Every year, some 300,000 cats and dogs are bitten by venomous snakes in the U.S. Summer is the most active season for snakebites because snakes spend most of their time out and about basking in the warm sun. If you take your pet along biking, hiking or enjoying other outdoor activities, it’s important that you know how to prevent snakebites from happening, and what to do should your pet get bit.
Tips to Prevent a Snakebite
1. Keep your pet on a leash when outdoors. Most snakebites occur when the animal is far away from its owner. This means those retractable leashes aren’t a good idea either, because they let your pet get too far away from you.
2. Try to stay away from rocky or densely covered areas with lots of brush or grass. Stick to wide trails if possible.
3. Keep your yard tidy. Cut the grass short and make sure things such as toys, tools and brush are picked up. Eliminate any rock piles as they also make perfect snake hideouts.
4. Keep you yard free of things such as food and birdseed that might attract rodents, which is a snake’s favorite food.
5. Snakes are masters at getting under fencing. Think about installing hardware cloth along the base of any fenced in area.
6. If you do happen upon a snake while outdoors, back away slowly and quietly until you are at least half its body length away. This should put you out of striking distance so you can leave the area immediately.
7. Learn about the snakes in your area. Being able to identify the culprit in the event of a snakebite can make all the difference in the world.
8. If rattlesnakes are prevalent in your area, consider getting your dog vaccinated with the rattlesnake vaccine.
9. Use caution when participating in water activities with your pet. All species of snake can swim, and some can bite underwater if startled. If canoeing, rafting or fishing with your pet, avoid drifting under overhanging tree branches as sunning snakes will drop into the water (or the boat) when they detect motion.
If Your Pet Gets a Snakebite
1. Know what to look for. According to the ASPCA, immediate symptoms of a snakebite include:
- Visible puncture marks (may also include bleeding)
- Severe pain
- Swelling of the tissue around the bite
- Panting, drooling, restlessness
- Difficulty breathing
2. Immediately take your pet to the nearest vet’s office. A snakebite is an emergency where every second counts, especially if he is bitten by a venomous snake. Even if the snake is non-venomous, complications from the bite can wreak havoc in your pet’s body. Don’t make your pet walk to the car. Pick him up and carry him to slow the rate at which the venom travels through his body.
3. Keep you pet and yourself calm on the trip to the vet. This is important because it helps slow the progression of the venom in your pet’s system. If you have someone else along, you can slow the venom by using the following methods:
- Bathe the bite in cold water to reduce swelling.
- Apply a tourniquet if the bite is on a limb.
- Keep the bite location below heart level.
Remember, summertime is prime time for snakebites to occur, so be on the lookout at all times when spending time outdoors with your pet. Avoid obvious areas that snakes might be, and if a snakebite occurs, remain calm and act fast.