Veterinarians Treat Snakebites in Dogs

Facial swelling from snakebite
Facial swelling from snakebite

When I first found out I was moving down to Florida, I was excited to practice in a whole new world. Tampa is different from New York in so many ways. Then, the excitement was replaced by fear. Perhaps the new world of Tampa will bring new challenges. There are emergencies that are common in Tampa, but virtually non-existent in New York City. I made a list of such emergencies. My list included complications from heart worm disease, bufo (toad) toxicity, sago palm toxicity, and snakebites. I scrambled to learn as much about these emergencies as I could.

Many pets are bitten by snakes every year. Down in Tampa, this is a daily occurrence. Most of the bites are from crotalids, a family of snakes which includes rattlesnakes. Some pets are bitten by coral snakes, members of the elapidae which includes cobras. Coral snake venom is different from rattlesnake venom. Coral snake envenomation causes life-threatening neurologic problems, whereas rattlesnake venom causes other problems such as bleeding disorders, severe inflammation–often facial swelling as seen here–severe infections, and sometimes death.

Some links about rattlesnakes
Pictures of rattlesnakes in Florida
Florida’s Venomous Snakes

Dogs are often bitten on the face when they stupidly try to sniff or bite a rattlesnake. The bite is often very painful. Not all rattlesnake bites contain venom. A small percentage of bites are “dry.” However, waiting to find out whether or not the bite contained enough venom to cause problems, is often a deadly mistake. Treatment includes intensive care hospitalization with close, round-the-clock monitoring for some of the life-threatening complications. Antivenin (sometimes known as anti-venom) should be administered as soon as possible, but is expensive to maintain, and may not be available everywhere. IV fluids are given in the hospital, as well as IV antibiotics and pain medication. Doctors will want to monitor coagulation (blood clotting) times as well as general bloodwork to make sure all the organ systems are continuing to function properly. Despite appropriate therapy, some dogs still die from snakebites.

Believe it or not, the dog in the picture above is a miniature pinscher. His face is dramatically swollen. While this is a funny picture, the danger to the dog is clear. Swelling this severe could easily close off the dogs airway suffocating him. This is the least life-threatening of all the potential complications of snakebite.

12 thoughts on “Veterinarians Treat Snakebites in Dogs

  1. Oh that poor puppy! I thought, at first, the first photo was photoshopped. It might be nice to have a link where these two photos are next to eachother, otherwise, the one goes off the screen while you are looking at the other.

  2. Our champion showdog was given the rattlesnake vaccine. Three days later she was diagnosed with Autoimmune hemolytic anemia. The vet at the time felt it was caused by the vaccine. He called the company to report it and was told thats impossible. Our dog was taken to a specialist in another state for doggy icu. She was tested to see if she could possibly have any other known reason to cause this. All negitive. The speciallist called the company only to receive the same response from their vet. $4500.00 later she is still not well. The company is now saying no one ever called. We will NEVER use this or any vaccine made by them on any of our dogs.

  3. on aug 21, my 1 year old boston terrier was bit by acopperhead. She was bitten on the back of the neck, between the shoulders. it’s been almost 3 weeks, she’s lost 3inch by 2 inch peice of skin & tissues she is slowly recovering. Lucy is her name, she is very srrong, and looks worse than it is. Her wound is still exposed as a scab forms , and she is bathed wx daily w/ antixeptic wash. She may not ever grow any hair there on her back. but she is my darling, and the love of my life.

  4. My chocolate lab recently demonstrated some odd behavior. She appeared to be in a mesmerized state for minutes at a time. Staring or gazing into the distance. She became very still and lethargic. Rolling over became difficult and her appetit declined. Several hours after the initial incident, her jaw and lower lip on one side of her face became increasingly edematous. She has lost the high energy level that she and most other labradors enjoy. The doctors are not sure what it is at this point. I am not aware of her being bitten by a snake but she does spend time inour yard down here in Florida. It has been two days since she began acting strangely. I believe she was bitten by a snake. Any thoughts or similar experiences?

  5. My 10 yr old very healthy/active Aussie was found dead one morning. Also found was a dead and chewed coral snake. Autopsy showed Severe internal bleeding, everywhere! Conclusion was anticoagulant toxin (rat poison). There is no way she came in contact with this. Vet says Coral Snakes dont cause bleeding, they cause nerveous system failure and ultimately suffocation. Another vet indicated that 2 times in career did see bleeding with coral snake bite, but bleeding caused by the severe seizures caused by the bite. Any one have any input or thoughts…..

  6. hey i seen this picure and noticed that my dogs face looks the same add i was wondering what i can do to save her and how i can help her to fight the snakes bite because her face and he chest is swelled and her hair buy her faces if falling off so if you have any advice write back soon thanks

  7. Thats a brilliant idea julia. Lets go around killing everything thats “bad”. The world doesn’t need ecological balance. Lets just kill all the “evil” creatures that are out to destroy are pets.

  8. u no wat, julia? u r really stupid!!! im really serious, man, i mean come on, do u think u or ne1 can really just go and kill every thing that is suposedly “bad”? thats the stupidest thing ive heard in a long time. yea, go ‘head and just try 2 kill anything that u think is bad and u will find urself either in a jail cell or insane assylum so fast ur head will spin and u wont no wat hit u. next time, dont b so stupid and actually think bout wat u say or PUT ONLINE!!!!! i mean 2 real, if u actually think ’bout wat u sed, u would no that that is ridiculas. unless u r really that stupid. which i really dont no with u. b smart

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