Snake season is upon us. Snake bites can be dangerous or even fatal to dogs. In hopes of providing helpful information about what can occur once a dog is bitten by a snake, Betsy Ficarro, President and COO of The Farley Foundation shares a personal account of her dog Lily and a frightening encounter with a poisonous snake.
by Betsy Ficarro
Summer is approaching and slithery snakes are now emerging to bask in the sunshine under the Carolina blues. My husband John and I are more vigilant than ever about protecting our pets from these well camouflaged reptiles. Here’s why, on August 3, 2016 at 4:45 p.m., our small Terrier mix Lily was bitten by a Copperhead snake which made its way into our enclosed doggie courtyard. We immediately realized what transpired and headed to the closest veterinarian office which was located three miles from our home. Just as we arrived, the veterinarians left for the day and we were directed to another office. Meanwhile, Lily’s paw was doubling in size and she was crying out in pain. Keep in mind, that even a non-fatal bite needs medical attention, is extremely painful and may cause extensive scarring and loss of use of the affected area.
Lily was examined, immediately given Tramadol for the pain and prescribed Carprofen (pain and anti-inflammatory) and the antibiotic, Clavamox. Besides caring for our girl (who will probably never attempt to approach a snake but then again, she is a terrier at heart) we learned several valuable lessons that frantic afternoon. After a week of constant monitoring, medication and ice packs to reduce the swelling, Lily’s skin healed. We were fortunate. Today, there’s hardly any scarring or any other after-effects.
Snake Bites are Quite Common in North Carolina
According to the North Carolina Cooperative Extension, North Carolina has the dubious distinction of the most venomous snake bites of any state in the U.S. Also, snake season coincides with storm season. Snakes and other dangerous animals may be brought closer to populated areas when flooding has occurred. Keep a close eye on your pets when they are outside after flooding or heavy storms.
Here are more helpful tips which we recommend all pet owners become familiar with, especially in our area.
- Try to remain calm. Look at the clock. Where is your closest veterinarian office between the hours of 8-5 during the weekdays? Many veterinarian offices close anywhere between 5:00 – 5:30 PM. Call in advance to verify operating hours so you always have an alternate location. Examine the wound closely. If it’s a two-three puncture type wound then it is most likely a poisonous snake bite from a copperhead (most common) or other toxic snake and you must act quickly. If the wound appears to be in the shape of a “half moon” or crescent, then it is most likely a blacksnake bite (non-poisonous) and not as serious, although it still requires veterinary attention.
- After hours and weekends. If you live in Moore County, North Carolina, do you know the exact location of the Small Animal Emergency Clinic in Vass and how long it will take to get there? (See below) You may want to do a dry run. Please note they do not open on weekdays until 6:00 p.m. Just our luck, we were searching for medical help between 5:00 – 6:00 p.m.
- Do you know that most veterinary offices do not carry anti-venom? Also, it’s very important that you know what type of snake has bitten your pet (see above); not all anti-venoms work for all snake bites. The anti-venom is very costly (hundreds of dollars) and it has a very short shelf life.
- Seek advice from your local veterinarian on instructions of what you can do until you can get medical attention. The Farley Foundation routinely walks the hiking trails at our nearby parks and recreation centers. Besides keeping our dogs hydrated and seeking mostly shaded areas, we consciously have our eyes open for snakes and redirecting our dogs to an alternate route. We also carry liquid Benadryl and were given dosage requirements (per body weight) by our veterinarian until we can seek professional help.
- Finally, the beautiful lush greenery in our courtyard has been entirely cut back so that snakes no longer find it to be a place of luxury. Be prepared and have a plan in place!
Small Animal Emergency Clinic (Spay/Neuter Clinic)
Phone: (910) 246-0405
5091 US Hwy 1 N – Vass, NC 28394 (North of Tractor Supply)
Hours: The clinic opens at 6 p.m. Monday – Friday and remains open till 8 a.m. The clinic is open 24 hours on Saturday/Sunday and Holidays.