What Types of Venomous Snakes Should Dog Owners Be Aware of in Virginia?

May 27, 2019 | Cats, Dogs, Emergency Situations

There are 3 types of venomous snakes in Virginia, all of which belong to the pit viper family: the Eastern Copperhead, Timber/Canebrake Rattlesnake, and Northern Cottonmouth.

Copperheads are the most commonly seen and widely distributed venomous snake in Virginia and can be spotted in every county. Rattlesnakes are second most populous, having been accounted for in 45 Virginia counties, most in Western Virginia. Cottonmouths are the most rare, with sightings in 13 counties, all on the southeast coast.

How Venom Makes a Snake Bite Dangerous

The venom of pit vipers contains hemotoxins. Hemotoxins can cause red blood cells to burst and disrupt the normal blood clotting process. This leads to severe bruising and swelling of tissues. Internal bleeding can occur in serious cases.

The accumulation of dead red blood cells from tissue damage and disruption in the coagulation process can build up in the bloodstream and cause kidney and heart damage. Hemotoxins can also cause a very acute drop in blood pressure or in some rare cases an anaphylactic reaction.

Snakes Typically Bite Dogs on the Muzzle

Dogs are typically bitten on the muzzle while cats are more likely to be bitten on the paws. Cats are quicker and more agile than dogs and can typically get out of the way of a bite whereas a dog may go directly for a snake with its mouth. Snake bites are one of the most painful injuries we see in pets.

Pets are typically visibly uncomfortable and the site of the bite is difficult to touch or clean due to severe pain. There is often marked swelling and even visible bruising and bleeding just minutes after an envenomation.

How Veterinarians Diagnose a Snake Bite

Venomous snake bites can cause a wide range of clinical signs- some very dangerous and some not. The first step is to give the pet a complete physical exam and check vital parameters (temperature, heart rate, respiratory rate, gum color).

It is important to run bloodwork to check your pet’s platelet count and blood coagulation times to make sure they aren’t at risk for acute blood loss. In some cases it may be recommended to run tests to check organ (especially kidney) function as well.

Venomous Snake, This one's not in Virginia

How Veterinarians Treat Snake Bites in Pets

The most helpful treatment for pit viper envenomation is antivenin. Antivenin is the only treatment that neutralizes the hemotoxin released in the venom. This helps to stop tissue and red blood cell damage before it becomes a problem.

Antivenin can be used up to 72 hours after a snake bite, but the sooner the better. It is given in an infusion over an hour while your pet’s vitals are monitored closely for signs of a reaction or negative response. Some pets may not need antivenin if their bloodwork is normal and they are comfortable after pain medication.

Pain medication is paramount in the treatment of snake bites. We typically give patients an initial injection of an opioid painkiller before physical exam, followed by a constant infusion or intermittent injections, depending on the case.

Wound care such as clipping and cleaning the bite wounds, icing the wounds, or applying ointment may be helpful as well. Antibiotics are typically not needed but can be used if there is a large amount of tissue damage present.

Will My Pet Recover From a Snake Bite?

Your pet’s prognosis depends on many factors- species, age, size, heath status, and type of snake. Typically larger dogs have a better prognosis than small dogs or cats. Any animal that is bitten anywhere other than in the skin (eye, mucous membranes, tongue) has a poorer prognosis and will suffer more tissue damage.

Animals with concurrent health problems (heart disease, kidney disease, infections, auto-immune diseases) are at greater risk. Copperhead bites have a better prognosis than Cottonmouth or Rattlesnake bites.

Call Your Vet Immediately if Your Pet is Bit By a Snake

The most important thing to do when you realize that your pet may have been bitten by a snake is to see your veterinarian for a physical exam. VETSS is Charlottesville’s only 24 hour emergency clinic, and is experienced in treating snake bites. Call us at (434) 973-3519.

Do not give any medications at home before going to the vet’s office. After physical exam your veterinarian will determine the best diagnostics and treatment plan based on your pet’s unique situation.

For more information, contact our team at VETSS!

What Types of Venomous Snakes Should Dog Owners Be Aware of in Virginia?

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There was Jack Russell found by the old firehouse in Ruckersville. Suspected hit by car. Call VETSS 434-973-3519 if you think this is your animal or if you have any information as to who the owner might be. ... See MoreSee Less

There was Jack Russell found by the old firehouse in Ruckersville. Suspected hit by car. Call VETSS 434-973-3519 if you think this is your animal or if you have any information as to who the owner might be.Image attachment

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This is the post: MY NAME IS EMMA PEARL, I’M A JACK RUSSELL TERRIER, 13 YEARS OLD AND WEIGH APPROX. 13 PDS. I’M VERY SWEET AND FRIENDLY. I HAVE HAD ALL MY VACCINES, SO I’M SAFE TO PUT IN YOUR CAR FOR A RIDE BACK TO MY DAD IN MADISON, VA. I HAVE A SORE SPOT ON THE END OF MY CROPPED TAIL. I ALSO ESCAPE MY COLLAR AND TAGS REGULARLY. IF YOU HAVE SEEN ME AROUND OR PICKED ME UP, PLEASE CALL HIM… ANTHONY MORRIS 540-948-6174. ORIGINALLY LOST IN THE GRAVES MILL/MADISON, VA AREA.

Appreciate the thought Eileen Molloy Norris, but it is NOT Forrest. Hope it's his or her family is found and quickly!!

Shared

Hope she finds her family and she’s ok! 💜

This may be Emma Pearl. Her owner lives in Madison, and she's been missing for a few weeks.

Is he being treated??

Shared.

Culpeper County Animal Shelter

I've tried calling the number we received for Anthony Morris and left a voicemail. Will try again

Emma Pearl is a tri color and has not been found.

Anybody!! If no one found to claim him/her please contact me !!!!!!! Love them!!!! Name Blanca, I live in Orange 703-606-3094😪❤️

I will try to find the owner's number. Emma Pearl is about 13 years old.

😢

Kar Bisaillon it’s a long short but could it be

If someone is missing a golden retriever in the Earlysville area please call us at 434-973-3519 for information! ... See MoreSee Less

If someone is missing a golden retriever in the Earlysville area please call us at 434-973-3519 for information!Image attachmentImage attachment

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My last Golden was found in that area, we had 16 years together 💕🐾

Shared that dog looks well taken care of. Someone is definitely missing their fur baby. Can you post on pawboost.com Va, nextdoor.com- helps reunite lost pets

Carolyn Foreman Betts in case you know anyone missing their baby!

Oh man I think maybe this dog came looking for me

Our cutest patient of the day!Our friend helped name Popcorn - because she hops so much - because she jumps and pops all around the place. Well, she's been popping herself all over the farm and today she popped herself too high and got a broken leg. We'd like to thank our friends at Veterinary Emergency Treatment Services & Specialty and the Louisa Veterinary Service for helping us through today. Popcorn is doing well and is thankful for pain meds and lots of treats. Get well soon Popcorn! ... See MoreSee Less

Our cutest patient of the day!

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Such a cute name and the description of what she did to hurt her leg had me giggling but i feel bad for her..you guys are great and i know will fix her up!

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