It’s a beautiful summer day in North Carolina and you have decided to take Spot on a hike. As you are hiking down the trail, Spot becomes interested in a small bush to the side of the trail. Just after putting his nose in the bush, he yelps. He is limping and within minutes, his foot starts to swell. Spot may have just been bitten by a poisonous snake.

Western North Carolina has a large population of copperheads and rattlesnakes and we treat a large number of snakebites each summer. The hottest months of the summer are the most likely times to encounter poisonous snakes in our area. Most pets are bitten in the face or forelimbs as they are investigating thick brush, tall grass, or along streams.   A single snakebite often causes significant pain and swelling, and can lead to life threatening complications such as low blood pressure, anaphylactic shock, and clotting disorders if not quickly treated by a veterinarian.

Here are some recommendations from the ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center to reduce the risk of your pet being bitten by a snake:

-Keep area around home and yard clutter free. Snakes love dense brush, woodpiles, and, rocks.
-Secure all trash in rodent resistant cans or bins to avoid attracting favorite foods of snakes.
-Keep your dog on a leash when hiking. Discourage exploration of tall grass and brush

What to do if you think your pet has been bitten by a snake:

-Remain calm
-If bitten on the face or neck, gently remove your pet’s collar before significant swelling can occur.
-Keep your pet as calm as possible, avoid vigorous activity
-Do not attempt to “bleed” the wound or suction venom from the wound. These treatments are ineffective and can do more harm
-Do not administer any medications
-Contact your family veterinarian or local veterinary emergency hospital immediately