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June 01, 2009

Snakes in the Grass?

By David DiBenedetto

There was a bit of news out of Wyoming last week that had me thinking all weekend. A man named Bobby Jenkins was on his farm with his three labs when one of them crawled beneath some heavy machinery. The dog, Tank, let out a yelp, and when Jenkins reached it he noticed it was bleeding from two fang marks in its nose. Immediately, Jenkins began sucking the venom out of the dogs nose and spitting it on the ground. Then he flagged a neighbor down and rushed to a local vet. The vet administered anti-venom medication and Tank, whose head had swollen to three times its normal size, survived.

But on the way home from the vet Jenkins’s own heart started racing, he began to sweat, and was ghastly white. Jenkins was rushed to the Emergency Room where he, too, received anti-venom and made a full recovery. (The total bill for the anti-venom for Jenkins alone was $14,000.)

As Pritch and I progress in our training we’re obviously spending a lot of time in the woods and fields of South Carolina. I try to avoid snaky territory, but whenever we’re in thick grass or working the edge of timber ponds I worry she’ll encounter a rattlesnake or water moccasin.

I know the basic rules: If you suspect a bite, get your dog to the vet immediately (if you’re hunting new territory be sure to carry a list of local vets’ phone numbers), and keep the dog as immobilized as possible to prevent the circulation of the venom. (Sucking the venom out is no longer a recommended strategy.) But I’m beginning to think I need to go a bit farther. There are snake vaccine shots that your vet can administer and even classes on snake-breaking your pooch. The classes use defanged snakes and shock collars to teach your dog to avoid the critters.

Thankfully, my neck of the woods isn’t chock-full of snakes like, say, areas of Texas and other parts of the country. I’m curious of your tales of dog-and-snake encounters and what you do to avoid the dangers.

Comments (16)

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from Elmer Fudd wrote 4 years 46 weeks ago

two comments:

*I've heard of, but never known personally, dogs that have been snakebit, survived, and became fanatical snake killers.

*Zach Walker, a herpetologist with the Wyoming Game and Fish Department... said he also has heard that when a dog gets bitten by a rattlesnake and survives, the dog is henceforth immune to the venom.

Can anyone relate a story about the first, and can anyone confirm the second?

good topics!

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from teufelhunden wrote 4 years 46 weeks ago

I live in a very snakey area. The main three are copperhead, water moccasin, and rattlesnake. Our two dogs have been bitten numerous times, the first couple of times we raced the dog to the vet. Our vet is an old "large animal" vet but he is the only one we have semi-close. He never administered anti-venin just asked for a description of the snake and if we killed it. He would then tell us to go home and keep an eye on the dog and wait for he bill. The swelling would subside long before we got the bill and be completely gone before we paid it. Our dogs are now either immune or smart enough not to get bit again because I have not seen the characteristic swollen head in a few years.

+3 Good Comment? | | Report
from USF Hunter wrote 4 years 46 weeks ago

In my neck of South Florida it seems like we have more snakes than people some times. 3 types of rattlers, coral snakes, water mocisons, and copperheads. Oh, and those giant pythons too I guess. The amount of snakes we have here is the only reason why I dont have my yellow lab Dexter out there hunting. It sems like every other day a freind calls up and askes for help getting a pigmy rattler out of a garage or a mocison out of the pool. When Dexter goes outside, hes always inview so I know if hes getting near somewhere asnake might hide.

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from runningdog wrote 4 years 46 weeks ago

Dogs have a loose "pelt" which allows them to absorb a lot of damage without serious injury to their flesh underneath this pelt - like barbed wire snags, for example. I've wondered if this loose outer pelt might also help minimize the danger from snake bites. I know several folks whose dogs have been bitten, but none whose dogs have died - all recoverd. So, I wonder what are the odds of a dog surviving a snake bite without anti-venom treatment?

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from pinopolis wrote 4 years 46 weeks ago

My dog has never been bitten, nor have I ever seen a snake when we're training—but the thought of snakes still freaks me out. I've heard that many dogs don't show symptoms after being bitten because the snake doesn't always release venom. Wonder if that's true or a tale...

