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My Dog Ate a Snake: What to Do If Your Dog Ate a Snake

Finding out that your dog ate a snake can be a terrifying situation for any pet owner. Snakes can be venomous, and a bite can make your furry friend extremely sick. However, try not to panic. With prompt treatment, most dogs recover fully from snake bites.

This comprehensive guide will walk you through exactly what to do if your dog eats or gets bitten by a snake. We’ll cover snake bite first aid, symptoms, treatment, prevention, and even some humorous tales of dogs outsmarting snakes! Read on to become an expert on handling snake encounters.

My Dog Ate a Snake: What To Do Immediately If Your Dog Eats or Gets Bitten By a Snake

Remain Calm and Restrict Movement

Take a deep breath and try to stay composed. Restrict your dog’s movement as much as possible to slow the spread of venom. Carry smaller dogs, and keep larger dogs on a short leash. Limiting activity will buy you time to get to the vet.

Identify the Snake (From a Safe Distance!)

Try to get a photo of the snake from at least 6 feet away. The type of snake will determine which anti-venom is needed. If you can’t identify the snake, the vet can make an identification based on your description of color/patterns.

Check for Symptoms of a Bite

Snake venom causes swelling, puncture wounds, bleeding, and bruising around the bite area. Look for fang marks that may leak blood or fluid. Even if you don’t see bite marks, assume the dog was bitten if you saw it attack a snake.

Get Emergency Veterinary Care Right Away

Don’t waste time – head to the nearest vet ER immediately. The quicker that anti-venom can be administered, the better the outcome for your dog. If possible, call ahead so staff can prepare treatments.

Keep the Dog Calm and Warm

Anxiety increases heart rate, circulating the venom faster. Cover or wrap your dog to maintain body heat. Monitor their breathing and limp/paralysis, which can signal venom-affecting organs.

Do Not:

  • Try to suck out the venom yourself
  • Apply a tourniquet or ice pack
  • Give your dog pain medications
  • Delay getting veterinary care

Follow these steps, and your vet will be able to provide the right care to help your dog recover smoothly. Now let’s go over some background on snake bites.

Snake Bite Symptoms in Dogs

The effects of a snake bite depend on the type of snake, the amount of venom delivered, and the size/health of your dog. Small dogs and puppies can become very ill quickly from smaller doses of venom.

Here are some common symptoms:

  • Swelling, bruising, and bleeding around puncture wounds
  • Extreme pain at the bite site
  • Difficulty breathing, panting
  • Dilated pupils
  • Drooling, nausea
  • Lethargy, weakness, collapse
  • Rapid heart rate, shock
  • Paralysis
  • Seizures
  • Blood in urine or vomit

Venom destroys red blood cells and causes organ damage. Without treatment, the toxins attack the nervous system and lead to death. Always get veterinary help immediately if a snake bite is suspected.

Snake Bite Treatment and Recovery

With prompt vet care, most dogs make a full recovery. The basics of treatment include:

Anti-venom – This is given as an injection near the bite. The antibodies in anti-venom neutralize the snake’s venom. Several doses over a few days may be needed.

IV fluids – Fluids help maintain blood pressure and prevent shock. Blood transfusions may be done for severe anemia.

Pain medication – Snake bites are extremely painful. Meds will help keep your dog comfortable.

Antibiotics – Prevent infection of the wound and necrosis of surrounding tissue.

Supportive care – Other drugs may be given to counteract venom effects on the nervous system, heart rate, or clotting. Oxygen, steroids, and anticonvulsants may be used.

With anti-venom treatment, most dogs show improvement within several hours of arriving at the vet. Swelling and pain should go down within 1-2 days.

Complete recovery can take 1-3 weeks. Your dog may need bandage changes and antibiotics during this time. Restrict activity until they have fully regained strength and energy levels.

What Kinds of Snakes Bite Dogs? Venomous vs Non-Venomous

Snakes most likely to bite dogs in the United States include:


  • Rattlesnakes – Cause the most snakebite fatalities in pets. Found throughout the southern, central, and western U.S.
  • Copperheads – Live in the eastern half of the country. Cause pain, swelling, and tissue damage.
  • Cottonmouths/Water Moccasins – In the southeastern states. Severe pain, swelling, and necrosis result.
  • Coral Snakes – Colors resemble harmless lookalikes. Deadly neurotoxic venom. Southwest, southeast coastal states.


  • Garter Snakes – Mild venom. Cause minor swelling and irritation, but not medically significant.
  • Gopher/Bull Snakes – No venom, but will bite if threatened. Minimal reaction.
  • King Snakes – Not venomous. Some species eat rattlesnakes!
  • Rat Snakes – No venom. Will bite out of fear. Cause minor wound only.

