One of the reasons cats became cherished in ancient Egypt is because they were excellent snake hunters. When the Egyptians began storing grain, that attracted mice, which attracted poisonous snakes. Happily, two of the African Wildcat's main foods are rodents and snakes, so it was a "twofer" deal for the cats! The African Wildcat had very happy hunting grounds in the ancient graineries. The Egyptians were so grateful they befriended our felines' ancestors and soon learned what else these amazing beings could do for them. But that's a story for another time...
Although cats are good at catching and eating snakes, even poisonous ones, dogs are usually on the other end of the biting. Snake bites are serious stuff and need your immediate attention.
1) Keep your dogs out of long grass and away from places snakes like to hang out: hollow logs, flat rocks to sun on, bunches of rocks or boulders. If you live in areas with lots of water, especially ponds and wetlands, familiarize yourself with the local snakes and their habits before venturing there with dogs off leash.
2) If your dog becomes excited about something in a hole, in the rocks or in a log, call him away immediately. Even if the inhabitant isn't a snake, you don't want him disturbing other wildlife, especially a snapping turtle, skunk or porcupine!
If You Suspect a Snake Bite
1) If your dog suddenly jumps back, cries out, immediately call him away. If you see the snake and can take a QUICK photo from a safe distance, do that. It will help the emergency vet know what she's dealing with.
2) Get your dog to the vet as quickly as possible. If you have Rescue Remedy, put some on his nose, ears, wherever you can get it on the skin.
At the Vet
1) The vet will examine your dog to find out where he was bitten. Two puncture wounds indicate a poisonous snake bite. Multiple teeth marks indicate a non-poisonous snake like a bull snake. Painful, but not potentially deadly.
When I was visiting my uncle in Virginia some years ago, we went for a walk in the woods with his three German Shepherds. We sat down on a log to rest and chat. When we got up, the dogs were sniffing around the log, then jumped back. We looked and saw a young copperhead in the leaves right where were were sitting! I asked the dogs if anyone was bitten. No one fessed up. But, as we walked home, Homero stopped to rub his nose and, upon inspection, the bridge of his nose had two tiny punctures and was starting to swell like a bee sting.
The vet was an hour away in Charlottesville. We called to let them know we were on the way. Uncle Linc drove while I applied Rescue Remedy to Homero's ears, comforted him and did Reiki. He was pretty uncomfortable as his nose was a bit swollen and "heating up" by the time we got to the vet.
The vet examined him and gave him 1) an antibiotic shot to prevent infection, 2) prednisone to knock down inflammation, 3) Benadryl as an antihistamine. She explained that Homero was really lucky he'd been bitten on his long nose instead of on a leg or in the chest. The venom was not able to circulate far from his nose and she expected him to be fine. (I learned that dogs in Virginia often have run-ins with snakes.) When bitten on the leg, the blood rapidly circulates the venom and a bite to the chest impacts the heart and breathing.
She said that she expected him to be sore and sleepy, but that she thought he'd be back to normal in a day or two. She instructed us to watch him to be sure he didn't have any trouble standing or walking, exhibit any other neurological signs or excessive panting, drooling, vomiting, or diarrhea. Happily he didn't develop any of those symptoms. He went right to sleep when we got home and was out for the count. The next day he was quiet and the swelling looked like a bee sting. He eagerly ate his breakfast and by the next day, Homero was back to his sweet, goofy self again. Phew!
Remember that snakes are important members of our natural world and deserve peace. It's our responsibility to keep our dogs away from them, so everyone stays safe. If you walk your dog in natural areas, know your local wildlife and where they live, hunt and choose to hang out.
Keep your dog close, on leash or under excellent voice control. Stay connected, not on your phone so you know where your dog is at all times. Staying present, aware and enjoying the natural world with your dog will be a wonderful experience for all!
With Love, Your Voice of Animals,