Cats and Dogs
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Are cats immune to snakes?

Snake Bite Safety and Prevention for your Pets

If you frequently take your pet outside, be wary of places where your pet may encounter a snake bite. Snakes can catch people (and pets) by surprise. Snakes seek out warm places to go and can often be found in places like forests, swamps, grasslands, or in your yard.

Dog Safety And Snake Encounters

Most snakes are harmless to people and pets. If you see a snake cross your path, it’s best to leave it alone and let it pass. Nonvenomous snakes will likely continue on their own, never to be seen again.

Venomous snakes, on the other hand, can be dangerous. An encounter with them should be handled carefully. What you should do if you notice a venomous snake varies state to state, but possible action could include contacting your local animal control, police department, or fire station, or contacting a local private wildlife removal company. If you notice a venomous snake, do some research about how you can get help removing the snake safely.

To keep your property safe from snakes there are a few things you can do:

  • Check the foundation of the house for unsealed areas where pipes may be going in and out of the home.
  • Check for basement doors or windows that don’t seal properly.
  • Look for any openings in your home at ground level and seal them if possible.
  • Check your porch, steps, and the area where your deck connects to your home.
  • Remove piles of rocks, wood, or other debris.
  • Cut long grass and undergrowth.
  • Repair storage sheds with cracks or openings near the ground.

What should you do if your dog is bitten by a snake? Dogs are naturally curious creatures, and if they come across a snake their natural instinct will be to sniff around and investigate. If a snake feels threatened by the dog, it will likely bite. If your dog is bitten by a snake, here are a few important steps to follow:

  • Stay calm.
  • Try to identify if it’s a venomous or nonvenomous snake.
  • Inspect your dog. If the snake bite was venomous, you’ll see significant swelling in the area where the dog was bitten.
  • Determine whether emergency care is needed. If your dog is having difficulty breathing or has collapsed, get them to an emergency pet clinic right away.
  • Whether or not you seek emergency medical care, always contact your veterinarian. They will be able to talk you through the situation and tell you what to do next.

Symptoms of a Snake Bite On a Dog

Dogs may react to a snake bite right away, or it may take up to 24 hours for symptoms to appear. Common symptoms of a snake bite on a dog include:

  • Sudden weakness and possible collapse
  • Swollen area
  • Puncture wounds
  • Bleeding or bruising
  • Trembling, twitching, and shaking
  • Dilated pupils
  • Diarrhea
  • Vomiting
  • Bloody urine
  • Paralysis (when they can’t move their body)

Different dogs may have different reactions to a snake bite depending on where they bitten and what type of snake bit them. A veterinarian can help determine which treatment options can help.

Treatment for Snake Bites on Dogs

The veterinarian will begin by giving your dog a physical exam and determine if and where your pet was bitten. The type of treatment provided to your dog will vary depending on the circumstances.

Some of the most common treatments for snake bites on dogs include:

  • Clipping and cleaning bite wounds
  • Antibiotics if there’s a large amount of tissue injury
  • Intravenous (IV) fluids — to help them hydrate and recover
  • Special fluids (colloids) — to help with hypotension
  • Pain medications like opioids
  • Antivenom — to neutralize the snake venom in the dog’s body
  • Supplemental oxygen — to help if the dog is having trouble breathing on its own
  • Vaccine — some veterinarian clinics carry a snake bite vaccine for dogs to help protect your dog from future snake bites.
  • Steroids or anti-inflammatory drugs — only used in some cases

Can a dog survive a snake bite? About 80% of dogs can survive a snake bite if it’s treated right away. If left untreated, dogs are less likely to recover.

Show Sources

Guthrie Animal Hospital: “Snake Bite Treatment.”

Humane Society: “What To Do About Snakes.”

Vet West: “Snake Bite And Your Pet.”

DVM 360: “Snakebite in Animals: A Brief Refresher.”

Bite or be bitten: what is the difference between poison and venom?

Venom and poison can both be deadly, but they’re two distinct natural weapons.

The terms ‘venom’ and ‘poison’ are often used to mean the same thing: a toxic chemical produced naturally by an animal. However, the key difference between them lies in their delivery.

Dr Ronald Jenner, venom evolution expert at the Museum, explains the similarities and differences between these two fascinating toxic substances.

What’s the difference between venomous and poisonous?

