Depending on where you live, snakes could be a potentially serious problem for you as a dog owner. Dogs are not immune to snake bites and if a poisonous snake bites your dog it could be fatal.
Have you ever wondered how dogs react to snake bites? Are they immune? No, your dog is not immune and proper care needs to be taken when you let them roam freely outside.
Keep reading to learn about the many species of snakes that are poisonous. You need to know which ones live in your area as well as how to deal with a snake bite on your dog.
This article is for informational purposes only, please always consult your vet before treatment or if there is any medical emergency with your animals.
How Often Are Dogs Bitten by Snakes?
Every year in the US, there are over a million reported animal bites, usually, they are dog or cat bites, but snake bites make up a stunning 8,000 of those reported bites!
There are currently no databases that record the number of dogs bitten by snakes, or fatalities but many dogs die from poisonous snake bites every year.
Are All Snake Bites Dangerous to Dogs?
Dog owners must be very cautious of the possibility of poisonous snakes in their area.
The good news is that not all snake species are poisonous but there are still approximately 30 different varieties of snakes that are poisonous to dogs within the United States.
Is There a Snake Bite Vaccine for Dogs?
Venomous snakebites can be deadly for dogs, but there has been a rattlesnake vaccine created for dogs that are at risk of being exposed to rattlesnake bites.
According to Methow Valley Vet Hospital, vaccinated dogs are then able to create their own antibodies to the rattlesnake venom.
There is no consensus we could find about the effectiveness of a vaccine for dog snake bites.
What Snakes Are Venomous?
Step one is to educate yourself as to the types of venomous snakes and potential snake habitats where you live.
What Are Snake Habitats?
Snake habitats are where snakes like to be and can vary greatly by area but they include places such as wetlands, grasslands, deserts, mountains, forests, caves, and more.
In the USA, there are roughly fifteen different species of rattlesnakes, two different kinds of water moccasins (cottonmouth), the copperhead, and two different kinds of coral snakes.
Being confident in snake identification will potentially save your dog’s life (or potentially even yours!) in case they ever experience a venomous snakebite.
Variety of Poisonous Snakes
The Copperhead is one of the most seen poisonous snakes in the United States. They are also fairly aggressive and will attack anything they feel is a threat to them.
The good news is that a Copperhead bite is usually not fatal for humans or dogs if treated quickly.
The average size for an adult Copperhead is roughly 22 to 36 inches long but there have been snakes measuring in at a whopping 53 inches.
The Copperhead snake is considered a pit viper type of snake the same as Water Moccasins and the Rattlesnake.
Pit Vipers possess the ability to find and strike (bite) via the heat that is put off by their prey or target. This is accomplished via heat sensors located between their eyes and nostrils.
These pit organs (sometimes called heat pits) allow pit vipers to sense differences in temperatures and actually see the infrared radiation being emitted by a living creature.
Multiple species of snake closely resemble the Copperhead which are not poisonous. The Copperhead is distinct due to its hourglass-shaped markings.
Note: Copperhead snakes have been known to strike multiple times if they feel threatened.
Cottonmouth (Water Moccasin)
Agkistrodon Piscivorus is the scientific name for the Cottonmouth snake and is a very common species of venomous snake predominantly located in the Southeastern USA.
The Cottonmouth (also called the Water Moccasin) was given its name due to the color inside of its mouth, which resembles the whiteness of cotton.
When these snakes feel threatened, they will open their mouths wide and display their white mouths. The Cottonmouth is also known to be aggressive and will attack.
Water Moccasins get their name from the fact that they are very comfortable being in the water and they are usually seen in or near lakes and rivers.
This is a bit unusual as most other venomous snakes do not like water. Cottonmouth snakes are often seen on the undersides of docks or in a tree along the shoreline of a lake or river.
There are stories of Cottonmouth snakes dropping from a tree branch into boats of people who were fishing or cruising the shoreline so keep an eye open!
Cottonmouth snakes are often tan or brown and can even look almost black in color. They can be very think and possess a scary look with a triangular-shaped head.
You may also notice a line running from the eye and down the side of their head. As with all snakes, you need to watch for them and keep your distance if you see one.
There are several different types of Rattlesnakes to be aware of and vary depending on where you live.
You will find Diamondback Rattles snakes in the deserts of the western United States as well as the eastern portions of the USA such as Florida and George.
The Eastern Diamondback Rattlesnakes can be very large and fat with some measuring over six feet long and weighing 10 pounds or more.
They are North America’s largest venomous snake.
These big snakes vary in color but mostly are blackish and gray in tone while some may even have a greenish type look. They generally are somewhat dull in their look.
The Diamondback is famous for the diamond-type shapes that are on its back. It will also be recognized by the black bands around their eyes.
It is often said the Eastern Diamondback rattlesnake has cat-like eyes in its somewhat diamond-shaped (or triangular) head.
The Eastern Diamondback is known for its powerful and venomous bite. I have personally known of several dogs that have died from their bite.
They are also famous for their loud rattle warning if they feel encroached upon or threatened. While the rattle may scare you away a dog is often drawn to it due to their protective nature.
The Timber Rattlesnake is a large pit viper that has made its home across over half of the United States.
They can grow up to five feet long and tend to live in higher altitudes but can be found in various areas. They are usually gray in color and can have a stripe down their back.
This strip can vary in color from an orangish look to yellow or even a bit pinkish. The markings can also be dark brown or black.
