Texas is home to all kinds of critters, including poisonous and non-poisonous snakes. While most snakes will only bite when threatened, it is important to know what to do if your pet is bitten by a snake. In this blog, we will cover what to do (and what not to do) as well as preventative measures you can take to avoid your pet being bit.
Prosper Residents: Please call Frisco Emergency Pet Care at 469-287-6767 immediately if you know or suspect your pet has been bitten by a snake. Frisco Emergency Pet Care keeps antivenom on hand and is able to treat snake bites, including: rattlesnakes, copperheads, and cotton mouth snakes.
Signs that your pet has been bitten by a snake include:
Swelling at Bite Location
Pawing, Rubbing, or Chewing Affected Area
Excessive Drooling or Frothing
Bright red eyes and mucous membranes
Excessive Shaking or Trembling
Muscle Weakness or Paralysis
Loss of Bladder or Bowel Control
Visible Puncture Marks (may or may not be present)
The Do’s and Don’t’s:
If you know your pet has been bitten by a snake…
Do seek medical care immediately. If you know your pet has been bitten by a snake, act quickly. If you are unsure of whether the snake bite was poisonous or not, it is always safest to assume that the bite was poisonous.
Do not attempt to capture the snake. While it is extremely helpful for your veterinarian to know what kind of snake bit your pet, do not put yourself at risk by getting too close or provoking the snake.
Do try to get a good look at the snake. If you are at a safe distance and can observe identifying features such as size, color/markings, head or tail shape/appearance, it would be beneficial to do so. Photos can also help your vet identify the snake, but only take a photo if you feel that you are a safe enough distance away. Do not poke the snake to get a better view, as it may strike at you.
For help with identification, you can also refer to the Texas Parks and Wildlife website for photos and descriptions of snakes commonly found in Texas: https://tpwd.texas.gov/education/hunter-education/online-course/preparation-and-survival/snakes
Do not apply ice to the bite. This does not neutralize snake venom and can cause further cell damage to the area.
Do try to keep your pet calm and immobile. If your pet is in pain and distressed, they may become extremely restless and not want to sit still. Safely confine your pet in a carrier or by holding them on the way to the emergency clinic. Be extremely cautious when touching your pet, especially around the affected area, as any pet may bite when painful.
Do not elevate the affected area or use a tourniquet to isolate the limb. Try and keep the affected area below or at the same level as the heart, and do not apply pressure to the area. Do not occlude blood flow to the area by using any kind of strap or tie as a tourniquet.
Do not attempt to squeeze or suck venom from the bite. For your safety and your pet’s comfort, do not touch the snake bite, as this is not effective and it will be extremely painful for your pet. Additionally, do not make any kind of incisions on or around the bite to “drain” the wound, as this is also not effective and puts your pet at risk for blood loss, infection, or nerve damage. The best course of action if your pet is bit by a poisonous snake is taking them to the emergency clinic immediately so antivenom can be given to your pet.
Do not bring the snake to your vet, even if the snake has died.
If you did not see your pet get bit by a snake but are observing any of the symptoms listed above when your pet comes inside, do not spend a lot of time trying to look for the snake and seek medical care immediately for your pet. If possible, have another family member search the property to see if it’s possible to identify the snake if it is still in the area while you transport your pet to the emergency hospital.
It is important to note that most snakes blend in extremely well to their environment and move quickly, so exercise every precaution when searching your yard for a snake you don’t already have eyes on.
How to Prevent Snake Bites
Snakes can be found everywhere –including your own backyard- but there are some precautions you can take to reduce the risk of your pet getting bit:
Most snakes are not aggressive when left alone, and usually only strike when they are provoked. Snakes have very poor vision and rely on their other senses to get around, hunt for food, or defend themselves when threatened. Loud noise and vibrations, such as clapping or stomping your feet, can be effective in getting snakes to steer clear of you. Snakes, like most reptiles, thrive in warm weather and tend to be more active during the summer months. Additionally, most snakes are nocturnal and do most of their hunting and feeding at night or in the early morning, though you may see snakes sunbathing during the day for warmth.
Watch where you step
Snakes prefer environments where they can blend in with their surroundings, so be cautious when walking with your pets on natural trails or exploring heavily wooded areas. We recommend staying on open trails, avoiding tall grass, keeping your pet close to you, and stopping your pet from exploring holes or rocky areas. Additionally, snakes are nocturnal and tend to be more active at night, so hiking during the daytime poses less risk.
Supervise curious pets
You don’t have to be out hiking or live in the country to encounter snakes. Many types of snakes frequent suburban areas, and it is not uncommon to see snakes in your backyard, especially if your property is located near water sources or wooded areas. If snakes seem to frequent your area, you may want to accompany your pet while they do their business to ensure they don’t get distracted and start looking for trouble, especially at night.
Eliminate Hiding Places
Snakes love to have places to hide or camouflage themselves in, so don’t give them the opportunity! While there is no way to keep snakes out of your yard, you can make your yard less appealing for them to reside in. To discourage snakes from taking up residence on your property, keep grass cut short and limit the number of objects snakes can hide under, like toys, large rock piles, or firewood stacks.
Appreciate their role in our ecosystems
Although some snakes pose a risk to pets and humans when they get too close, snakes are an essential part of the ecosystems and help control other pests, such as mice, rats, and other small rodents. Did you know that rodents are popular hosts for ticks to reside on? There are a number of tick-borne diseases that affect humans and pets, like Lyme disease, that are better controlled when rodent populations are controlled. Next time there is a snake in your yard, consider having the snake relocated or letting it leave on its own versus killing the snake.
Like many day practices, Prosper Trail Animal Hospital does not keep antivenom on hand. If your pet needs to be treated for a snake bite, head straight to your nearest emergency clinic. For the fastest treatment possible, we recommend calling ahead to ensure that the emergency clinic you are driving to has antivenom in stock to use on your pet.
We have verified that the following local clinics regularly keep antivenom in stock:
Frisco Emergency Pet Care (Frisco)
Center for Veterinary Specialty and Emergency Care (Lewisville)