Neuse River Golden Retiever Rescue
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Neuse River Golden Retiever Rescue

Snakebites in North Carolina

by Steve Fabian | Oct 05, 2011
What you need to know to keep you and your dog safe

North Carolina is home to many varieties of snakes, four of which are poisonous.  The most common throughout the state, and in our central region of North Carolina, is the copperheadCottonmouth snakes, also known as water moccasins, are found primarily in the southeast part of the state, as are coral snakesRattlesnakes can also be found in the state, mostly in the south and southeast portions of the state, and occasionally out west in the mountains.  It is important to be able to recognize all of these types of snakes so that your veterinarian has as much information as possible to treat your dog if he or she is bitten.



Each of these four types of snakes will only attack if provoked or threatened.  If you see one, walk away with your dog to avoid a confrontation.  This is a good reason to keep your dog leashed any time you walk together, especially in wooded areas.  The most common time to encounter most of these snakes is at dawn or twilight.  Other times, they will be most likely to be found hiding in brush or under rocks or logs. 



Dogs, if left to their own devices, will seldom leave such interesting creatures alone, and are often bitten on the muzzle while investigating.  Bites also commonly occur on the limbs, as dogs unknowingly will walk too near or step on a snake in thick underbrush.  Bites from rattlesnakes are the most dangerous, and can result in death if not treated quickly.  The remaining three snakes will rarely give fatal bites, but small dogs, dogs bitten multiple times, and dogs bitten on the chest or abdomen rather than the extremities, are most at risk for more serious complications.

With these snake bites, there will be considerable local swelling due to the venom, and often necrosis (death) of the skin, as well as some of the tissues under the skin.  Treatment initiated by your veterinarian will likely include IV fluids to prevent shock, antibiotics to prevent any secondary bacterial infections, anti-inflammatories, and pain relievers.  Antivenins, which are medications used to counteract the venom, are usually only used for rattlesnake bites, but may be used in other snake bites if the patient is at high risk for complications.

Eastern Diamondback Rattlesnake

Timber Rattlesnake

If your dog is bitten, it is important not to panic.  Pull your dog away from the snake if on leash, or call your dog away from the snake if off leash.  It is important not to put yourself in harm’s way and risk being bitten.  If you are injured, no one will be able to get your dog medical attention!  Calmly get your dog to a veterinarian right away.  Keeping your dog calm, as well, can help to reduce the spread of the venom.  If you have a first aid kit with you, a light gauze wrap can be applied to the wound to soak up any bleeding, however, your dog may be too painful to allow you to touch the bite area.

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