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Dogs that have been bitten in the leg may
show signs of the bite and swelling.

  • Take your pet IMMEDIATELY to a veterinarian, by transporting the dog in a basket or by carrying it;
  • DO NOT DELAY SEEKING TREATMENT, DUE TO TIME OF NIGHT, HOLIDAYS OR WEEKENDS. WITH IMMEDIATE TREATMENT, FEW DEATHS HAVE OCCURRED.

Take note that venomous snakes do not always inject venom when they strike, and a veterinarian must first determine whether the dog has been envenomated. Next, the veterinarian must establish the degree of envenomation. In mild cases, the veterinarian may only give the dog painkillers. In serious cases, fluid therapy may be required to restore blood pressure, and the doctor injects epinephrine or corticosteroids and antihistamines to treat allergic reaction and swelling. Nose and head bites are dangerous because swelling may cut off nasal or tracheal air passages.

Anti-venom is seldom administered to dogs except in very serious cases, mainly because there is a good chance of recovery without the administration of anti-venom. In addition, there is also a risk of allergic reaction to the anti-venom. The use of anti-venom is also limited by its prohibitive costs. Up to five vials may be required to treat most cases. If you are uncertain if a venomous snake has bitten your dog, observe for signs of severe asymmetrical swelling or pain which may occur immediately or may not be visible for up to two hours.

PREVENTION

Keep dogs and other pets on leashes at all times. Dogs love nosing around; rattlesnakes may feel threatened and may bite in self-defense. If you know an area where there are records of massasauga sightings, or where you have seen or heard massasaugas in the past, do not let the animal wander near such sites off leash. Remember that the quick recovery of your family pet from venomous snakebite depends on prompt veterinary treatment.

BECOME KNOWLEDGEABLE

Learn to identify local snakes in your area. This knowledge will increase your own awareness of snakes and may help you to correctly identify snakes involved in snakebites. The Toronto Zoo hosts workshops at the zoo twice a year, and other recovery team members can provide a workshop for your cottager association annual or special meetings (contact the Toronto Zoo see contacts in Section 7).

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