Category Archives: snake bites

Keep Your Pets Safe from Poisonous Creatures

By Ruthie Bently

Growing up in northern Illinois, I didn’t see many venomous creatures, though my friends and I found a nest of baby rattlesnakes one day under a railroad trestle; we figured they’d fallen off a train car passing overhead. While venomous creatures exist in most of the United States and around the world, many employ flight over fight unless cornered. Venomous creatures use their venom when hunting, and at times we and our pets are in the wrong place at the right time.

There are many poisonous spiders that are dangerous to our pets. The best known are the black widow, brown recluse and tarantula. There are three black widow spiders indigenous to the U.S. The Western (Lactrodectus hesperus) is found from southwestern Canada down into Mexico; the Northern (Lactrodectus variiolus) ranges from southeastern Canada to the northeastern U.S., and the Southern black widow’s (Lactrodectus mactans) range covers New York to Florida, the southeastern U.S., and to the west across Oklahoma and Texas. The black widow’s venom (a neurotoxin) is reputed to be fifteen times more dangerous than a rattlesnake’s, and symptoms include increased blood pressure, limb rigidity, shortness of breath, abdominal spasms and dizziness.

The brown recluse ranges from Illinois south to Texas and from West Virginia to Georgia. Its range is expanding due to inadvertent transport by humans, and might be found in any of the lower 48 states. Its venom causes tissue damage around the bite and in extreme cases liver or kidney damage. While the bite of a tarantula may be painful and not usually fatal to humans, it may be lethal to small pets. When threatened, tarantulas have the ability to kick hairs from their abdomen which cause a burning sensation to mucous membranes or sensitive skin. Their range in the U.S. covers the southwest, central California, and they’ve been found in southern Illinois. Symptoms include the wound becoming red and feeling warm, skin rash, itching, swelling of throat and lips, and cardiovascular collapse in extreme cases.

There are between 1,500 and 2,000 scorpions worldwide; over 70 species are found in North America. Scorpions are nocturnal and possess a sting used to capture and overcome prey. Scorpions can be found under stones, bark on trees, leaf litter on the ground, in dark crevices and dry abandoned dirt roads. All scorpions are venomous though the most toxic in the U.S. is the Bark Scorpion (also known as the Sculptured Scorpion). Its range covers southern Nevada, southern and western Arizona and southern Utah. Its sting is acutely toxic and can be life-threatening to a pet. The Hentz’s Striped Scorpion range covers Florida, the Gulf States and as far west as Arizona and Mexico. The Giant Hairy Scorpion (H. arizonensis) is the largest species of nine species of Hadrurus scorpions in the U.S., and is found in the southwest. The range of these species goes as far north as Idaho and as far east as Colorado.

There are venomous snakes in every state except Alaska and Hawaii. Three species of toxic coral snakes (elapids) inhabit the U.S. The coral snake is a banded snake with bands of red, yellow and black. It’s sometimes confused with the king snake which has the same color bands, but is non-venomous. There is an easy way to remember the difference.  Just remember this: “red on black, friend to Jack” (describes king snake banding pattern); “red on yellow, can kill a fellow” (describes coral snake banding pattern).

The pit vipers include five species of copperheads, three species of cottonmouths (water moccasin), and thirty-one species of rattlesnakes including the Massasauga which is on the Endangered and Threatened Species List in several states. Some of these snakes may not be dangerous to humans, but they are to our pets. Hawaii doesn’t have a venomous terrestrial snake, but it does have the Yellow-bellied sea snake, a cobra family member. Its range encompasses the Pacific Ocean, from Africa to the western coast of the Americas, including many Pacific islands to Hawaii, and it’s found near the coasts of Costa Rica and Panama. They’re helpless if beached, but should be avoided. For more information see Linda Cole’s article What to Do If a Snake Bites Your Pet. If snakes are numerous where you live, consider snake aversion therapy.

Being a responsible pet owner means keeping your pet safe from venomous creatures. If you sight an animal on your property, your pet catches one, or one bites your animal here are two good websites for information. At you can find species by identification and locate a species you’ve seen or find out what dangerous creatures are indigenous to your area of the country. lists venomous species by state.