If you are not 100% certain the snake is harmless, always assume it is venomous. Non-venomous snake bites cause some local irritation but normally don’t require medical treatment.

How to Prevent Snake Bites in Dogs

Here are some smart tips to lower the risk of your dog getting bitten:

  • Avoid tall grass/brush – Snake hiding spots. Stick to open, cleared trails.
  • Get snake-aversion training – Some trainers teach dogs to recognize and avoid snakes.
  • Keep up to date on vaccines – Dogs should have the rattlesnake vaccine if your area is high-risk. Ask your vet.
  • Use a leash – Don’t allow dogs to explore holes, bushes, or rocks where snakes lurk.
  • Light areas at night – Snakes are less active if you can see them.
  • Note weather conditions – Snakes come out when it gets warm. Spring is the prime biting season.
  • Remove habitat/food sources – Keep your yard free of rodents, piles of wood, and birdseed spills.

Stay alert on walks so you can steer your dog away from potential snake lairs. Avoid times when snakes are active, like warm nights or after heavy rains.

Funny Stories of Dogs Outsmarting Snakes

Before we conclude, let’s lighten things up with a few tales of creative dogs managing to avoid getting bitten:

  • Stella the terrier – Was seen leaping vertically to avoid a striking rattlesnake – almost like a circus dog! She went airborne four times as the rattler struck out until the frustrated snake finally gave up.
  • Max the border collie – Carefully herded a huge bull snake out of the yard using “hypnotic eye contact and tail wags.” Max had the large serpent wrapped around a tree within five minutes!
  • Rufus the lab – Would trap snakes under his empty food bowl, then sit on top whining until his owners came. One day there were 3 different garter snakes imprisoned under Rufus’ “jail.”
  • Paisley the poodle – A copperhead nested in Paisley’s backyard. Paisley would perform a daily “perimeter check” and scare it away by “bopping” the snake on the head with her paw. The snake eventually got the hint and slithered off!

These pups show clever problem-solving instincts. However, vets don’t recommend letting your dog actively confront snakes. Their first line of defense should be avoiding serpents altogether.


Learning that your dog ate a snake or suffered a snake bite is extremely alarming for any pet owner. But by following proper first aid, seeking prompt veterinary treatment, and taking preventative measures, the vast majority of dogs recover fully with no lasting effects.

Monitor your pet closely in the days and weeks after a bite – if you notice any ongoing unusual symptoms, bring them back to the vet right away. With patience and good care, your dog will be frolicking and snake-free again in no time!

Frequently Asked Questions

What if I can’t immediately get my dog to a vet after a snake bite?

If you are unable to immediately reach a vet, restrict your dog’s movement and apply a loose bandage over the bite (do not wrap tightly). Elevate the area and keep your dog calm and warm. Monitor closely for worsening symptoms. Get medical care as soon as you can access it – do not wait to see if symptoms improve on their own.

How expensive is treating a snake bite?

Costs vary but expect an average of $300-$2,500 if the snake bite is treated promptly. The anti-venom drugs are expensive, ranging $300-$500 per vial. Multiple vials drawn from horse blood are usually needed. Hospitalization, IV fluids, bloodwork, and other medications also add cost. Specific anti-venom availability depends on your geographic area. Discuss options and prices with your vet if your dog is at high risk.

What should I do if my dog eats a dead snake?

While not ideal, most dogs will pass pieces of snake flesh without an issue, as the digestive acids destroy any remaining venom. But you still want to be vigilant for symptoms of poisoning like nausea, lethargy, or odd behavior. Contact your vet with any concerns and they may recommend bringing your dog in for observation. In the future, train your dog to avoid any snakes, alive or dead.

How can I tell a venomous snake bite from a regular puncture wound?

Venomous snake bites usually have two distinct fang marks, along with surrounding bruising, swelling, and leakage of blood/fluid around the punctures. Non-venomous bites look more like scrapes or cuts. However, any time your dog interacts with a snake, assume venom was injected. Get medical help for assessment instead of waiting to see if symptoms develop.

What species of snakes are found in my area?

Contact your local department of natural resources, forest service ranger stations, zoo education departments or reptile rescue organizations to learn which snake species are native to your region. Wildlife officials can give tips on safe hiking areas and seasons when snakes are more active. Possessing insights about your local serpents will help you protect your dog.

My dog ate a garter snake – will he be ok?

Garter snakes have very mild venom in their saliva and are considered non-threatening. Bites may cause minor irritation and swelling but are not medically significant. If your dog consumed a small garter snake, watch for signs of gastrointestinal upset like vomiting or diarrhea. Large pieces may potentially cause an intestinal blockage warranting an X-ray. Overall, garter snakes are low risk but contact your vet if you note poor appetite or unusual symptoms arising.

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