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7 Steps To Take For A Dog Bitten By A Snake While Hiking

Pawdrick on a walk

It’s no secret that dog parents are investing more time than ever in the care and well-being of their furbabies. We never want to think about our four-legged companions coming to harm, but the truth is, it can happen to anyone!

The best thing you can do for a dog bitten by a snake is to take them to the nearest veterinary clinic. Do not concern yourself with vets that do or do not have antivenom – getting them to a vet ASAP is the most crucial action you can take.

On a lighter note, there are many things you can do to prevent your dog from getting bit by a snake. Read on to learn how to protect your four-legged companion from those slithery reptiles.

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7 Steps To Take If Your Dog Is Bitten By A Snake

Dog snake bites can be an emergency, so let’s get right into it. Afterward, we’ll discuss where snakes are most likely to be encountered and how to avoid them.

A study published in the Journal of Comparative Biochemistry And Physiology found that dogs treated within the first four hours had the best survival rates. So, don’t waste any time. Get your pup treated as fast as possible.

1. Remove You And Your Dog From The Snake

Dogs are naturally curious and may try to interact with a snake if they see it, not understanding the danger. A dog bitten by a snake should be removed from the snake as quickly and safely as possible.

Snakes only have a certain amount of venom. Using it repeatedly can completely deplete their stores, leaving them open to potential predators and making it harder for them to capture prey.

Because of this, snakes don’t usually want to continue biting after delivering the first blow. They’ll want to conserve their venom as much as possible. Pull your dog away from the snake, and it will likely quit attacking.

For more details on encountering snakes, check out our guide on what to do if you see a snake on a hike.

2. Remember As Many Details As Possible

Time is of the essence as soon as you realize your dog has been bitten. If it doesn’t take time and is safe, take a photo of the snake with your phone to show a vet later.

Try to remember exactly where the snake bit your dog, how many times, and the area where the snake and your dog met, such as in the water, near leaves, or in a rocky outcropping. Any information can help.

If anything, try to remember what the snake looks like. It may be helpful down the road if antivenom is needed. However, don’t spend a lot of time identifying the snake. Getting your dog to a vet is more important than identifying the snake.

3. Keep Your Dog Calm

Your furbaby was bitten by a snake – of course it’s stressful! But it’s essential to remain calm and try to keep your pet calm as well. A dog bitten by a snake may act fearful, aggressive, or reactive.

Dogs are especially sensitive to the emotions of their pet parents. When we’re anxious, they’re anxious. When we’re calm, they’re calm. The calmer your dog is, the lower their blood pressure and the slower the venom moves throughout their body (if the snake is venomous).

Pawdrick sleeping on the couch.

4. Make Your Way To The Car

Snake bites should not be treated at home, even if you are 100% sure it is a non-venomous snake. Snake fangs are long and slender and cause puncture wounds that can get infected if left untreated.

Once you have removed your dog and yourself from the situation, calmly return to the car. If your dog doesn’t mind, carry them to the car instead of letting them walk. This may be difficult depending on how far you are on your hike.

I highly recommend getting a rescue sling to bring on hikes with your dog. We use the Fido Pro Airlift Emergency Dog Rescue Sling. You can check out our other dog hiking gear essentials here and our in-depth look at the Fido Pro Airlift Sling.

Fido Pro Airlift Emergency Dog Rescue Sling view from the back

5. Don’t Give Home Treatment

Ice packs, heating packs, and tourniquets can be left to the TV shows. These have shown no effect on snake bites, and tourniquets can hurt more than help.

Avoid spending time trying to give your dog first aid at home. Instead, make your way to the nearest veterinary clinic as quickly as possible. If anything, keep your pet warm and comfortable.

6. Head To The Nearest Vet Clinic

Once you are away from the situation and in your car, it’s time to go to the nearest vet clinic. Don’t worry about looking for a clinic with antivenom. Getting your dog under veterinary care as soon as possible is vital.

If it’s the weekend or a holiday, find the nearest 24/7 emergency service vet clinic and head straight there. An emergency vet may have a longer wait, but they are also usually better equipped than a local vet.

Vets will run tests to determine if your dog has been injected with venom. From there, they can give you details about what to do or where to go, if necessary, and provide initial treatment.

Snake bite treatment may include things like IV fluids and antivenom.

