Summer is upon us in Central Texas! With the advent of warmer weather, snakebite frequency in domestic pets increases. Rattlesnake bites are the most severe, and unfortunately, one of the most common snakebites treated by veterinarians in the Hill Country. Since rattlesnake envenomation has great potential to be fatal, it is important to have as much information as possible.
Snake bite severity varies based on several factors. The amount of venom injected in one bite can be quite different based on the age of the snake and time of year. Younger snakes and snakebites that occur earlier in the spring often mean more venom is injected into the victim.
If an animal is bitten more than once, the venom dose may be higher and the reaction more severe.
Bites to the trunk area can carry a poorer prognosis than bites to the face or feet, although facial bites can result in significant enough swelling to render the animal unable to breathe due to airway constriction.
Time elapsed from the bite to veterinary treatment is a critical factor for dogs and cats who have been snakebitten. The quicker veterinary care is received, the better the prognosis for survival.
If you know or suspect your pet has been snakebitten, please immobilize your animal to slow the spread of venom and seek veterinary care as soon as possible. If a rattlesnake bite is known, your veterinarian will begin treatment likely including IV fluids, antibiotics, and antivenin.
Please be prepared for a possible prolonged hospital stay for your pet that may extend to several days. Snakebite wounds can involve extensive sloughing of dead tissue from the site and may require several weeks of wound care by the owner after the pet goes home.