Snake bites

Several animal species can sting or bite your pets, and not only fleas, ticks or mosquitoes. If you enjoy walking your dog out in the countryside you may find that your pet has gotten too close to something. This is why it is useful to know what kind of animals may cause these problems, and what their effects are.

In the case of snakes, there are only five venomous ones in Spain: three types of adders and two types of colubrids (although their bites are much less serious). Adders are active during the twilight hours and attack if they feel trapped. Their bite consists of two parallel incisions about 2 millimetres in length and 7 millimetres apart. Colubrids, on the contrary, produce a horseshoe-shaped line of puncture wounds with hardly any separation between them.

The danger of snake venom depends on how potent it is, on the amount inoculated and on the weight, condition and the area where the animal has been bitten. However, in general snake bites in Spain do not cause serious problems and are not usually deadly.

As to symptoms, companion animals have an advantage over humans: when a human being is bitten by a snake, fear and apprehension by themselves may cause agitation, hyperventilation, tachycardia, dryness of the mouth and perspiration, even if the snake is not venomous. Companion animals are not aware of the potential seriousness of a snake bite, so they only show symptoms in those cases where venom is really toxic or if they have an allergic reaction to it. Some of the symptoms are bruising around the area of the bite and severe swelling an hour later. Vomiting, abdominal pain, diarrhoea and thirst may also appear. Serious cases are not frequent, but may consist of neurological depression, bleeding, difficulty breathing and shock.

Prevention is difficult. Practically the only possibility is to try not to walk your animals in areas where these animals may be found.

When faced with a snake bite you should take your pet to a veterinary surgeon for the appropriate treatment. The most you should do is to disinfect the wound with an antiseptic. If you cannot reach the veterinary practice rapidly, you may apply a tourniquet that should be loosened for 30 seconds every 10 minutes until you reach the practice. Nowadays it is not recommended to make an incision, since most authors consider that it helps spread de venom around the bitten area and increases the possibility of infection and necrosis.

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