Snake Bite Prevention & Treatment

Tis the Ssssss-eason for Copperheads!


Venomous snakes, namely Copperheads, are an inescapable fact of summer in our area of North Carolina, and snakebites are on the rise this year. We’ve had several come through our doors alone in the past few weeks, and while these bites are not typically fatal for humans, pets are another story.


Interactions with snakes can be avoided by taking simple precautions:

  • Control your pet during walks with a leash and monitor their time outside in the yard
  • Stick to clear, open trails to easily spot any snakes in your path
  • Walk during daylight hours, as many venomous snakes are nocturnal
  • Don’t be nosy! Discourage your pet from exploring holes in the ground or sniffing under logs/rocks/etc.


If you have taken these steps, and your furry friend still encounters a snake, DO NOT PANIC and GET TO A VETERINARIAN.  While painful, many bites are not fatal. The severity of each bite is determined by a number of factors, including the age and species of the snake, the size and weight of your pet, the bite location, the depth of the bite and the amount of venom emitted from the snake during the bite. Some bites are “dry bites”, meaning no venom was injected at all, but only a veterinarian will be able to determine this on inspection so contacting your vet should be step one.


Here are some Dos and Don’ts of Snake Bites:

  • DO get to a veterinarian AS SOON AS POSSIBLE so they can evaluate the bite and inject antivenin (anti-venom) if necessary.
  • DO NOT panic. Keeping your pet calm and quiet is vital. A faster heart rate will circulate any venom to the heart quicker. If possible, carry them to the car. Allowing them to walk also stimulates blood flow.
  • DO examine your animal completely – there may be more than one bite.
  • DO NOT make an X over the bite or try to suck out the venom! DO NOT apply ice.
  • DO apply pressure around the wound, or above it if it is located on a limb. It should not be a tourniquet that cuts off circulation, but enough pressure to slow down the flow of blood and venom back to the heart.
  • DO keep the bite lower than heart. DO NOT elevate it.
  • DO NOT try to catch the snake – you could get bitten too! DO try to identify the species by colors, markings, the appearance of a rattle, etc.


NOTE: Time is of the essence, so the first priority is getting your animal to a veterinarian. Do not waste time with other steps, like applying pressure, unless you have a friend that can drive while you do so.


If for some reason, a veterinarian is not immediately accessible, get an Emergency Clinic on the phone. They may advise you to administer an antihistamine, such as Benedryl, to reduce the reaction. This is not a permanent fix, but it may buy you more time if a veterinarian is far away.


DISCLAIMER: Any information provided on this site is for educational purposes only and should not be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Generalized cases and scenarios do not apply to every pet. Always check with your own veterinarian before using any information or advice provided here, or trying any treatments on your own. Any comments or responses made on this blog do not constitute a valid client-patient-doctor relationship. Relying on information provided by this site is solely at our own risk.