Poisonous Snakes And Pets

Dog and cats are curious creatures and often get themselves into trouble by sticking their nose where it doesn’t belong.  As the weather begins to warm up, it is important to be aware of the poisonous snakes in your area and the effects they can have on your pet.

Common poisonous snakes in North America:

  • Rattlesnake: Account for the most venomous and fatal bites.
  • Copperhead
  • Cottonmouth
  • Coral snakes: Account for less than one percent of all bites.

Signs of poisonous snake bites vary depending on the type of snake.  In general, all poisonous snake bites cause extensive swelling of the tissue around the bite wound.  The venom of North American pit vipers contains toxic proteins that cause damage to local tissues and can cause problems throughout the animal’s body.  The effects of this venom can include local tissue damage, local bleeding, internal bleeding due to clotting problems, shock, and low blood pressure.

It is important to remember that snakes can bite and often do not inject any venom.  In fact, dry bites occur in twenty to thirty percent of pit viper bites and fifty percent in coral snakes.

For information on treatment of snake bites, please read Dr. Anna Coffin’s blog post Snake Bite Treatment For Pets, 5 Things You Need To Know.

Will your pet survive a poisonous snake bite?  This answer depends on several vital questions.

  • What was the size and species of the snake? Pets bitten by copperheads, cottonmouths, and coral snakes have a better prognosis than those bitten by rattlesnakes.
  • Where did your pet get bitten? Bites to the head and body tend to be more severe than bites to the legs and feet.  Bites around the face can cause local swelling that can obstruct the airway and lead to breathing difficulties.
  • What is the age, size, and health of your pet?
  • How much time has passed before treatment is started?

snake vaccine is available for dogs.  This vaccine works by neutralizing the snake venom and decreasing your dog’s symptoms.  Your dog will initially need a series of two vaccines spaced one month apart before it is considered protected.  The vaccine provides good protection for six months.  Dr. Anna Coffin recommends giving the vaccine in the spring, and your dog will be protected through snake season in most areas of the United States.  Guthrie Pet Hospital can give your pet the snake vaccine.  Contact us for an appointment today.

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