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from Dave DiBenedetto wrote 4 years 46 weeks ago

runningdog, I'm not sure what the odds are of a dog surviving a snakebite but I do know that sometimes the bite will be "dry." That is, it won't contain a full dose of venom because the snake would rather use the venom on prey.

Still, call me cautious but I'm not going to take any chances with Pritch. If I suspect a snake bite we'll be piling in the car and rushing to the nearest vet, especially since the Boykin is a smaller breed of dog and even a small amount of venom can be deadly.

Let's hope it's something I never have to deal with.

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from rdp wrote 4 years 46 weeks ago

Texas does have its good share of snakes. The other night the wife and I were walking the dog around dog the property line, we were throwing a stick for the dog to go get, it is still under debate who threw it last, and low and behold it landed right next to a rattle snake. The dog jumped on the stick and then all of a sudden jumped backwards. I had to run up and pull him back while attempting not to get bit my self. The dog didn't get bit and neither did I. But the next Monday we were at the vet getting the snake vaccine. The vet stated it is not really a vaccine but it lessens the effect a bite can have on a dog and make it more likely to survive if bitten. And it made my wife feel better about letting the dog out in the field.

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from Cowens wrote 4 years 46 weeks ago

I have a Boykin that is about a month older than yours and just got the snake shots. I live in Austin and can almost guarantee that he will get bitten at some point. the shot was $20 and I hope that i don't have to use it, but my dog is only 35lbs and I am with you....i will take the dog immediately to the vet if he is bitten.

Thanks for the blog, I am having a lot of the same issues that you are in training my dog. Lots of work to do before September!!

+2 Good Comment? | | Report
from Beekeeper wrote 4 years 46 weeks ago

I know of a farm "mutt" dog that was bitten 4 times by various venomous snakes. The first bite from a cottonmouth was taken care of by a dose of antivenom. He did loose some tissue on his lower right front leg but he lost no use of the appendage. The next three bites were not treated with antivenom. He would swell up to the point of almost bursting and 36 to 48 hours later he would be fine. The dog's name was Mad Maxx. He definitely had it in for any snake he came across!

One of my Beagles was bitten by a timber rattler after he tried to pick it up. He's a collector... The snake bit him three times on the face, just missing an eye. His head swelled up like a pumpkin. On the 40 mile trip to the vets office he didn't even wimper. One tuff little dog. A dose of antivenom ($400) and 3 days rest and he was good as new. Minimum tissue loss even around the eye, but the hair fell off his muzzle and one side of his face. Thankfully for him it grew back. He will now have nothing to do with anything that vaguely resembles a snake!

+2 Good Comment? | | Report
from spuddog wrote 4 years 46 weeks ago

I don't have a gun dog but hope to, so I'm talking out of ignorance and curiosity. When I have a hunting dog I would like her to be versatile; point pheasant, grouse, retrieve dove, find shed atlers, etc. Could you not just teach your dog to find snakes just like you would any other game? By pointing them both would know they are there and it would keep the dog at a distance? I guess this would work with pointers only, not flushers. But seems to me that you'd know where the snakes are and give you opportunity to avoid or dispatch.

Let me know if I'm being too simple on this one.

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from muskiemaster wrote 4 years 45 weeks ago

well, not having much for dangerous snakes in Wisconsin my dog that passed away a couple years ago was bit on the nose by a garder snake that apparently didn't do the trick.

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from FloridaHunter1226 wrote 4 years 45 weeks ago

The dogs I do have are not really for hunting so I just keep them inside. A bulldog would not make a very good hunting partner. But I have had a lot of friends/neighbors and hunting buddies loose dogs to snakes. A lot of people keep their dog inside the house down here, no matter how big...but I bet the classes would definitely help.

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from nathan.grell wrote 4 years 45 weeks ago

Something to slow down the venom in the circulation is to put something similar to a tourniquet but looser. It only works on limbs of course but its something to keep in mind.

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from Devil_Dog wrote 4 years 45 weeks ago

It is possible to build resistance to snake venom. Start with a small enough dose and slowing working up over time will in fact build resistance. Sheep and horses have a high natural resistance, hence their use in the original antivenins. When it comes to dogs and natural resistance, I have no idea, but better safe than sorry.

