Last week a client sent me a picture of a rattlesnake in his backyard where his young dogs spend a lot of their time. He was alarmed, had cleared the dogs from the yard and removed the snake before anyone could get hurt. Not everyone is that lucky. Although snake bites are unusual in Kansas, they do happen, and they can be life-threatening to your pet. In this series, I will discuss different types of bites your pets’ can receive, the nature of each bite and what you should do about it if you pet encounters an unwelcome critter.
In various parts of the country there are numerous types of poisonous snakes, but in Kansas, rattlesnakes (family Crotalinae) are the prominent venomous snake. Rattlesnakes tend to have triangle shaped heads, narrow necks, stout bodies, the classic rattle on the end of their tails, and vertical “cat-like” pupils. Rattlesnakes come in a few varieties and can carry two different categories of toxin; a neurologic toxin that affects the brain and central nervous system and a blood-based toxin that affects clotting abilities, blood vessel integrity and overall blood circulation.
A majority of animals, especially pets, commonly receive bites in the face, neck and front legs because they approach the snake out of curiosity. In most animals, painful, localized swelling around the bite site appears within sixty minutes. This swelling then grows and can inhibit your pet’s breathing abilities. Signs of toxins such as lethargy/weakness, wobbling, and excessive bleeding from the bite, drooling, vomiting and blood spotting on the gums can appear within the first six hours after the bite.
If you see your pet bit by a snake or suspect they were bit, call your veterinarian immediately. Do NOT attempt to catch the snake and remove all collars or harnesses from your pet to prevent constriction during swelling. Monitor your property for snakes and keep your pets within your control during the warmer months. Teach your pet (if possible) to leave things alone when you command and keep an eye on where they are wandering to.