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Bitten by copperhead snake.

Species: Dog
Breed: mutt
Age: 3-6 months
My mom's 14 week old puppy got bit by a snake. Didn't see the snake. What should she do?




Online vet, Dr. Marie

Dr. Marie replied:

Thanks for the question. I have a few questions for you:

-Do you know if you have any poisonous snakes in your area?
-Where do you live?
-What is the puppy doing now?
-Can you see any wounds where the puppy got bitten?



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Disclaimer: Although Dr. Marie is a qualified veterinarian, the information found on this site is not meant to replace the advice of your own veterinarian. AskAVetQuestion.com and Dr. Marie do not accept any responsibility for any loss, damage, injury, death, or disease which may arise from reliance on information contained on this site. Do not use information found on this site for diagnosing or treating your pet. Anything you read here is for information only.

Customer reply:

We have copperheads in the area. We live in central Georgia.
One puncture on bottom of foot. Puppy's leg is swollen but he is playing as normal. Just clumsy because of swelling.


Online vet, Dr. Marie

Dr. Marie replied:

OK, thanks for that information.

I really do think it is a good idea for you to take this puppy to an emergency vet. While a bite from a copperhead snake is not likely to be fatal, it can cause a very serious wound. If the puppy's leg is swollen then I am a little concerned.

Most likely, what your vet will do is thoroughly clean the area and then put the dog on pain medication (that is also anti-inflammatory) plus antibiotics.

The vet in your area will also know whether anti-venom is necessary. (I don't have copperheads in my area so I am not certain about this.) My guess though is that no anti-venom is needed, just supportive care.

I wouldn't suggest waiting this out till Monday. If a snake bite gets infected it can be very serious, especially in such a young puppy.

I hope everything is ok!

Dr. Marie.



Customer reply:

Thanks for your advice. The problem is that the emergency vet care is incredibly expensive....is it possible that we could watch the leg for signs of infection until Monday and take him over the weekend if it gets worse?


Online vet, Dr. Marie

Dr. Marie replied:

I definitely understand your predicament as an emergency visit can be pricey. However, I still would not want to wait.

I have seen some snake bite wounds that seem to be ok for a while and then suddenly get severely swollen and infected. If it gets to this state (say overnight) then this may be a condition that requires much more extensive (and expensive) treatment. If we get started with antibiotics right away to prevent an infection you may be able to get away with a much smaller bill than if there is a severe infection.

If there is a severe infection (i.e. because we didn't start antibiotics soon enough) then the dog could need intravenous antibiotics and a long hospital stay. This is the difference between a bill that is a few hundred dollars or a bill that is a couple of thousand dollars.

Also, because this dog is so young, if there is poisonous venom in the wound then the dog has less chance of survival because of his age.

I really wouldn't advise waiting.

The other thing you could do is to simply call the emergency vet and explain the situation. They likely see this type of thing often and will have statistics on how often copperhead bites are serious in your area. If they see a lot of copperhead bites that don't need serious treatment then they may advise you that it is ok to wait. I am guessing that they will say to come in right away though. (And that is not just so they make money, but so that the puppy can get the best treatment as fast as possible.)

I hope everything is ok!

Dr. Marie



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Dr. MarieDr. Marie is a veterinarian who practices in a busy animal hospital in Ottawa, Ontario. She created Ask A Vet Question as a resource for good, accurate veterinary advice online. Dr. Marie treats dogs, cats, hamsters, guinea pigs, and rats. She has been a vet since 1999.

Is an online vet visit just as good as a trip to your veterinarian? No! But, many times, asking an online veterinarian a question can help save you money. While Dr. Marie can't officially diagnose your pet or prescribe medications, she can often advise you on whether a vet visit is necessary. You can also ask Dr. Marie for a second opinion on your pet's condition.