Snakebite Safety and Prevention Tips for Pets

Medical Articles
Yellow sign outdoors warning people that rattlesnakes are in the area

If you take your pet hiking with you or enjoy other outdoors activities together, it is important to know how to prevent snakebites and how to react should one occur.

In this article, we’ll explain: 

  • How To Decrease the Chances of a Snake Biting Your Dog

  • What To Do If A Snake Bites Your Dog

  • Personal Safety Around Snakes

Seven Tips To Decrease the Chance of a Snake Biting Your Dog

Here are seven ways to help prevent a snakebite on your dog:

  1. Use A Short Leash

  2. Tidy Up Your Yard

  3. Use Solid Fencing

  4. Back Away Slowly

  5. Know Your Local Wildlife

  6. Consider a Vaccine

  7. Be Careful In the Water

Use A Short Leash

During walks, keep your pet on a short leash, not off-leash or on a retractable lead. The majority of snakebites occur when a pet is far from his owner. Avoid rocky or dense brush and grassy areas. Choose wide trails over narrow ones.

Tidy up your yard

Keep your grass cut short and eliminate brush, tools, toys, and rock piles. All make excellent snake hiding and sunning spots.

Keep your yard clean of items which attract rodents (which in turn attract snakes) such as food, fruit, and birdseed.

Use Solid Fencing

Snakes can get under fencing that does not have a solid cement base. You may want to install hardware cloth along the entire base of your fence, including across any gated areas.

Back Away Slowly

If you encounter a snake, calmly and slowly back away from it until you are no longer within striking distance (about half the length of the body). Then carefully leave the area immediately.

Know Your Local Wildlife

Do your homework and learn what snakes are found in your area. If a bite occurs, being able to recognize what type of snake it was can make a huge difference in your pet's survival.

Consider a Vaccine

If you live in an area where rattlesnakes are common, you may want to give your dog the rattlesnake vaccine.

Did you know all snakes can swim? You may want to reconsider playing fetch in the water; some snakes can bite underwater when startled. 

Be Careful In the Water

Use caution when enjoying activities such as canoeing, fishing, and rafting to avoid areas that snakes may use for sunning. 

Avoid drifting underneath tree branches; some snakes like to sun themselves on them and will drop into the water (or canoe) when they detect motion.

Four Tips: What To Do If A Snake Bites Your Dog

Discovering a snake bit your dog is scary and stressful. But, keep these three tips in mind to help your pet: 

  1. Know the Signs of Snake Bite

  2. Get Medical Attention Immediately

  3. Keep Your Pet (And Yourself) Calm

  4. Try to Reduce the Rate of Venom Spreading

Know the Signs of a Snake Bite 

Immediate symptoms of a snake bites almost always include:

  • puncture wounds (with possible bleeding)

  • severe pain

  • swelling

  • restlessness, panting, or drooling

  • difficulty breathing

Get Medical Attention Immediately

Snakebites are always considered an emergency and every minute matters. Head to the nearest veterinary hospital immediately. 

A venomous snakebite can be fatal if not treated immediately, and even a bite from a nonvenomous snake can pose danger. 

Carry the pet to the car rather than having them walk.

Keep Your Pet (And Yourself) Calm

Keep your pet quiet and calm on the journey to vet. This means staying calm yourself too. 

Try to Reduce the Rate of Venom Spreading

If (and only if!) you have a second person with you, you can try to reduce the rate that venom spreads through the pet's body using these methods:

  • Bathing the wound with cold water controls swelling.

  • If the bite wound is on a limb, apply a tourniquet using a tie, stocking, or other strip of cloth. 

  • Make sure the tourniquet is between the bite and the pet's body. Loosen it for approximately half a minute every five minutes.

  • If possible, keep the location of the bite below heart level.

  • Remember, only attempt first aid if you have a second person riding in the car with you; it wastes precious time otherwise.

Personal Safety Around Snakes 

Don't forget to keep your own personal safety a priority and never try to handle a snake even if it appears dead. 

80% of snakebites affecting humans occur when they are trying to handle or kill a snake. 

Some snakes can still bite for hours after death because of lingering nerve reflexes, even if the head is severed from the body.