioned. “If you’re out in the woods and you run to the car, that’s the worst thing you could do. Anything you do that excites the patient allows the venom to circulate more extensively.”

Do not try first support.

Do not try any type of first support at house. Don’t apply ice, don’t apply a bandage or tourniquet, and don’t strive to suck out the venom.

“All the things that people see on TV — don’t do any of that,” Marks mentioned.

Get to a veterinarian.

“A hundred percent, see a vet right away,” Marks mentioned. “There should never be a time that you see your dog interact with a snake in any way and you think it’s been bitten or envenomated that you should not go to a veterinarian. You should absolutely go.”

Marks factors out that when a dog (or anything) is bitten by a snake, there isn’t a means of figuring out how a lot venom the snake provides. Sometimes, there’s no venom in any respect, however there may be nonetheless a wound to handle. Sometimes, a dog will get a giant dose of venom — you simply don’t know.

And when you’ve got a small dog / massive snake combo, the consequence could possibly be deadly (although Marks says deadly bites are extra frequent if the dog has encountered a cottonmouth/water moccasin or a rattlesnake).

“No matter what happens, you should see a veterinarian,” Marks mentioned. “There is such a variety of illnesses that can occur, with the extreme being death.”

A copperhead watches visitors from its habitat at the N.C. Museum of Natural Sciences in Raleigh.

A copperhead watches guests from its habitat on the N.C. Museum of Natural Sciences in Raleigh.

What therapy to anticipate for snakebites

Marks says that copperhead bites in canine will trigger the dog to be in poor health, however the bites aren’t normally deadly.

Still, a pet bitten by a snake wants care.

At N.C. State’s Veterinary Hospital, which operates a 24/7 emergency clinic for small animals, the dog — or cat — would first get a full bodily examination to decide the extent of damage, Marks mentioned. That would possibly embrace shaving the fur to get a good have a look at the wound website (you may estimate the scale of the snake primarily based on how far aside the fang marks are).

Most veterinarians would additionally do lab work, Marks mentioned: “a biochemical profile to evaluate systemic wellness and check organ function.”

If the pet is having systemic issues associated to low blood stress, it could get an intravenous catheter with fluids.

Marks mentioned that some venoms may cause blood clotting issues, and that there’s additionally a lot of ache and swelling related with the envenomation website.

“Supportive care is the true treatment for snake bites, Marks said. “That would include pain management of some sort — opiates or anti-inflammatories — depending on condition of pet.”

Besides venom, the pet may even want wound care.

The wound website might turn into contaminated and venom can destroy the native tissue, Marks mentioned. Also, the wound will want to drain, so enable it to heal as an open wound and don’t bandage it.

What about different remedies?

Marks encourages pet house owners to find out about treating snakebites from respected sources in order that they may also help make good selections about their pet’s care.

“An educated pet owner that can be an advocate for the pet is beneficial,” he mentioned.

Should you give your dog Benedryl?

Marks notes that treating a snake chew with an antihistamine, akin to Benedryl, is a frequent observe, however “there is no evidence that antihistamines work” for a snakebite, he mentioned.

“People will say, ‘I did that for my dog and it worked,’ but it is not evidence-based. … But it’s not gonna do any harm,” he mentioned.

Do you deal with snakebites with steroids?

This is one thing Marks doesn’t suggest.

“There is no evidence this works, and it could do some harm,” he mentioned.

Should my dog get snake antivenom?

Marks mentioned it’s unusual to give antivenom for a copperhead chew.

“The reality is, antivenom is incredibly costly, and copperheads are the least toxic snake compared to a water moccasin or rattlesnake.”

What if my dog is bitten greater than as soon as?

Marks says that when it comes to canine and snakebites, they do appear to see “repeat offenders.”

“They don’t tend to learn,” he mentioned. “It’s a new game every time they see a snake.”

But you shouldn’t essentially fear about a number of bites unfold out over a number of years being extra harmful to your dog’s well being, he mentioned.

Marks mentioned “there is no evidence to support” the idea that venom has any kind of cumulative have an effect on on a pet’s well being.

“There could be an immune sensitivity to it, but the venom will circulate and be cleared eventually,” Marks mentioned. “There is not a cumulative effect over time.”

What about cats and snakebites?

For no matter cause, Marks mentioned snakebites with cats aren’t as a lot of a drawback as with canine.

“I don’t want to offend the entire dog world, but cats tend to be smarter and stay away from snakes,” Marks mentioned.

“They also tend to be a little bit more resistant to snake venom than dogs. Maybe the cat immune system functions differently, we don’t have answers to that.”

Bottom line: if your cat or dog is bitten by a snake, Marks recommends seeing a veterinarian.

“At a minimum, call and get a consult,” Marks mentioned. “But my recommendation, with 30 years experience as a veterinary specialist, is better to be safe than sorry.”

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