The caveat to all that is that a body, dog, human, whatever, can also take the opposite direction. Instead of the initial exposure creating resistance, it can increase sensitivity. Think of people who are have a bad reaction to a bee-sting and then get stung later on and go into anaphylactic shock.

+2 Good Comment? | | Report
from Devil_Dog wrote 4 years 45 weeks ago

I say do your best to keep your dog safe, but at the end of the day there's no way to be 100% sure the dog won't get bit without sacrificing the reason you went outdoors in the first place.

Better to go down doing what you love then waste away indoors.

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from Pat Schock wrote 2 years 41 weeks ago

Hi - Smaller problem here, still about the outdoors -

We are thinking of going to the Rhinelander/Eagle River, Wisconsin area - does anyone know a dog friendly cottage or cabin on high ground where my lab won't be in mosquitos in August ? Thanks,

Pat

0 Good Comment? | | Report

Post a Comment

from teufelhunden wrote 4 years 46 weeks ago

I live in a very snakey area. The main three are copperhead, water moccasin, and rattlesnake. Our two dogs have been bitten numerous times, the first couple of times we raced the dog to the vet. Our vet is an old "large animal" vet but he is the only one we have semi-close. He never administered anti-venin just asked for a description of the snake and if we killed it. He would then tell us to go home and keep an eye on the dog and wait for he bill. The swelling would subside long before we got the bill and be completely gone before we paid it. Our dogs are now either immune or smart enough not to get bit again because I have not seen the characteristic swollen head in a few years.

+3 Good Comment? | | Report
from Cowens wrote 4 years 46 weeks ago

I have a Boykin that is about a month older than yours and just got the snake shots. I live in Austin and can almost guarantee that he will get bitten at some point. the shot was $20 and I hope that i don't have to use it, but my dog is only 35lbs and I am with you....i will take the dog immediately to the vet if he is bitten.

Thanks for the blog, I am having a lot of the same issues that you are in training my dog. Lots of work to do before September!!

+2 Good Comment? | | Report
from Beekeeper wrote 4 years 46 weeks ago

I know of a farm "mutt" dog that was bitten 4 times by various venomous snakes. The first bite from a cottonmouth was taken care of by a dose of antivenom. He did loose some tissue on his lower right front leg but he lost no use of the appendage. The next three bites were not treated with antivenom. He would swell up to the point of almost bursting and 36 to 48 hours later he would be fine. The dog's name was Mad Maxx. He definitely had it in for any snake he came across!

One of my Beagles was bitten by a timber rattler after he tried to pick it up. He's a collector... The snake bit him three times on the face, just missing an eye. His head swelled up like a pumpkin. On the 40 mile trip to the vets office he didn't even wimper. One tuff little dog. A dose of antivenom ($400) and 3 days rest and he was good as new. Minimum tissue loss even around the eye, but the hair fell off his muzzle and one side of his face. Thankfully for him it grew back. He will now have nothing to do with anything that vaguely resembles a snake!

+2 Good Comment? | | Report
from Devil_Dog wrote 4 years 45 weeks ago

It is possible to build resistance to snake venom. Start with a small enough dose and slowing working up over time will in fact build resistance. Sheep and horses have a high natural resistance, hence their use in the original antivenins. When it comes to dogs and natural resistance, I have no idea, but better safe than sorry.

The caveat to all that is that a body, dog, human, whatever, can also take the opposite direction. Instead of the initial exposure creating resistance, it can increase sensitivity. Think of people who are have a bad reaction to a bee-sting and then get stung later on and go into anaphylactic shock.

+2 Good Comment? | | Report
from Elmer Fudd wrote 4 years 46 weeks ago

two comments:

*I've heard of, but never known personally, dogs that have been snakebit, survived, and became fanatical snake killers.

*Zach Walker, a herpetologist with the Wyoming Game and Fish Department... said he also has heard that when a dog gets bitten by a rattlesnake and survives, the dog is henceforth immune to the venom.

Can anyone relate a story about the first, and can anyone confirm the second?

good topics!

