This is one story I never thought I would have to tell. But after a few days, I’m now fully educated on dog snake bite treatment. My little running partner is on the sidelines for a few days while he recovers from a case of being too curious about some hiding places in our yard.
Disclaimer: I am not a vet, nor do I have any medical training for vet services. This is just our anecdotal experience. Seek expert help from your veterinarian.
We had just bathed Atlas a few hours before, so when he went outside for a break, I kept it short to about 4-5 minutes. When I called him, he was butt-up over a log pile down by the fence line. He came back, happy as ever, and got his treat and went to play in the house. Atlas is an inside dog with plenty of play space.
30 minutes later, he came to me with a swollen left side of his face and in pain. I couldn’t find any bite or puncture mark but I called Stephen at work. His partner at work checked with his vet tech friend who instructed us to monitor for any shock or breathing problems. Until we knew if this was a bug or a snake, I had to keep a close watch. If he started any signs of shock or respiratory distress, I should go to emergency vet. This was 9pm at night. In the meantime, I was to give him Benadryl. If he was still swollen the next morning, I should see our vet asap.
I didn’t sleep at all that night. Atlas was in a lot of pain and he kept trying to roll over and lay on the swollen side so I ended up just holding him while he slept. Around 4am he seemed better and slept hard. At 7am when Stephen got home, Atlas seemed perfectly fine. He wagged, and played, and ran, did his business in the yard, played some more. He was still very swollen but we thought he must have gotten stung by a vicious red wasp. We gave him another dose of Benadryl and Stephen went on to sleep for his next night shift.
You know those “feelings” you get with pets (and kids, I’m assuming)? That something-isn’t-right feeling? I got it in waves and decided to call the vet. This was 8am. The vet tech said to bring him in just to see.
Not only did a snake bite Atlas, but it was a venomous snake. Dr. Google didn’t tell me all the differences between a bug and snake bite, but my vet sure did and we still have August to get through. August is peak snake bite month around here.
So what are the differences between a bug/insect bite and a snake bite?
- Bug bites will swell immediately and then go back down in a few hours. If it was a bee or wasp, Atlas wouldn’t still be swollen the next morning.
- Bug bites will not cause extreme pain after about an hour.
- Snake bites will take a while to reveal a puncture wound. When Atlas started swelling, I couldn’t see any bite mark. An hour after, a bite mark appeared on his face.
How was Atlas diagnosed with snake bite?
- Dr. Canant walked in the room, looked at the bite mark, and immediately knew it was snake. He saw the bite and explained something to me that I wish I knew earlier. When venomous snakes bite, they inject a numbing agent and a coagulation agent. That’s why Atlas didn’t feel any pain at first. The swelling covers the bite mark since the blood coagulates (thickens to a plug or scab).
- Based on symptoms of long-term swelling and pain. With bug bites, swelling and pain recede in a short time frame.
- Atlas got shots for bite mark infection and steroids to stop the venom damage to his organs. We had a 3 week oral med routine to prevent further damage. After his recovery, we will give Atlas the snake vaccine. I’ll share more about that after I learn more about that.
What is the treatment?
- If you SEE a dog bite in action, get to your vet immediately. Really bad bites can cause so much damage that skin and fur start falling off. Get to the vet or emergi-vet asap.
- If you suspect any kind of bite based on swelling and/or pain, Benadryl can stop the anaphylactic reaction. Benadryl will never hurt your dog, unless there is an allergy to the medicine. If there is no bite, it will just make your dog sleepy. When in doubt, benadryl. The general rule is 1 mg for every lb your dog weighs. Atlas was 37-39ish so I gave him one 25mg and cut another one in half. That is 37.5mg.
- If you see a mark or puncture that looks like it’s plugged with dried blood, that is a glaring sign of snake bite. Bug bites do not coagulate or plug. And don’t assume because there is only 1 bite that it’s not snake. Copperheads often only have 1 biting fang because they strike out at everything and will break one off and regrow. That one biting fang can be lethal.
This story could have been a lot more tragic. We have never seen a snake on our property but we are out in the country. We had no idea the differences between bug and snake. Thankfully, we knew friends who knew vet techs who gave us the Benadryl tip. If Atlas had shown any signs of shock or breathing distress, I would have taken him to emergi-vet. No questions about that. This time, we got very lucky. This is a 3 day progression of his swelling puppy face and neck.