Hunting Dog Snakebite Field Treatment Guide: 3 Steps

german shorthair puppy in bed of truck

Are you concerned about what to do if your hunting dog gets a snakebite in the field? We interviewed a veterinarian degreed from NCSU College of Veterinary Medicine for top advice on how to react. Check out these three steps, so you are prepared.

1. Identify the Snake

First off, we realize that you may never see the snake. IF you can safely see it, do so. It will help the veterinarian treat your dog. We do have rattlesnakes here. Don’t miss the links below to identify venomous snakes in the Carolinas.

Snakebites are common for bird dogs and flushing dogs. If they are working, you probably won’t see the snake. If you hear a tussle, get the dog away from the snake. Often the first strike can be a warning. Check for marks on the dog, often on legs and the face. Swelling will occur very rapidly after the bite.

2. Get Your Hunting Dog to the Truck

The veterinarian we interviewed mainly saw copperhead bites as snakebites in North Carolina. These are very painful bites and can get infected. The best option is get the dog to the truck and to the vet as soon as possible.

Make sure not to give aspirin for pain control. Aspirin interferes with coagulation and can affect the veterinarian’s treatment, delaying the use of stronger painkillers.

Benadryl is not a treatment for snakebites. It can help with allergic reactions and is good to keep on hand in the truck or your vest, for you or the dog. In cases of snakebites that cause the airway to close, a direct strike on tongue, face, or throat has occurred. Unless the dog is having an allergic reaction, Benadryl will not prevent the airway closing. This is usually due to swelling from the snakebite.

3. Get to the Vet

Get your dog to the vet immediately to treat appropriately. Even if the bite looks minor, get to the vet. Complications from copperhead bites are tissue destruction and secondary infection. Typical treatment will be pain medications and antibiotics for infection. You’ll need to keep an eye on swelling, as it can be severe.

Want to learn about how to prevent hunting dog snakebites?

Check out these ideas:

  • Rattlesnake Vaccine: If you live in an area with a high population of rattlesnakes, talk to your vet about this vaccination. There is discrepancy on its effectiveness.
  • Snake Avoidance Training: This is more common in western and southern states, but seems like the best idea. Trainers use a live rattlesnake and an electronic collar for stimulation if the dog advances towards the snake.
  • Be able to identify venomous snakes in your area. Here are links to venomous snakes in the Carolinas:
    North Carolina venomous snakes
    South Carolina venomous snakes