Prevention & Treatment of Snake Bites

Rattlesnakes are a common sight in the desert, and many other areas of the Western United States. Our hospital generally sees the majority of snakebite patients in the spring and early fall, when the nights are cool and the days are warm. About 90% of the snakebite patients veterinarians treat are dogs, bitten on the end of the nose. Only occasionally do we find ourselves treating cats for rattlesnake bites. Most pets can survive rattlesnake bites, especially when treated in a timely fashion.

The Symptoms of a Snakebite:

Sudden significant swelling & pain at the site of the bite
Trickle of blood from the bite wound
Bruising in the area of the bite

If you see these symptoms, or if you see your dog or cat get bitten by a rattlesnake, keep him cool and calm and bring him to our office or to the nearest open veterinary hospital immediately.

Early Treatment is Essential

Treatment should begin within a few hours of the bite for the best results. The pet is generally hospitalized for 1-3 days and is treated with intravenous fluids & antibiotics and with pain management medication. Frequently the pet will also be treated with an IV injection of antivenin, which is administered safely under the doctor's supervision and rarely causes allergic reactions. Occasionally, in the more severe cases, a second or even third round of antivenin is recommended. After 2-3 days the pet goes home and requires some home care in the form of antibiotics and wound care to help prevent infection.

Best Treatment is Prevention

Most of the time, you can avoid the expense and risk of snakebites by following these guidelines: Keep dogs controlled on leashes while out walking or hiking; and don't allow dogs and cats outdoors without supervision. If you find a rattlesnake in your yard, call the rural metro fire department to come and safely remove it. Snake breaking courses are sometimes available for dogs. These classes usually involve shock collar training but are much safer than the risk of snakebite. Call our office for further information.