Thursday, August 28, 2008


It seems such things happen when you least expect it. Fortunately, I was ready with basic first aid. My dog, a small terrier mix, got bit by a snake last week. I was cutting tree saplings/suckers out of an english ivy bed and the dog was in the ivy, also. He let out a yelp, jumped straight up about two feet, and then ran, eventually circling back to me. I could not find any wound on his legs or body, but 20 minutes later his snout and neck were swollen. He was in a lot of pain and lethargic. I could see a puncture wound in his muzzle and reddish/brown liquid oozing out.

I figure worse case it was a copperhead and best case just a bull snake. I have never seen a rattlesnake on this property. Since I could not identify the type of snake, it escaped in the ivy, I assumed the vet would not be able to give an anti-venom. I checked the internet for dog snake bites and found that vets do not typically give anti-venom for copperheads, anyway (because the mortality rate is low).

I gave him 25 mg of Benadryl with peanut butter ( 1 mg per lb body weight). That helped immediately, swelling did go down and his head perked up. He curled up next to me and we took a nap. He was significantly better a couple of hours later.

The next day the puncture wounds on his muzzle were much more visible and I noticed that he had a bruised sore spot inside of his upper lip. I took him to the vet and received a weeks worth of tablets of prednisolone, clindamycin (antibiotic) and neomycin ointment (topical treatment for the puncture wounds). The vet thought it was most likely a copperhead and a defensive strike (less venom) - since it didn't kill him! He also said he never gives anti-venom because it can cause reactions that are more harmful than good. The best treatment is Benadryl followed by antibiotics - good stuff to know.

In my internet research I came upon an informative list of things to do and not to do when a pet is snake bitten:

Remain calm. Do everything possible to keep your pet calm and quiet. Excitement and activity cause the venom to be circulated more rapidly through the victims system. Obviously, the calmer and quieter you are the calmer and quieter the victim also will be.

Call a veterinarian. Tell the vet what medications you have on hand: antibiotics, prednisone, Benadryl, etc.

Administer Benadryl. The proper dosage is 1mg/pound.

Clean the wound with an antibacterial solution. Be gentle, the bite site will be extremely painful.

Administer a broad-spectrum antibiotic. For a 20 lb dog, administer approximately 250mg of amoxicillin.

Loosen or remove the victim's collar. If the bite is the head or neck area, the extreme swelling (which occurs quickly) could cause strangulation from the collar.

Encourage the victim to take fluids.

Keep the victim warm if he/she appears to be in shock.

The "don'ts" listed below represent the most recent advice and thinking.

Don't apply ice. The most recent thinking on the use of ice for snakebites is that while ice will aid in controlling swelling, it also slows circulation of the body's chemical defenses to the affected area. Additionally, applied incorrectly, ice can further damage the already traumatized tissue.

Don't cut a "X" across the puncture wound and attempt to suck out the venom. The cut further damages the injured tissue. Additionally, while venom is not harmful if digested, its absorption via the membranes in the mouth may envenommate the person trying to suck the venom from the wound.

Don't apply a tourniquet unless you are experienced in the use of this highly risky procedure.

This list did help as I had considered applying ice to help reduce the swelling. And I was fortunate to have small 25 mg tablets of Benadryl on hand that could be cut up and fed to the dog with peanut butter. Even with the peanut butter, one of his favorites, I had to coax him into eating it. He would not take any water. Something he usually laps up after a little peanut butter.

Later in the evening, I gave him another ½ dose of Benadryl to help him with the pain and keep the swelling down over night. By morning, he was much better, swelling reduced, and he actually ate his cup of dog food. It’s amazing how resilient dogs are!

1 comment:

  1. What a scary time for you and your pet. You handled is very well, and didn't panic as many people might have.

    I'm happy to hear things turned out well. I think your dogs resilience was aided by your loving care and attention.

    This shows you'd make an excellent mom. =)