Learn How to Protect Your Dog from Snake Bites

Venturing into snake-y areas with your dog can be scary. Dogs are curious creatures — they love to approach anything that moves. Here we will teach you some tips for keeping your best friend safe from snake bites.

Be aware.

  • Always check your walking area for snakes, especially if you walk in brushy areas. Exercise extra caution in spring and summer months, when snakes are most active.
  • If your dog is a swimmer, try to avoid letting them swim in murky water. Cottonmouths, one of Texas’ four venomous snakes, can be difficult to see in cloudy water. Be aware that cottonmouths live in and around water.
  • If you are hiking through a densely vegetated area, carry a stick. The vibrations of the stick against the ground can scare snakes away. On top of that, sticks can be used to push away leaves and grass. If a snake is around, your stick will find it before your dog’s feet.
  • Be careful to watch your dog as they approach logs or piles of leaves. These are common hiding places for snakes, and your dog may see or smell a snake and become fixated on it before you know that it is there.
Always scan water for snakes before letting your dog go for a swim.

Always scan water for snakes before letting your dog go for a swim.

Vaccinate.

  • Red Rock Biologics makes Western Diamondback Rattlesnake vaccines that work for both dogs and horses. If your dog spends time near rattlesnake habitats, you should consider this vaccination.
  • This vaccine helps dogs to create antibodies that protect against rattlesnake venom. However, even vaccinated dogs must be taken to the vet immediately if bitten. The amount of venom injected, the size of the dog, and the location of the bite all play a role in determining how effective the vaccination will be.
  • According to Red Rock Biologics, vaccinated dogs “experience less swelling, less tissue damage and a faster recovery from snakebite than unvaccinated dogs”.
  • Follow this link for FAQ’s about the vaccine, and talk to your veterinarian for more information.
Western Diamondback Range

Western Diamondback Rattlesnake range in Texas – via herpsoftexas.org

Try snake avoidance training.

  • You can’t always keep your dog on a leash, nor can you always keep your eye on them. For those reasons, snake avoidance training can be a great!
  • The training methods for snake avoidance vary from trainer to trainer. Commonly, dogs will be brought up to a venomous snake that has been “milked” of its venom or defanged entirely. Trainers then use shock collars to teach the dog that it should not touch the snake. This method is controversial — some trainers argue that shocking can have the opposite effect on some dogs, making the dog attack snakes when they see them in the wild. In addition, defanging snakes can lead to lethal infection, starvation, and unnecessary pain for the animals.
  • Alternatives to shock snake avoidance training are becoming more common. The Canine Center for Training and Behavior is an Austin training center that offers shock-free snake avoidance classes. At this center, trainers use aversion techniques involving:
    • Startling noises
    • Fear/flight responses from the owner/handler
    • Lifelike puppeteered snakes that are stored with fresh sheds from venomous snakes
  • Owner Jane Del Re explained that, “dogs will not always see a snake, but their sense of smell is so highly developed, we can teach them to avoid the scents.”

Our training requires that the handler has a good relationship, or influence, over the dog as we work through modeling and guided learning…Generally, we have good success in one session and the dog will actively lead the owner around an area where it smells the odor of snakes, or has encountered one before.

-Jane Del Re, CPDT-KA: Owner of The Canine Center for Training and Behavior

Practicing snake safety with your dog can put both of your minds at ease outdoors.

Know your vet’s number.

  • It is incredibly important to have your vet’s number handy. In case your dog is bitten, you should be prepared to call. Locate an emergency vet’s phone number for any city you visit with your dog, in case of an after-hours emergency.
  •  Even a non-venomous bite can lead to infection if left untreated, so go ahead and schedule a non-emergency appointment in these cases.
  • If your dog is bitten by a venomous snake, get them into the vet immediately. They may receive a “dry bite” — snakes are hesitant to use their venom for anything other than prey. Others may be less lucky, and will need the proper treatment to counteract the venom.

With the proper preparation, you and your dog can venture outdoors with confidence. Go out, have fun, and remember to respect all wildlife!

Despite the danger that these animals pose, we encourage you to treat them with respect. Like any wild animal, these snakes are vital to their ecosystems. Mass-hunting events such as the Sweetwater Rattlesnake Roundup spread a message of violence and animal cruelty. To learn more about snakes in Texas, or to help us spread positive snake education, join our email newsletter list:

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