Read more articles by Ruthie Bently

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The personal opinions and/or use of trade, corporate or brand names, is for information and convenience only. Such use does not constitute an endorsement by CANIDAE® All Natural Pet Foods of any product or service. Opinions are those of the individual authors and not necessarily of CANIDAE® All Natural Pet Foods.

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What to Do If a Snake Bites Your Pet

By Linda Cole

It’s not uncommon to run into snakes while out on the hiking trail or camping. Snakes also live in our backyards. Pets can cross paths with one, although most of the time the snake will do everything it can to avoid pets and humans. Once in awhile they bite, and immediate vet care is needed. Knowing what kind of snake bit your pet is important for the vet to know. What to do if a snake bites your pet is something every responsible pet owner should know, but you also need to know what not to do.

Garter snakes are common all over the country. At one time, it was thought they weren’t venomous, but new information has found they do have a small amount of venom. It’s always prudent to know what kind of snakes you may encounter in your backyard or when visiting other parts of the country with a pet. When taking your dog hiking, fishing, hunting or camping, be aware of what species of snakes you could run across. It’s a good idea to have the phone number of a local vet too, just in case.

When we see a snake slithering through the grass or hear a telltale rattle, we turn around and walk away, but a curious pet is likely to check it out. A coiled up snake is not something you want to see in close proximity to you or your pet.

Most of the time, if a snake bites your pet, it’s around the face or neck. A bite on the body is more serious. Snake venom attacks the nervous and cardiopulmonary systems of the body and affects how the blood clots. However, any snake bite to your pet is serious whether it’s poisonous or not, and your first order of business is to get your pet to a vet immediately.

You’ll see swelling around a snake bite and puncture wounds in the skin. Snake bites cause intense pain and swelling, but usually less if the bite comes from a non poisonous snake or if the venom wasn’t injected into your pet. You need to be very cautious when touching the area because if the snake injected venom and it was poisonous, your pet may react in an aggressive manner because of the pain. It’s best to avoid touching the area around the bite. If a venomous snake bites your pet, do not attempt to suck out the poison, bleed the wound, put ice on it or put a tourniquet on. That only wastes time and if you aren’t sure what you’re doing, you could be doing more harm than good. What you can do is keep the affected area below heart level while on your way to the vet.

If a snake bites your pet while you’re walking in the woods or away from home, stay calm and keep your pet as quiet as possible. Walk, don’t run, to your car. The faster you make him move, the faster the venom will spread through his system. Carrying your dog will help keep the venom from spreading as fast, but if you carry him out, be very careful not to touch the area around the bite. If your dog is bitten around the neck, take off his collar.

The seriousness of a bite is determined by how many times your pet was bitten, where he was bitten, the amount of venom in the snake, the time of year and how much your pet has moved. If he received a bite on a limb, you can immobilize it, but not so much it can’t be used. Again, keep the wound below heart level.

If possible, try to identify the snake because your vet will need that information to properly treat your pet. Even if you think the snake is dead, don’t pick it up. Dead snakes can still bite because of muscle contractions and it’s a good idea to not let your pet inspect or play with a dead snake for that reason. Unless you are an expert snake handler, never try to catch or kill a snake that bit your pet. If you have no idea what kind of snake it is, try to remember what it looked like so you can describe it to the vet.

If a snake bites your pet, you will see small puncture wounds, bleeding, bruising, tissue damage and swelling with pain, which can be intense. Severe signs that may not begin to show up for several hours include: weakness, lethargy, shock, vomiting, nausea, slow or depressed breathing, muscle tremors or any neurological problems. Vet care will depend on how severe the bite is and what kind of snake bit your pet.

To read about snake aversion therapy for dogs, check out this article.

Read more articles by Linda Cole

The personal opinions and/or use of trade, corporate or brand names, is for information and convenience only. Such use does not constitute an endorsement by CANIDAE® All Natural Pet Foods of any product or service. Opinions are those of the individual authors and not necessarily of CANIDAE® All Natural Pet Foods.