Protecting Your Pet from Snakebites

Venomous snakebites can injure or kill a pet. A bite can cause permanent damage to the heart, liver, kidney, nervous system and joints, and destroy muscles and skin. You need to know the risks and what steps you can take to protect your animals.

Four venomous snakes in Central Texas pose a potential risk to your dog or cat: rattlesnake, cotton mouth/water moccasin, copperhead and coral. To put in perspective the risk of your pet getting bitten by a snake, venomous snakes bite approximately 150,000 dogs and cats annually in the U.S. In fact, dogs are 500 times more likely to suffer a venomous snakebite than to get rabies.

Rattlesnakes are fairly common here. In fact, nine different kinds of rattlesnakes live in Texas. They don’t always “rattle” before striking, and they tend to be most active at night while hunting rats, mice, rabbits and other small animals. And with a dwindling natural habitat from development and construction, rattlesnakes increasingly appear in suburban areas.

To reduce the risk of snakebite to your dog, keep it on a leash, preferably a short leash at night. Most bites occur when dogs stray from their owner. Also, maintain yards free of brush, wood and rock piles, tools, toys and long weeds and grass. Remove any food, fruit and birdseed from your yard that can attract rodents (snake prey). If you see a snake, slowly move you and your pet away to a distance at least the length of the snake.

To protect against severe and potentially fatal injury to your dog in the event of a rattlesnake bite, get it vaccinated by your veterinarian. The vaccine generates a protective antibody against snake venom. A vaccinated dog suffers less pain, with a reduced risk of permanent injury, as well as a faster recovery time.

Block House Creek Animal Hospital offers rattlesnake vaccines at a cost of less than $40 each for the first booster and the second booster (four weeks after the initial one). Follow-up boosters are given every six-months to one year. Anti-venom treatment also is available.

Watch for the following signs and symptoms to determine whether your dog may have suffered a snakebite:

– puncture wounds
– swelling
– severe pain
– breathing difficulty, and
– panting, drooling or restlessness.

A snakebite is always considered an emergency. Even a non-venomous bite can be dangerous. Minutes count. If you suspect a snakebite, get your pet to a veterinary hospital immediately. Don’t let your dog walk to the car or into the hospital. Keep yourself and your pet calm. If possible, call ahead to the hospital to get suggestions and advice prior to your arrival.