N.C. veterinarians warn about growing number of dogs suffering from snake bites

North Carolina
Dog With Frisbee

Now is the time to watch out for copperheads. Some local veterinarians say they’re seeing multiple dogs a day come in with snake bites.

Maverick, the pointer, loves playing catch, but not long ago he was in excruciating pain. His owner, Richard Diggs, says a copperhead bit the dog when he was out in his backyard in Raleigh. “He actually leaned down and then he jumped like 10 feet up in the air it seemed,” recalled Diggs, adding, “He was in pain severely. Right after about 10 minutes, it started to swell so we were really really concerned.” 

Maverick got to the vet right away and was treated with antibiotics and pain medicine.

“It’s probably one of the most painful things we see really acutely in dogs and cats,” said Dr. Laura Russell, the medical director of Quail Corners Animal Hospital who said she’s recently seen lots of dogs with snake bites.

“We’ve probably here seen one to two a day; it can be more on weekends,” she said. “Around here, it’s almost always a copperhead.” 

If your dog is bitten she says it’s best to get to a vet immediately. In healthy dogs, she says a copperhead bite generally isn’t deadly, but some dogs will need antivenin. 

“Every so often there is a dog that is very young or very old or they will get a bite in a really bad spot,” she said, noting that bites over the eye on the tongue or multiple bites on the chest can be problematic. “That’s a lot of venom being released close to the heart and lungs. Those tend to be the dogs that develop bleeding disorders or will collapse. Their blood pressure will go down. It certainly has the potential for getting bad,  but most dogs are going to be okay with it, they’re just going to have a really uncomfortable time,” she explained.

Diggs is just glad to see Maverick back to his favorite game. “We’re lucky that he has his health back for sure,” he said. 

Even if you don’t see a snake bite your dog, Dr. Russell says if the dog seems to be in pain or has any severe swelling it could be a copperhead bite. She says you should try to keep your dog as calm as possible and get to a vet right away.


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