Do snakes bother dogs? A Comprehensive Guide

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Most humans have an innate fear of snakes, but if youve ever seen a dog encounter a serpent, you may have been surprised to see that they dont share our phobia. In fact, dogs have a playful curiosity that can quickly result in an unhappy dog bitten by a snake.

Learn more about some of the most common signs that your dog has been bitten and how to treat a snake bite on a dog if it does happen. Time plays a critical role in your dogs health should you ever find yourself in this situation.

Symptoms of a Snake Bite on Dogs

Many factors influence the types of symptoms your dog might experience after a snake bite, as well as the severity of those symptoms. The type of snake is the most important factor—a bite from a venomous snake is far more serious than a bite from a nonvenomous snake—but symptoms also depend on whether or not the snake injected venom (venomous snakes do not always release venom during a bite), how many bites were delivered, the size of your dog, and the part of the body that was bitten.

If your dog is bitten by a nonvenomous snake, or the snake does not deliver venom, common symptoms include swelling and bruising at the site of the bite. Usually, the bruise will spread quickly around the puncture wounds created by the snakes fangs, although this is not always easy to spot on dogs with long or thick fur. Depending on the type and size of the snake, you may or may not be able to see the actual punctures in the dogs skin.

However, if your dog is bitten by a venomous snake, the symptoms are likely to be far more severe. Symptoms your dog might display after a venomous bite include:

  • Bleeding or oozing fluid from the puncture wounds
  • Discoloration that spreads rapidly around the punctures
  • Shaking or weakness in hind legs
  • Panting or other signs of agitation
  • Muscle twitches or trembling throughout the body
  • Diarrhea and/or vomiting
  • Drooling or frothing at the mouth
  • Dilated pupils
  • Bloody urine
  • Sudden collapse, often followed by the dog getting back up on its feet
  • If a venomous snake bites your dog, dramatic symptoms may start within minutes. Your dog may begin to shake, or you might observe twitching muscles, especially in the dogs back legs. Often, the pupils of your dogs eyes will dilate wide, although this can be difficult to see in dogs with very dark eyes. The legs might become weak, causing your dog to fall to the ground. Most dogs will appear very agitated or nervous; youll see your dog pant heavily, pace, drool, or even froth at the mouth. Many dogs will vomit, or your dog might develop diarrhea. It is crucial to get your dog to a veterinarian as quickly as possible if you observe any of these symptoms after an encounter with a snake.

    While the majority of snakes are not venomous, and any snake might bite, a strike from a venomous snake is potentially far more serious for your dog. Venomous snakes endemic to the United States include copperheads, cottonmouths (water moccasins), rattlesnakes (pit vipers), and coral snakes. The four types have the following characteristics:

  • Rattlesnakes usually are brown or reddish with darker diamond-shaped patterns on their back and rattles on the end of their tail. They can reach as much as 6 feet in length. In general, pit vipers have slit-eyed pupils like a cat (compared to round pupils in non-poisonous snakes), pits beneath their eyes, big arrow-shaped heads, rough scales, and a pair of fangs in the upper jaw.
  • Water moccasins hang out near streams or in swamps. They reach 4 to 6 feet in length and are dark brown to black, with faint bands that can be hard to distinguish. The inside of the mouth is white, giving the snake its “cottonmouth” nickname.
  • Copperheads can be reddish to golden tan and have darker hourglass-shaped bands along their body. They reach about 2 to 3 feet in length and are typically found around leaf litter and woodpiles.
  • The coral snake can be recognized by its small black-nosed head and vivid stripes of red, yellow, and black. Red and yellow bands are always next to each other. Coral snakes can be distinguished from king snakes (same bands of color but in a different order) by remembering this rhyme: “Red next to yellow kills a fellow.”
  • If you can spot the snake that bit your dog, that information will be helpful to the vet and may help dictate the treatment plan.

    Do snakes bother dogs?

    What are the dangers of snake bites on dogs?

  • Snake bit sites can be difficult to identify on dogs
  • Dogs may not show symptoms immediately after being bitten, but may have received a fatal dose of envenomation
  • The longer the dog snake bit is left untreated, the more advanced the clinical signs and the lower the chance of survival
  • The dangers of snake bites on dogs are high due to their natural hunting instincts
  • The only way to identify a snake is to count the scales of the physical snake or perform a snake detection test in clinic
  • Not all veterinary practices stock snake anti-venom, it is essential to ring ahead
  • Snake venom can compromise the dog’s blood coagulation (clotting) and can cause them to bleed to death
  • Snake bites can cause internal damage to kidneys, muscles, and the respiratory system
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