These color variations of the Timber Rattlesnake help it blend into the forest/mountainous setting that they live in.
Dusky Pygmy Rattlesnake
The Dusky Pygmy Rattlesnake is the smallest venomous snake in North America.
It is found throughout almost all of Florida, some parts of the Carolinas, and throughout Texas and Missouri.
Small Pygmy Rattlesnakes can still be very dangerous for your dog. The Dusky Pygmy is short and thick and has a dark line through each eye.
There are spots that run down its back that are roughly in a circular shape as well as dark spots on a white belly. It may also have reddish-orange stripes along the body.
Eastern Coral Snake
The Eastern Coral Snake is roughly 30 inches in length but can exceed 40 inches. They are predominantly found in North Carolina, Florida, New Mexico, and Texas.
There is an age-old saying about how you can identify a Coral snake that goes: “Red touching black, safe for Jack. Red touching yellow, kill a fellow.”
What Should You Do if Your Dog is Bitten by a Snake?
There are a lot of misconceptions regarding snakebites. Some people will tell you to cut the bite and suck the venom or do something else that could be drastic and potentially dangerous.
Treating a snake bite wound is not recommended by most professionals.
The first thing you want to do is take your dog to your vet.
You can also check for the location of the bite and if there are multiple bite wounds.
The amount of venom your dog receives from the bite will depend on the number of bites, type of snake, and even bite size.
Next, try to identify the snake if possible. Look for markings, patterns, size, and what type of habitat they live in.
It is always a possibility that your dog had a non-venomous snakebite, but you want to gather as much information as you can.
If you believe your dog was bitten by a venomous snake, this is an emergency situation!
You will want to take your dog to an animal hospital or veterinary clinic as soon as possible to avoid death or long-term issues such as tissue damage.
Every venomous snakebite can cause permanent damage to you and your dog.
A bite can be very disfiguring and painful due to snakes possessing different types of snake venom. The good news is that not all snakes are venomous.
What Will a Vet Do to Treat a Snake Bite?
Once at your vet, your dog will more than likely be given intravenous fluids, antibiotic treatment, antihistamines, and pain medications all to help your dog’s immune system fight off the effects of the venom.
Your vet may also give your dog antivenom injections to counter the effects of the venom.
NOTE: Small dogs will need extra careful attention!
Why Are Small Dogs More Endangered by a Snake Bite?
There are many reasons that smaller dogs may suffer more severely than larger dogs when it comes to snake bites.
Reasons can include the fact that a larger dog simply has more body mass to absorb and dissipate the venom. So in effect, a smaller dog is getting a larger dose of poison.
Larger dogs may also have thicker skin and fur thus providing a little more protection from a snake bite making fang penetration not as severe.
Your vet will also check for any serious symptoms, or any spread of venom, clean the wound and care for it, and explain the costs of treatment options.
An accurate diagnosis of your pet is vital and that will require professional help.
Steps to Take if Your Dog is Bitten by a Snake
- Call your vet or animal hospital immediately and follow their guidance.
- Try to keep your dog as calm as possible to reduce the spread of the venom through their bloodstream.
- Get your dog to your vet right away. Tip! Carry your dog to the car to help keep them calm and their heart rate lower.
- Don’t try to treat the snakebite yourself. An untrained person may cause more harm than good!
- It is good to know what type of snake bit your dog if possible. Don’t put yourself at any risk but if it is possible to zoom in with your phone and take a picture that can be helpful.
Be sure to make a mental note of the size of the snake, its coloration, any distinctive markings, and the shape of its head. The type of treatment varies based on the snake.
Related Dog Snake Bite Questions
What exactly is venom?
Venom is the fluid that snakes inject during a bite. It is produced within the salivary glands of the snake. Every snake has different toxins within its venom.
Two types of snake venoms
- Neurotoxin- affects the nervous system.
- Hemotoxin- affects the blood, tissues, and blood vessels.
Some snake species contain both toxins in their venom.
What are some signs my dog may have been bitten by a snake?
Here is a list of some obvious signs your dog may have been bitten by a snake.
- Your dog is visibly in pain and overly excited.
- You can see an actual puncture wound on your dog. You may even see blood or bruising.
- Swelling. Most snake bite wounds will cause visible swelling.
- Your dog may also become weak or lethargic as the venom takes hold in their body.
- Drooling, difficulty breathing, vomiting, diarrhea, shaking, and total collapse can be signs of a snake bite.
Can I treat my dog at home for a snake bite?
Home treatment for a snake bite is not recommended by professionals. If you think your dog has been bitten by a snake get them to a vet clinic or animal hospital right away.
It is Important to Protect Your Dog From Snake Bites
The purpose of this article is to provide you with useful information concerning if your dog suffers a venomous snake bite or even a nonvenomous snake bite.
Pet owners always need to keep a watchful eye out for snakes if they live in regions that are known to have poisonous snakes.
Remember, dogs are not immune to snake bites and if your dog does get bitten by a snake you need to take them to your local veterinarian immediately as they could die.
Delaying taking your dog to a vet after a snake bite could very well result in an increased risk of adverse reactions from the snake’s venom. Quick, professional veterinary care is a must!
The key is to avoid a snake bite in the first place by being vigilant and keeping your dog away from potentially harmful snakes.
Please note that we are not medical professionals but just providing information that may be helpful to you. Always seek professional care and advice for all health issues.