Dangers of Snake Bites


Drake, a lab mix puppy that was bitten
by a Copperhead in May (before treatment)

In North Carolina, snake bites in dogs and cats can be very common. The majority of these occur between the months April and October. The most common poisonous snake that our pets encounter is the Copperhead. These bites can be fatal, if not treated appropriately in a timely manner.

Dogs are more commonly affected than cats, likely due to higher exposure. You may or may not witness the attack or see the puncture wounds, but the most frequently affected area is the face. Facial swelling, pain, bruising, hemorrhage, hypersalivation and possible fang marks are the most visible and common clinical signs. These signs can appear anywhere from 1 hour to 6 hours post incident. Neurological signs as well as severe bleeding resulting from coagulation (clotting) deficiencies can occur in very severe cases.

Drake, 48 hrs after treatment

Drake, 48 hrs after treatment

Treatment provided in these cases usually consists of fluids to treat possible shock and antibiotics for infections that may occur at the site of the snake bite. Antiinflammatory medications are used to decrease swelling and pain medications for discomfort. Monitoring should be continued for 48 hours; it can take up to 1 week for swelling to resolve.

Preventable measures that you can take as a pet owner include keeping your grass in your yards cut short and keeping your pets in your sight at all times. In this area, the Riverwalk/Greenway is very popular this time of year, and we have had some patients at Riverwood Veterinary Clinic suffer from snake bites off the trail. It is best to keep your pets on the leash at all times when walking them and to keep them off of the grass and on the paved trail. If your pet has suffered from a snake bite, please seek veterinary care immediately.