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from USF Hunter wrote 4 years 46 weeks ago

In my neck of South Florida it seems like we have more snakes than people some times. 3 types of rattlers, coral snakes, water mocisons, and copperheads. Oh, and those giant pythons too I guess. The amount of snakes we have here is the only reason why I dont have my yellow lab Dexter out there hunting. It sems like every other day a freind calls up and askes for help getting a pigmy rattler out of a garage or a mocison out of the pool. When Dexter goes outside, hes always inview so I know if hes getting near somewhere asnake might hide.

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from runningdog wrote 4 years 46 weeks ago

Dogs have a loose "pelt" which allows them to absorb a lot of damage without serious injury to their flesh underneath this pelt - like barbed wire snags, for example. I've wondered if this loose outer pelt might also help minimize the danger from snake bites. I know several folks whose dogs have been bitten, but none whose dogs have died - all recoverd. So, I wonder what are the odds of a dog surviving a snake bite without anti-venom treatment?

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from pinopolis wrote 4 years 46 weeks ago

My dog has never been bitten, nor have I ever seen a snake when we're training—but the thought of snakes still freaks me out. I've heard that many dogs don't show symptoms after being bitten because the snake doesn't always release venom. Wonder if that's true or a tale...

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from Dave DiBenedetto wrote 4 years 46 weeks ago

runningdog, I'm not sure what the odds are of a dog surviving a snakebite but I do know that sometimes the bite will be "dry." That is, it won't contain a full dose of venom because the snake would rather use the venom on prey.

Still, call me cautious but I'm not going to take any chances with Pritch. If I suspect a snake bite we'll be piling in the car and rushing to the nearest vet, especially since the Boykin is a smaller breed of dog and even a small amount of venom can be deadly.

Let's hope it's something I never have to deal with.

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from rdp wrote 4 years 46 weeks ago

Texas does have its good share of snakes. The other night the wife and I were walking the dog around dog the property line, we were throwing a stick for the dog to go get, it is still under debate who threw it last, and low and behold it landed right next to a rattle snake. The dog jumped on the stick and then all of a sudden jumped backwards. I had to run up and pull him back while attempting not to get bit my self. The dog didn't get bit and neither did I. But the next Monday we were at the vet getting the snake vaccine. The vet stated it is not really a vaccine but it lessens the effect a bite can have on a dog and make it more likely to survive if bitten. And it made my wife feel better about letting the dog out in the field.

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from spuddog wrote 4 years 46 weeks ago

I don't have a gun dog but hope to, so I'm talking out of ignorance and curiosity. When I have a hunting dog I would like her to be versatile; point pheasant, grouse, retrieve dove, find shed atlers, etc. Could you not just teach your dog to find snakes just like you would any other game? By pointing them both would know they are there and it would keep the dog at a distance? I guess this would work with pointers only, not flushers. But seems to me that you'd know where the snakes are and give you opportunity to avoid or dispatch.

Let me know if I'm being too simple on this one.

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from muskiemaster wrote 4 years 45 weeks ago

well, not having much for dangerous snakes in Wisconsin my dog that passed away a couple years ago was bit on the nose by a garder snake that apparently didn't do the trick.

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from FloridaHunter1226 wrote 4 years 45 weeks ago

The dogs I do have are not really for hunting so I just keep them inside. A bulldog would not make a very good hunting partner. But I have had a lot of friends/neighbors and hunting buddies loose dogs to snakes. A lot of people keep their dog inside the house down here, no matter how big...but I bet the classes would definitely help.

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from nathan.grell wrote 4 years 45 weeks ago

Something to slow down the venom in the circulation is to put something similar to a tourniquet but looser. It only works on limbs of course but its something to keep in mind.

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from Devil_Dog wrote 4 years 45 weeks ago

I say do your best to keep your dog safe, but at the end of the day there's no way to be 100% sure the dog won't get bit without sacrificing the reason you went outdoors in the first place.

Better to go down doing what you love then waste away indoors.

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from Pat Schock wrote 2 years 41 weeks ago

Hi - Smaller problem here, still about the outdoors -

We are thinking of going to the Rhinelander/Eagle River, Wisconsin area - does anyone know a dog friendly cottage or cabin on high ground where my lab won't be in mosquitos in August ? Thanks,

Pat

0 Good Comment? | | Report

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