First identify the snake and look at the bite. If the snake is not poisonous, clean and dress the wound as described in the section on Wounds (on this page). If it appears the dog has been bitten by a poisonous snake, proceed at once to the veterinary hospital. (If the snake has been killed, take it with you for identification. If not, try to describe it as completely as you can.) Some specific precautions:
- Keep the dog quiet. Venom spreads rapidly. Excitement, exercise, and struggling increase the rate of absorption. If possible, carry the dog.
- Do not wash the wound, as this increases venom absorption.
- Do not apply ice, as this does not slow absorption and can damage tissue.
- Do not make cuts over the wound and/or attempt to suck out the venom. This is never successful and you could absorb venom.
- Be aware that the snake’s fangs may be venomous for up to two hours after it dies, even if you have cut off the head.
Veterinary treatment involves respiratory and circulatory support, antihistamines, intravenous fluids, and species-specific antivenin. The earlier the antivenin is given, the better the results. Because signs of envenomation are often delayed, all dogs who have been bitten by a poisonous snake—even those who don’t show signs—should be hospitalized and observed for 24 hours. If you live in an area where your dog is likely to come in contact with poisonous snakes, you may choose to take him through sensitization training. A skilled professional will use an electric collar to train your dog to fear and avoid snakes.