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Posted on 06-16-2016

Slithering Snakes!

What to do if your pet gets bitten.

Snake bites are a very common occurrence in cats and dogs in the southern U.S. Most snake bites are from pit vipers, which include copperheads, rattlesnakes, water moccasins, and less commonly, coral snakes. The severity of envenomation varies depending on the species of the snake, time of year, number of bites, amount of venom injected, time before treatment, age and health of your pet, amount of movement of your pet after being bitten, and location of the bite. Not all bites will result in envenomation. Most snake bites occur on the head and neck. Snake venom can affect multiple body systems including the heart and lungs, coagulation, kidneys, and nervous system. The most obvious and immediate symptoms you may see include: one or more puncture wounds (these may not always be visible), swelling and bruising at the site of the bite, and pain. More severe symptoms may take several hours to develop and can include lethargy, weakness, muscle tremors, nausea, tissue necrosis, shock, and vomiting.  A venomous snake bite is a true medical emergency. If you suspect your pet has been bitten by a poisonous snake you should have your pet examined by a veterinarian immediately. Keep your pet as calm as possible and restrict movement. DO NOT try to remove the venom by cutting the skin over the bite or aspirating it with a needle. DO NOT apply a tourniquet if bitten on the extremity. Do not give any human medications without talking to a veterinarian. Immediate treatment with IV fluids to support blood pressure, antihistamines, pain medication, anti-inflammatory medications for swelling, and antibiotics to prevent secondary infection is important. Your pet will need to be monitored for several days after being bitten. Antivenin is available and recommended depending on the severity of the bite as determined by your veterinarian; however it can be expensive. 


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