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

By: Dr. Debra Primovic

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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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