A fundamental difference between venom and poison is how the toxins enter the body of the victim.

Ronald’s rule for telling the difference is straightforward: ‘If you bite it and you die it’s poison, but if it bites you and you die, that’s venom,’ he says.

The hallmark of venom is that it’s introduced via a wound. It can be injected through a number of means, including teeth, a sting, spines or claws.

‘Poison is different as there is no wound involved. It can be absorbed into the bloodstream through the skin, inhaled or ingested,’ he says.

A lionfish

Why venom needs a wound

The reason venom requires a wound for application, but poison doesn’t, boils down to the difference in chemical composition.

‘Poison has very small chemical molecules that can easily pass through your skin. The molecules of venom are too big to be absorbed, so they have to be injected,’ says Ronald.

Although possible, drinking venom is certainly not advisable. Even the smallest ulcer or cut anywhere in the mouth or throat would allow venom to be absorbed, resulting in the same effect as being injected.

‘I wouldn’t recommend anyone do it, but this is why it is technically possible to drink venom. It can’t be absorbed through tissue, and then stomach acid messes up the peptides and proteins, destroying the venom.’

Poison is usually used defensively or as a predator deterrent. In most cases it is absorbed through the mouth and digestive system.

Venom can be used defensively. But it has a broader range of roles depending on the animal using it. Some harness it as a tool for hunting, whereas others use it in parasitism or in competition with others of its own species.

Double threat

Some species are both venomous and poisonous.

A cobra spitting venom into the air

‘The spitting cobra bites its prey so it is paralysed when the cobra eats it. But it also spits. If that lands in your eye it can cause blindness and horrible pain. That venom is now by definition a poison, because it is absorbed rather than injected through a wound,’ explains Ronald.

The blue-ringed octopus makes its own venom like other squids and octopuses.

But the deadly nature of this cephalopod comes from tetrodotoxin (TTX), a poison acquired from bacteria that live in various places in the body, including venom glands.

‘You sometimes find drowned green sea turtles that have been grazing on seagrass and have accidently eaten one of these tiny octopuses, which paralyses them.’

TTX can act as either a poison if a predator eats the octopus, or as venom if injected through a bite.

‘The venom they naturally produce isn’t that powerful, but the tetrodotoxin from the bacteria blocks the transmission of nerve impulses to muscles, and the diaphragm paralyses, causing suffocation.’

A blue-ringed octopus on the seafloor

Painful doesn’t always mean fatal

Not all venoms and poisons are fatal to humans. An envenomation can just be painful, as the substances may be being used as a deterrent.

The bullet ant is regarded as having the most painful sting of all insects. The pain can last up to 24 hours, but a human victim is likely to walk away otherwise unharmed.

Bees and wasps can both provide an uncomfortable sting, but for the most part, neither is deadly — except in cases of anaphylactic shock, an extreme allergic reaction to the venom.

Similarly, some poisons will cause swelling, nausea or other unpleasant side effects if the toxins are absorbed.

Venom resistance

Some animals are so frequently at risk from venom and poison that they have developed a total resistance to them.

Meerkats prey mainly on insects but are also known to feast on lizards, snakes and spiders. Because of their varied diet, they tend to come up against some venomous bites and stings.

Meerkats are part of the mongoose family (Herpestidae), several members of which have evolved resistance to venom. This means they can freely hunt venomous prey with limited risk.

A golden poison frog

Almost all animals have receptors that transmit chemical messages around the body. Venom works by binding itself to these receptors, blocking vital impulse conduction pathways that allow the body to function normally, such as nerve-muscle communication.

Animals that have developed venom resistance have evolved mechanisms to stop the toxins from binding to the receptors. This results in an animal that can withstand venom with little or no side effect.

So far scientists fully understand venom resistance in only four mammals — mongooses, honey badgers, hedgehogs and pigs — as well as several snakes.

The golden poison frog is one of the most toxic animals on Earth, deadly to almost all animals except one. Their skin is covered in a potent poison that prevents nerves from transmitting impulses, rendering muscles inactive.

These frogs’ only predators are a single species of snake, Liophis epinephelus, which has developed a resistance to their powerful poison.

But with the enormous variety of animals on the planet, there is a whole world of venom and poisons left for experts to explore, from the toxin cocktails to the animals that might be resistant to them.

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