7 Ways to Help Your Pet in a Snake Bite Emergency

June 12, 2019

Snake bite season is in full swing in South Florida. From April through October, Advanced Veterinary Care Center (AVCC) in Davie, a 24-hour emergency and specialty veterinary hospital sees an increase in snake bite emergencies. This is when venomous snakes become more active.

Dr. Chris McLaughlin, board certified emergency and critical care specialist and Director of Emergency and Critical Care at AVCC offers these 7 ways to help your pet in a snake bite emergency. Be sure to share these tips with your pet loving friends as it could save a life when minutes matter!

Does AVCC provide anti-venom and does it work against all poisonous snakes?
We do carry anti-venom at AVCC, and it is effective against the most common snakes we encounter in South Florida (primarily pit vipers – Cottonmouth and rattlesnakes).  The Eastern Coral Snake is present in South Florida and does cause envenomation in pets here.  But the anti-venom for these snakes is not currently available in the USA.

As a pet owner, the word anti-venom sounds like a cure, but is that the case?
The job of the anti-venom is to block the effects of the venom in the pet.  This means that, if given in an effective dose, it should stop the action of the venom and prevent the patient from getting sicker.  It does not always reverse all damage that the venom may have already induced by the time the anti-venom is administered, so time is of the essence when treating snake bites with anti-venom.

If a snake bites your pet, what are the immediate steps a pet owner should take? 
The majority of advice you may find on the Internet regarding snake bites is incorrect.  The best step to take if your pet is bitten is to get to a veterinary emergency hospital as soon as possible, preferably one with anti-venom available.  Do NOT cut or suck on the wound, or try and tie off the limb that was bitten.

Do pet owners need to look carefully at the snake to know which type it is?
It is extremely helpful for the attending veterinarian to have an identification for the snake.  You should not kill the snake and bring the body to the doctor, but rather take a picture (if it’s safe to do so) and bring that.  Snakes most often bite defensively rather than offensively.  A lot of snakes unnecessarily lose their life because we have invaded their habitat and they defended themselves.

How often does the emergency service at Advanced Veterinary Care Center in Davie see snake bites?
People would be surprised at the number of snakes that are actually present in the suburban area of South Florida.  Because we border along wild and natural habitats, snake encounters are common.  True snake envenomations are less common, but certainly do occur.

What if your pet is outside without you?  How would you know if they were bitten?  What are some signs?  Different types of snake bites may present differently, and the location that the pet gets bitten is variable.  Dogs often get bitten on the legs, face and chest, as they are investigating the snake.  You may be able to identify puncture marks, but this is not always the case.  The area may rapidly become reddened and swollen locally.  But some of the systemic effects of the venom (such as blood clotting abnormalities and neurological effects) may not be immediately apparent.  If you suspect that a snake may have bitten your pet, you should have them immediately evaluated by an emergency veterinarian.

What should pet owners know about snake bite prevention?
The same things that you do to keep yourself safe from snake bites are also effective for protecting your dogs.  This includes  staying to the path when walking in wildlife areas, and out of the brush/scrub that occurs along the edges of trails and walking paths.  As a pet owner, you should make yourself familiar with the snakes that are present in your environment.  This will allow you to provide an identification in the event of an emergency. Miami-Dade Fire Rescue Department Venom Response Bureau offers this PDF to help identify venomous snakes of Florida

Advanced Veterinary Care Center in Davie is open 24 hours a day, 7 days a week for pet emergencies. AVCC is conveniently located right off the highway at

8920 W. State Road 84, Davie, Florida 33324
Phone number is: 954-500-VETS
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Advanced Veterinary Care Center is open 24/7:
Advanced Veterinary Care Center provides expert emergency & specialty veterinary care for companion animals in South Florida. We are open 24 hours a day, 7 days a week for your pet’s emergency needs. Our dedicated team of board-certified specialists and emergency clinicians delivers sophisticated, compassionate, life-saving and quality-of-life enhancing medical and surgical services for pets and their families. Specialties include internal medicine, surgery, cardiology and (coming soon), oncology.

About Advanced Veterinary Care Center:
Advanced Veterinary Care Center was created with an emphasis on the accurate timely diagnosis of life-threatening medical and surgical problems, whether they are emergencies or more chronic in nature, and on providing an exceptional client experience for pet parents. Our team collaborates with primary care veterinarians to ensure excellence in communication, ease of referral to our hospital and an overall culture of service and support to our colleagues in the veterinary community. We dedicate ourselves, each and every day, to exceptional patient care and satisfaction. Fore more information, visit us online at https://www.advetcc.com/


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