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Insect Stings and Snake Bites in Dogs

Coral Snakes

Identify this snake by its rather small size (less than 3 feet, .9 m, long), small head with black nose, and brightly colored alternating bands (red, yellow, and black) fully encircling the body. The fangs in the upper jaw are not retractable.

The bite: The puncture wounds from a bite are small and the pain is mild. There is little local reaction.

The dog’s behavior: Coral snake venom is neurotoxic, meaning it affects the nerves and causes weakness and paralysis. Signs may be delayed for several hours. They include muscle twitching, pinpoint pupils, weakness, difficulty swallowing, shock, and collapse. Death is by respiratory paralysis.

Treating Snakebites

First identify the snake and look at the bite. If the snake is not poisonous, clean and dress the wound. 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.


WebMD Veterinary Reference from "Dog Owner's Home Veterinary Handbook"

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