7. Stick With Your Pet

Robyn with pawd and his ball.

No matter the outcome, it’s important to stick by your pet. Your presence can help calm your pet down, lowering their blood pressure and making them feel more comfortable.

Snake bites can be very painful, so your dog is likely feeling pretty lousy. Seeing their favorite human will be a small bright spot on an otherwise cloudy day. Stick by their side, as they’ve stuck by yours. 

Post Snakebite Care For Your Dog

So, let’s answer the question on everyone’s mind: Can dogs survive snake bites? The answer is yes. The prognosis is usually pretty good when treated within the first four hours.

Once your dog has been cleared by your veterinarian to go home, it’s time to think about how to take care of your four-legged friend at home. A dog bitten by a snake may be sent home the same day or have to spend some time in a hospital to recover.

Keep An Eye On The Wound

Check your dog’s wound site daily to ensure it looks healthy (as healthy as a snakebite can look!).

Check for:

  • Swelling
  • Pus
  • Discoloration
  • Foul odor from the puncture wound

These are signs that the bite site may not be healing as well as it should be. If the wound seems especially painful for your dog, it may be time to make another appointment with your local vet.

Give Your Pet Any Recommended Medication

Depending on the snakebite, your veterinarian may decide to send your pet home with bite treatment medication. Be sure to give your pet the recommended doses at the specified intervals.

Even if your pet seems to be feeling better, it’s best to finish out all medication to ensure there are no future problems.

R & R

Rest and relaxation are essential steps in the recovery process for your pup. Snakebites can be a traumatic experience, especially if your dog is admitted to the hospital.

Try to take things slow and allow your dog to recover at their own pace. 

How To Identify A Dog Bitten By A Snake

When we let our pups out to do their business, we don’t constantly monitor them. Your dog may come back acting strange, but you don’t know why. 

If you didn’t see your dog get bit by a snake, here are snake bite symptoms to look for:

  • Swollen face
  • Bleeding at the site of the bite wound
  • Weakness
  • Pale gums
  • Muscle tremors and shaking
  • Dilated pupils
  • Loss of bladder and bowel control

If you notice these signs, head to a vet clinic immediately. A dog with a venomous snake bite may show more severe symptoms. Snake venom often contains neurotoxins, which cause immobilization.

Your dog may not show symptoms right away, either. A typical dog snake bite timeline would be within 24 hours to show symptoms.

Here’s Where Your Four-legged Friend Might Meet a Slithering Surprise

When exploring the great outdoors with our furry companions, it’s essential to be aware of all potential critters we might cross paths with. Yes, that includes our slithering friends – snakes.

What to do if you see a snake on a hike

Regions Known for Snake Presence

First things first, let’s talk about where you are most likely to encounter snakes while hiking with your dog. 

Snakes are found on every continent except Antarctica, so it’s safe to say they’re pretty widespread. However, certain regions are more notorious for snake presence than others:

  • Desert regions: Think Arizona, Nevada, and parts of California. Heat-loving rattlesnakes love these places!
  • Rainforests: Oregon and Washington are two areas where rainforests attract a variety of snakes, big and small!
  • Grasslands and savannas: Think about the expansive Great Plains, stretching across the central U.S. These areas can also be a habitat for many types of snakes.

But remember, snakes can be found even in your local park or near suburban and urban areas with green spaces. So, it’s always essential to be vigilant!

Specific Snake Hangouts

Snakes have favorite hangout spots. Knowing these can help us prevent unwanted encounters during our outdoor escapades. 

Here are some places to watch out for:

  • Leaf Litter: Snakes often hide in leaf litter for warmth and camouflage. Be cautious when your dog is sniffing around these areas.
  • Rocky Outcroppings: Some snakes, like the rattlesnake, love basking on rocks to soak up the sun. Watch your step!
  • Tall Grass: Tall grasses provide excellent hiding spots for snakes. Stick to clear paths whenever possible.
  • Fallen Trees or Logs: Snakes can be found under these, taking shelter or hunting for food.
  • Near Water: Some snakes are excellent swimmers and might be found near ponds, streams, or wetlands.

