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How to Avoid – and Treat – Snakebites in Pets

Snakes – love them or hate them, they are part of living in Florida, no matter the time of year. Whether you are walking around your neighborhood, a park, or a nature trail, you must pay attention to your surroundings to protect you and your pets.

Before heading out on your next walk or hike, take a moment to learn more about common snakes in the Volusia County area, how to protect your dog or cat, and what to do if your furry friend experiences a venomous bite.

Snakes Commonly Found in Florida

Florida is home to many snake species – both non-venomous and venomous. Among the venomous snakes, four types are quite dangerous to pets:

– Rattlesnakes

– Water moccasins

– Copperheads

– Coral snakes

All the above, except coral snakes, are considered pit vipers and can be recognized by several prominent characteristics:

– Elliptical or catlike pupils

– Triangular and broadheads that are home to large venom glands

– Stout bodies with short tails and camouflage colorings

Coral snakes are easily recognized because of their red, yellow, white, and black colored bands. These snakes are quite beautiful – but are one of the most dangerous snakes that call Florida home.

Signs and Symptoms of Snakebites in Pets

If your pet is bitten by a non-venomous snake – such as the very common black racer – they will often experience only minor bruising and swelling.

As for venomous snakebites, the severity of the bite depends on the size of the pet in relation to the snake, the number of bites inflicted, and how much venom was injected during the encounter.

The most common snakebite symptoms include:

– Sudden and severe swelling in the bite area

– Skin redness and bleeding

– Agitation

– Excessive panting and drooling

– Weakness

– Vomiting

– Diarrhea

– Seizures

– Shock

– Paralysis, often found with coral snake bites

It’s important to know that venom from pit vipers discolors the flesh within minutes. Even if the bite isn’t life-threatening to your pet, it requires immediate medical care because irreversible damage can occur.

Treatment of Snakebites in Pets

If you suspect a venomous snake has bitten your pet, seek veterinary medical care immediately.

First aid treatment must be administered before or during the drive to an animal hospital to reduce the spread of venom in your pet’s body. Pet owners are encouraged to:

– Keep your pet as quiet and calm as possible while driving.

– Apply an ice pack or other cold item to the bite area to help with swelling.

– If you can see bite marks, rinse the wounds with water to get the venom off your pet’s skin and fur.

– Try to keep the bite wound at or below heart level to reduce blood flow.

If a venomous snake bites your pet but does not inject venom (dry bite), treatment is usually based on wound cleaning, antibiotics, antihistamines, and anti-inflammatory medications.

If a snake does inject venom, treatment will depend on what type of snake was involved.

– Copperhead envenomization requires all the above treatments plus fluid therapy to address potential shock or hypotension.

– Rattlesnakes, coral snakes, and water moccasins require proper antivenom in addition to the treatments mentioned above, including fluid therapy. Antivenom works by boosting a pet’s immune response after a venomous snake bite.

How to Prevent Snakebites in Pets

Pet owners should always follow these simple tips when heading outdoors with their pets:

– Keep your dog on a leash at all times.

– Avoid all snakes when you see them.

– Always walk on open pathways when with your pet.

– Try to walk or hike during the day when snakes are less active.

– Don’t let your dog explore holes or dig along paths.

AEHV is Here for You and Your Pet 24/7

The emergency care team at AEHV is available 24 hours a day, seven days a week, 365 days a year. We specialize in many services, including snakebite treatment in cats, dogs, and other companion animals.

Appointments are never necessary for emergency services – but we suggest you call in advance, if possible, so we can prepare for your arrival and discuss current safety protocols. You can contact AEHV at (386) 252-0206.

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