What You Need to Know About Snake Safety and Pets

Dog approaching snake on tree stumpA snake is something we all hope our pets will never encounter, but, unfortunately in Texas, most of us have run across a snake or two. Snake bites are painful and some are also extremely harmful to our pets.

With over 105 snake species in Texas, it’s important to understand which snakes are a risk, where they tend to live, and how to help your pet avoid an encounter. That’s why Ten West Bird and Animal Hospital has compiled a list of things to watch for when it comes to snake safety and pets.

Friend or Foe?

What’s slithering around in our neck of the woods? In Texas, we really only need to know about the two types of venomous snakes that live here:

Pit vipers – Pit vipers are venomous snakes that have an opening on each side of the head, between the eye and the nostril. There are three types of pit vipers in Texas: copperheads, cottonmouths (water moccasins), and rattlesnakes (Texas has 8 subspecies of rattlesnake).

Coral snakes – Coral snakes are highly poisonous, but also shyer than pit vipers. You can recognize them by their red, yellow, and black bands (the yellow and red bands always touch).

Snake Safety and Pets

Snakes are an important part of the Texas ecosystem, and careful planning and knowledge can go a long way toward peaceful coexistence. Avoiding encounters altogether is your best bet to protect your dog against snake bites, but it’s good to know a few other tips when it comes to snake safety and pets:

Train your dog. Basic obedience is important in many situations, and dogs should be able to respond to commands such as “leave it” and “come.” This alone could be the key to avoiding a snake bite for your dog.

Know where snakes are commonly found. Recognizing a snake habitat can go a long way toward preventing a snake bite. Snakes like tall grass and dense underbrush, and they like to hide in small crevices in rock or wood piles. During the day, you may also see them sunning themselves out in the open. Some snakes also like creek beds and underbrush near water.

Keep your yard clear. Trim grasses and brush; remove wood and debris piles where snakes – and their prey – like to hide.

Respect wildlife. Snakes are shy by nature and will not strike unless they feel threatened or are cornered. Keep your dog on leash when out and about; don’t let your dog investigate any wildlife.

Vaccinate your pet. It may make sense for your pet to be vaccinated against rattlesnake bites. If bitten, veterinary treatment is still needed, but outcomes are often better. Ask us if the rattlesnake vaccine is right for your pet.

Snake Bites

If your dog is bitten by a snake, stay calm. Any swelling or unexplained wound (especially on the nose or extremities) should be considered a snake bite until proven otherwise.

The most important thing you can do is seek veterinary care immediately. There are a lot of myths about how to treat a snake bite, but, in reality, all this does is delay effective treatment.

Do not try to apply ice, tourniquets, administer medications, or make any cuts.

If your pet has been bitten:

  • Try to identify the snake, but don’t risk anyone else being bitten. Take a picture if you can do so safely.
  • As you’re on your way to the nearest veterinary hospital, call us right away.  
  • Keep your pet calm; this helps slow the spread of venom.
  • Try to keep the bite area below heart level.

Treating Snake Bites in Pets

When you arrive, your pet will be assessed and stabilized. Treatment will include managing shock, blood loss, infection, and pain. Your pet will need to be hospitalized and monitored closely around the clock. Antivenin may be administered to counteract the neurotoxins in the snake venom.

The sooner your pet receives care, the better the prognosis will be. Try to avoid encounters with snakes, and be prepared to act quickly if the need arises. For more information about snake safety and pets, please give us a call.