If you frequently hike or otherwise enjoy the great outdoors with your pet, please take care to prevent painful encounters with snakes. Bites occur most often in between March and October when snakes are most active. Here in Arizona, they are already out and on the trails. According to the ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center (APCC), a snake bite is always considered an emergency—a venomous snake bite can be fatal if not treated immediately, and even a bite from a nonvenomous snake can be dangerous for your pets.
The APCC would like to offer the following tips for snake bite safety around pets:
Avoid chance encounters with snakes:
- Keep your yard tidy by clearing away undergrowth, toys and tools that make great hiding places for snakes.
- Keep walkways clear of brush, flowers and shrubs.
- Clean up any spilled food, fruit or bird seed, which can attract rodents—and therefore snakes—to your yard.
- When walking your pet, keep him on a leash.
- Steer your pet clear of long grasses, bushes and rocks.
- Snakes can strike across a distance equal to about half their body length. If you see a snake, head back the way you came.
- Familiarize yourself with snakes who are common in your area. In the event of a bite, identifying the type of snake may help with your pet's treatment.
Recognize snake bite symptoms:
- Local or general swelling
- Intense pain
- Low blood pressure
- Dead tissue around the wound
- Shortness of breath
- Renal failure
What to do if you think your pet's been bitten:
- Remember to stay calm.
- Keep your pet calm, too, by limiting his activity.
- If your pet was bitten on the neck, remove his collar.
- If possible, keep the location of the bite below heart level.
- Seek veterinary care for your pet immediately.
- Treatment options such as cold packs, ice, tourniquets, alcohol, bleeding the wound and trying to suck out venom should not be attempted in place of getting your pet to the vet—they may just waste precious time.
- Always keep your personal safety in mind and do not try to catch or kill a snake yourself.
- Even if you think a snake is dead, never handle him. Some dead snakes are capable of inflicting a bite by muscle contractions.
- Know where the closest Emergency Vet is.