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.
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.
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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