Dogs, Cats, and Copperheads
How to keep your pets safe from snakes.
The warm weather brings Copperheads out of hibernation. They can be seen at our dog parks, in the middle of our yards, on wood piles and compost mounds, under bushes, in gardens, on porches, and just outside your front door. Are they dangerous to our pets? YES!
Take action: If your pet is bitten, take it to your veterinarian ASAP. Do not delay treatment. Bites are painful and prone to infection. Your pet needs to be evaluated and treated with pain medication, fluids and/or antibiotics. Diagnostic tests may also be warranted to determine if there are any systemic effects from the venom.
The clinical signs associated with a snake bite are extensive and painful swelling that spreads rapidly. You may see bleeding or a bloody discharge at the site of the bite. Fang wounds are not always visible due to rapid swelling or the mouth size of the snake that did the biting.
The prognosis of the snake bite depends on several factors: the size of the snake; the location of the injection; the age, size and health of the pet; and the pet’s sensitivity to the venom. Small and frail animals are the most susceptible to venom which makes them the most vulnerable.
Prevention: While dog walking use a short leash. Keep dogs away from exploring holes in the ground, digging under logs, flat rocks or wood piles. Don’t let your pups sniff around things you can’t see like wood piles, under bushes, or planks.
Hiking: If you are hiking, stay on the trail or open paths where snakes are easier to see. If you pet seems curious about “something” that you can’t see – be cautious.
Yard: Keep compost or wood piles away from the house. Maintain your garden so it is free of overgrown plants and debris. Regularly mow the law. Install fences 8-12 inches deep. Don’t leave containers of water around. Keep sheds rodent-free. Remove fallen fruit from the ground. Basically, provide an environment that is not attractive to snakes. If you see a snake on your property, bring your pets inside the house.
As a pet sitter, I worry about the dogs and cats that have access to the outdoors while their owners are away. If a dog goes out the doggie door to spend time exploring in the yard, it may be bitten and not even discovered until the next scheduled visit which could be hours later.
An extended leash used for dog walking may enable the dog to venture near a well-camouflaged snake that we don’t know is there until it has struck. A curious cat is certainly no match for a snake bite. Cats are natural hunters and will chase anything that moves without realizing the danger they are putting themselves in.
So it is with good reason for us all to take precautions to protect our pets, keep our distance from snakes when we see them, and take our pet to the veterinarian if a snake strike occurs. Let’s hope 2019 is a mild season for snake bite reports.