What To Do and What NOT To Do - Snake Bite First-Aid

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Introduction

There are several old theories on what to do when comforted with someone that has suffered a venomous snake bite. Theories varied from cutting over the bite with a knife, sucking out the venom and spitting it out, raising or lowering the affected area, submerging the affected area in ice and so on. These methods are not recommended for pets.

Here are some guidelines on what NOT to do and what TO do if your pet is bit by a venomous snake:

What NOT to do

  • Do NOT use a tourniquet. A tourniquet can restrict the circulation to the area causing more tissue damage than the bite itself.
  • Do NOT cut over the wound.
  • Do NOT try to catch that snake that bit the person or pet. You can get bit.
  • Do NOT cut and try to suck the venom out of the bite. Human saliva contains bacteria that can cause wound infections.
  • Do NOT apply ice to the area.
  • What TO DO

  • DO limit your pets activity. Keep your pet as calm and quiet as possible. This will help slow the venoms access to the circulation.
  • DO get your pet to your local veterinary clinic or veterinary emergency clinic as soon as possible. Even nonvenomous bites can cause tissue damage and infection. For venomous bites, the use of Antivenin is controversial and not recommended for most copperhead bites. Your veterinarian will determine if it is recommended for your pet.
  • First Aid Kit for Snake Bites

    Snake bite kits are considered somewhat impractical for most pet owners. As you read above, tourniquets and wound cutting are not recommended. Antivenin use is controversial, expensive and not recommended for all bites. Many antivenin products are effective only for a particular snake species and may not work if a different species bites your dog. It also requires intravenous injection which is not easy for most pet owners. Not only are antivenin products expensive but many have a limited shelf life making them impractical to keep on hand. If your pet is bit, see your local veterinarian for treatment.

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    About The Author

    debra-primovic Dr. Debra Primovic

    Debra A. Primovic, BSN, DVM, Editor-in-Chief, is a graduate of the Ohio State University School of Nursing and the OSU College of Veterinary Medicine. Following her veterinary medical training, Dr. Primovic practiced in general small animal practices as well as veterinary emergency practices. She was staff veterinarian at the Animal Emergency Clinic of St. Louis, Missouri, one of the busiest emergency/critical care practices in the United States as well as MedVet Columbus, winner of the AAHA Hospital of the year in 2014. She also spends time in general practice at the Granville Veterinary Clinic. Dr. Primovic divides her time among veterinary emergency and general practice, editing, writing, and updating articles for PetPlace.com, and editing and indexing for veterinary publications. She loves both dogs and cats but has had extraordinary cats in her life, all of which have died over the past couple years. Special cats in her life were Kali, Sammy, Pepper and Beanie.