Dogs are commonly bitten by snakes on the head and front legs. Factors affecting the toxicity of the snake bite include the victim’s size, pre-existing health, the site of the bite and the time between the bite and medical attention. The initial clinical signs of snakebite include local pain, swelling, petechiation, echymosis and discolouration of the skin in the area of the bite. The swelling may mask the bite wounds. Swelling of the head or front legs around the bite may cause regional circulatory changes which reduce venom uptake. Initial first aid in the case of snakebite should be to keep the patient quiet as exertion will speed the spread of the venom. The bite wound should be kept below heart level. Tracheostomy may be necessary in cases with severe head swelling as breathing may be compromised. Treatment of muscle tremors, seizures, cardiac arrhythmias and pulmonary oedema should be treated as the conditions manifest. Administration of anti-venom can reverse most symptoms of poisoning if it is available. The prognosis for snakebite depends on the type of snake involved, the severity of the envenomation and the rapidity of veterinary treatment.
REFERENCE: Gupta, RC (ed) 2007, ‘Veterinary toxicology : basic and clinical principles’, Elsevier, New York, pp.799-802.
Metadata assigned by Dr. M. van Schoor, Senior Lecturer, Dept. of Companion Animal Clinical Studies