Dogs and Snake Bites: A Cautionary Tale.

With fall in full swing, and (here in Florida at least) gorgeous, sunny days upon us, I am reminded of day I spent hiking almost exactly four years ago.  If you’ve been a long time reader, you know I love to take the pups for a good romp along the trails, so why do I remember a specific outing almost exactly four years later?  Because that was the day I nearly lost my Tag.

Black Lab

It was the day after Thanksgiving, warm and sunny, and my boyfriend at the time and I decided to take advantage.  We loaded our pups up (Buddy, Tag, and his little girl, Nala) and headed to our favorite secluded spot where we could let them run free.  The dogs ran like crazy, venturing into the water occasionally for a drink or to cool off, and then continued their games of chase.  Once we decided it was time to go I yelled for them to “go get a drink!” and started walking back to the trail that led to our car.  Buddy and Nala raced past us but when I looked back, Tag was acting funny.  She caught up to me but wouldn’t budge from my side.  “Go on!  Go get the last of your runs out!” I told her, but she wouldn’t budge.  Very odd.

Dogs at the Lake

Once we got to the car, she didn’t flop in the back as usual but repeatedly tried to crawl in to my lap.  Eventually she settled into the floor in the front seat.  Again, very odd.  By the time we got home, I new something was definitely wrong.  We got out of the car and I looked at her face to see if she was cut or something.  It was started to really swell along the right side and I thought maybe she ran into one of the other dogs and hurt it?  We went inside and I thought maybe I should ice it to help the swelling.  Something made me look a little closer though, and I noticed two perfect puncture marks, right on her nose.  Holy sh*t!  That’s a snake bite!

Hiking Trails

I immediately called the emergency vet (remember, it’s the day after Thanksgiving) and described what I saw and where we had been.  “And how long ago was this?” they ask.  I tell them it had to have been about 45 minutes ago and they respond with, “You need to get here, now.  You do not have time to waste.”  Holy sh*t again!  The vet’s office is probably at least 20 minutes away.  I carry Tag to the car, her face continuing to swell, get in the back with her, and give my boyfriend strict orders to speed like crazy and stop for nothing.  I was fully prepared to screech into the vet’s office with police officers in hot pursuit if necessary.  While we are driving I’m holding Tag and I can literally feel her slipping away.  She can’t hold her head up and her eyes are rolling in the back of her head.  As you can imagine, I am pretty close to hysterical at this point.

Black Lab

We arrive at the clinic (thankfully sans police officers) and I carry Tag, her face grossly swollen, through the doors, sobbing like crazy.  The vets immediately carry her to the back and start working on her.  A few minutes later, the doctor came in and said he needed to discuss our “options”.  Options?  What other option is there than to save her?!  He tells me it’s obviously a rattlesnake or, even more likely, a water moccasin bite and that she will need an anti-venom to guarantee she makes it.  “Ok, what are you waiting for?  Go!  Give it to her!”  I am flabbergasted that he is wasting time in here talking to me.  “Well, it’s about $2,000.”  At the time, I was a poor college student, but isn’t that why credit cards were invented?  “I don’t care!  Go give it to her!”  He tries to argue with me but I insist that if it’s the only guaranteed option, then he must do it.


Thankfully Tag made a full recovery with no side effects.  The moral of this story?  If you live in a wooded area, or an area near water, you are at risk!  Of course I don’t mean you should remain locked inside and never venture out into the great outdoors, but you do need to aware of your surroundings.  Snakes love to bask in the sun to raise their body temperature.  I suspect since it had been cool, but was super sunny that day, Tag simply stumbled across a basking snake.  If you take your dogs into an area that likely has snakes, check them frequently for bites.  The nose (you know, because they are always sticking it places!) is a very common place for them to be bit.  From personal experience, I can tell you that it will be noticeable.  You should also check their legs, as this is another common area for them to be bit.  You might also speak to your vet about available vaccines.  My vet offered a rattlesnake vaccine but cautioned that it is not a complete preventative, but simply lessens the severity of the symptoms and increases the amount of time you have to make it to a vet.  If you are an “at-risk” person, I highly recommend taking the time to at least speak with your vet and determine if this is something that might help protect your pup.  According the emergency vet, if we had been even 5 minutes later, Tag very likely would not have stood a chance.

17 thoughts on “Dogs and Snake Bites: A Cautionary Tale.

  1. This is so scary! I am so glad your girl made it. Does anyone know anything about aversion training for dogs who live in wooded, snaky areas?

    • As I was writing this, all I could think about were your girls. I actually meant to suggest aversion training in the post, and completely forgot. I’ll add it when I get home, but personally I don’t really know how to do it… just that it’s a great idea for families like yours!

  2. Oh my! I am so sorry you had to go through this. I am so glad that Tag made a full recovery! That must have been absolutely terrifying. I didn’t know they made a vaccine like that though. That is good to know in case I ever live in a high risk area. Thank you for sharing 🙂

    • Think about if you ever are even visiting an area with snakes. Apparently out-of-town visitors that aren’t used to thinking about things like snakes are the most commonly see by vets!

      • Another good point! Now that we have three dogs, we rarely travel as it is a lot for us, but I will definitely remember this in case we do. Thank you, Morgan! Have a great week 🙂

  3. So scary – snake bites are definitely not something that is on my radar. I’m not sure we have many up here in Erie, but I know we had a ton of copperheads back where I grew up.

    Thanks for sharing – and of course, we’re so glad Tag is okay!!

  4. So so scary! Believe it or not (though I’m sure at this point nothing surprises you) we headed to the emergency vet for Tonka two nights ago under similar circumstances. No snake bite, but some sort of severe GI issue (still no answers) that had him slipping away in my arms during the drive 😦 Not something I would wish on my worst enemy. He’s on the path to recovery now, for the record. So glad things worked out the way they did for you, as I know how easily it could have gone the other direction! Also, thank you for sharing. I had no idea snake bite vaccines existed! Really fascinating info.

  5. I am so glad that Tag got the medical attention they needed! Phew! That had to be the most terrifying experience ever. We don’t have those kind of things here, but I know that we would do anything, at any expense to save our dogs if needed. I hope you never have to feel that agony ever again.


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