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Friday — May 21, 2004

Arts and Entertainment

Snake bites and dogs

A Moment to Paws

Although we like to believe we do not have to worry about poisonous snakes in this valley, the fact is, just last weekend a woman came to the Animal Shelter of the Wood River Valley seeking help after her dog was bitten by a rattlesnake out Democrat Gulch. And we must confess that in the "dog days of summer," we have more than once found a rattler on the shelter property.

If your dog is bitten by a snake, there may be no cause for concern, as the majority of snakes are nonpoisonous. The bites of harmless snakes show teeth marks in the shape of a horseshoe, but there are no fang punctures.

In the United States, there are four poisonous varieties: cottonmouth moccasin, rattlesnake, copperhead and coral snake. The diagnosis of poisonous a snake bite is made by the appearance of the bite, by the behavior of the animal and by identification of the species of snake. (Kill it first, if possible.)

  • Pit Vipers (rattlesnake, moccasin, copperhead snakes):

    Identify these species by their large arrow-shaped heads, pits below and between the eyes, elliptical pupils, rough scales and the presence of fangs in the upper jaws. There are two puncture wounds in the skin (fang marks). Signs of local reaction appear quickly and include swelling, excruciating pain, redness and hemorrhages in the skin. Signs and symptoms depend on the size and species of the snake, location of the bite and amount of toxin absorbed into the system. The first signs are extreme restlessness, panting, drooling and weakness. They are followed by diarrhea, collapse, sometimes seizures, shock and. in severe cases, death.


  • Coral Snake:

    Identify this snake by its rather small size, small head with black nose and vivid colored bands of red, yellow, white and black—the red and yellow bands always next to each other. Fangs are present in the upper jaw. There is less severe local reaction but the pain is excruciating. Look for the fang marks. Coral snake venom primarily is neurotoxic. Signs include vomiting, diarrhea, urinary incontinence, paralysis, convulsions and coma.

If it appears your dog has been bitten by a poisonous snake, proceed as follows:

Restrain the dog. Snake bites are extremely painful. Keep the dog quiet. Excitement, exercise and struggling increase the rate of venom absorption. Carry your dog to the veterinarian. Specific anti-venoms are available through veterinarians.


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