Tips to Avoid Snake Encounters

Danger noodle sunning itself

Now that we know where snakes like to hang out, here are some tips to avoid running into them on your hiking adventures:

  • Stick to the Path: Keep your dog on a leash and stick to clear, well-trodden paths.
  • Watch Your Step: Be vigilant about where you and your pet are stepping, especially in snake-prone areas.
  • Avoid Night Hiking: Many snakes are more active during the cooler night hours.
  • Make Noise: Snakes are more scared of you than you are of them! Making noise can often scare them off before you get too close.

Remember, we aim to enjoy nature while causing minimal disturbance to the wildlife that calls it home. Snakes are vital to the food web, keeping rodent populations under control and, in turn, providing food for birds of prey and larger mammals.

The Difference Between Venomous And Non-Venomous Snakes

As we continue our journey through the wilds of pet-friendly outdoor exploration, it’s high time we tackle a topic that could be a game changer for a dog bitten by a snake. We’re talking about venomous and non-venomous snakes.

Spot the Difference

Snake in the boot

Knowing how to spot the difference between venomous and non-venomous snakes can be extremely useful when you’re out and about with your pup. So, let’s dive into some distinguishing features:

  • Head Shape: Venomous snakes often sport a triangularshaped head with a noticeably thinner neck, while their non-venomous counterparts tend to have a more rounded head.
  • Pupil Shape: Believe it or not, the eyes have it! Venomous snakes usually have slit-like, elliptical pupils (think cat’s eyes), while non-venomous snakes often have round pupils.
  • Rattles And Coloration: This one’s a bit tricky, but if you can see a rattle on the end of the tail, you’re most likely dealing with a venomous rattlesnake. As for coloration, some venomous snakes have distinctive coloration, like the coral snake with red, yellow, and black bands.

Learning about your local venomous snakes before heading out with your dog is a good idea. If you’re visiting a new area, research local snakes to see where they will most likely hang out. Knowledge is power!

Common Venomous Snakes In The United States

Knowing what the most common venomous snakes in the United States look like can help you make a quick identification before you head to the vet. 

Pit vipers are the most common venomous snakes that bite dogs. This includes three types of snakes:

  • Rattlesnakes: Rattlesnakes have a distinguishing rattle on the end of their tails, which they shake to warn off potential predators. A rattlesnake vaccine is available for dogs who live in areas prone to rattlesnakes.
  • Copperheads: Copperheads are found most often in leaf litter, near fence lines, and near water sources. They come in various shades of brown with darker hourglass-shaped patches along the body.
  • Cottonmouths: Also known as a water moccasin, these snakes are semi-aquatic and usually found near a water source. Their color varies greatly, but they can be identified if they give a defensive display of opening their mouth, which is solid white.

One other snake, the coral snake, is known to bite dogs. Coral snakes are very colorful, with red, yellow, and black bands. However, they are secretive and are rarely seen aboveground. 

Better Safe Than Sorry

While these tips might help you become a snake-spotting pro, it’s important to remember to treat all snake bites as potential emergencies. 

If your dog is bitten by a snake, assume it’s venomous until proven otherwise by a professional. Even non-venomous snake bites can cause infections and should be treated by a veterinarian.

Keep It Light, Keep It Bright

While it might seem daunting, remember that most snakes would rather slither away than have a confrontation. Your best bet is always to give snakes a wide berth, keep your pup on a leash, and enjoy your adventures with a dash of caution and a whole lot of fun.

Remember, we’re not just dog parents. We’re adventure buddies. And every good adventure buddy knows when to be cautious, when to be brave, and when to appreciate the wild beauty around them – even if it occasionally hisses!

Bringing It All Together

Summers are meant for hitting the trails with your furry pal, but it’s essential to watch for dangers like snakes along the trail.

Whether the snakebite is venomous or not, there are 7 steps to take immediately following a snakebite:

  1. Remove your dog from the area
  2. Take in as many details about the encounter as possible
  3. Keep your dog calm
  4. Make your way back to the car (Carry your dog if possible)
  5. Avoid home treatments
  6. Take your dog to the closest vet clinic
  7. Stick with your pet

Your dog’s health and safety should be a top priority. After all, you are their caretaker and, in many cases, their best friend. Preventing snakebites is the best way to keep your pal happy and healthy during your outdoor adventures. 

Pawd posing in the woods.

Have you had an experience with a snakebite? Let us know in the comments below so you can help other pet parents! For now, you can check out more articles on hiking with your dog on our blog!


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