WARNING - Very Long post. Also if you love snakes and don't believe in killing them then you might not want to read.
Hello Everyone I'm new here and wanted to share some of my experience on Copperhead snake bites and dogs.
First of all let me state that I am NOT a expert and any advice including mine should never be taken over a professional veterinarian. This post is just from my personal experience and what effects one dog may not effect another one and vice versa.
I live out at a private lake in kinda S. Mid E. Texas between Corsicana and Waco and these last two years I have seen more copperheads than in the fifteen + years that I have lived here. It all started last year. I don't know if people are clearing the woods on the other side or if it's because of the bad drought conditions or what but I keep getting snakes in my yard. Last year I had about 6 of them and this year I have already killed 12
I have to kill the snakes because my dogs won't leave them alone once they're spotted. I have a black Lab who is excellent at spotting them. She can see them from a mile away, Lol. Anytime she's barking at the ground then I KNOW there is a snake.
I also have a small mixed dog at around 18 lbs named Gizmo and a Jack Russell Terrier who's around 23 lbs named Mr. Willis. Both dogs have been bitten by these snakes.
The Terrier - Mr Willis was the first to be bitten. I heard the dogs outside making a lot of noise so me and my brother ran out and as soon as we went out the door Mr Willis turned around and looked at us and was bitten. He got bit in the shoulder blade and whined and cried alot. This was one of the worse ones. He was highly agitated and his shoulder swelled up alot. He acted like he was drunk and wouldn't settle down. We kept him calm, put a benadryl down his throat and petted him. The second bite was Gizmo. Again, we heard dogs barking and went out, they had a snake cornered at a tree - seems like they always corner them at this same tree and while I was running over there Gizmo jumped back and yelped. After I killed the snake I inspected him and found the fang marks on his paw. His paw swelled up pretty big. He whined a bit at first but seemed okay. He limped for a while but the swelling started going down in a couple of hours and by the end of the night he was walking fine again. The third and worse looking bite was Mr. Willis again. I use some garden type clippers that cut tree limbs to catch the snakes. The clippers have extendable handles so I can get some good distance and I just go over and grab the snake with it. It won't kill the snake but they get pinched in the blades and can't get loose then I can just lay them on the ground with the caught snake and chop their heads off with my shovel. So we heard them barking and went out and there was a good sized snake headed right for my Black Lab who's tied up. She's the one who always spots them so I ran over and I kept trying to grab it but it was moving so fast I couldn't get it. My brother was holding onto the dogs so couldn't help me light up the area and I finally caught it right before it reached my lab but I didn't get it close to the head. I caught it closer to the tail and I was lifting it up when Mr. Willis got away from my brother. He ran over and I didn't see him and then he jumped at the snake which struck out hitting him in the face. It caught him under the chin.
I was so scared and thought Mr. Willis was going to die. His nose swelled up and was bigger than his head. He looked awful. He wasn't as agitated as he was the first time he got bit but kept shaking his head. I made my brother hold onto him while I put on gloves because of the bites to his chin which had a bit of blood and I didn't want to get any type of venom on me and then put a benadryl in him. A few hours later his swelling started to go down and by the morning he looked mostly normal.
I know it's just supposedly a myth that copperheads travel in pairs but let me tell you'll that every single snake I have caught, within the next 30 minutes and sometimes sooner I have caught another one. I have never killed one snake without it's "partner" showing up and I 100% believe that they DO travel in pairs. The snakes seem to be coming from the woods but always end up over by my Lab who spots them very well. 4 of the snakes were spotted by me and my brother because they were maybe 3 feet from my front porch where we sit.
Copperhead bites are rarely fatal to dogs. I have read alot of forums and there's alot of people who will tell you that they're always fatal. That if a dog gets bit it's dead. This is simply NOT true. I'm not saying that they can't be fatal but all of my experience and research shows them not to be. Out of the Pit Vipers here in Tx. the copperhead is the least venomous. They give birth to live young ones - they do not lay eggs and can have up to 20 although they only normally have 2 to 6. They are lay and wait predators and will find a mouse trail or hole and just sit there and wait on it. They will also just sit in a yard very still and wait for a person to pass them by. They do not like people and will try to run or sit still to escape notice. Most human bites are from people trying to handle them or kill them. The best thing to do is let them go if you can.
Only around 3% of dogs die from a copperhead bite whereas 10% of dogs given an anti-venom could die from an allergic reaction. Probably most dog deaths to copperheads are from a allergic reaction to the venom. Now I'm not saying it's safe for them to be bitten but they do have a better chance of surviving it than people seem to think. I don't know if this applies to small inside breeds such as chiwawas (I don't think I spelled that right, Lol.)
How to treat a dogs snake bite: First of all, give them a Benadryl. 10mg for small dogs, two of them for big dogs. Clean the bite wound to help prevent infection. Do not use any type of lotion or anything like that on it. Just use soap and water. Give antibiotics to help relieve the swelling. Keep them calm and reassure them. DO NOT try to put any kind of tournaquet on them (Don't think I spelled that right either). Do not cut the wound or try to suck out the poison. Do not apply heat or ice to the wound.
Take your animal to a vet as soon as possible if you can, just remain calm and don't drive like a maniac. Chances are good that your dog is going to be fine. I hope this may help some. I had to look through so much information, some of it was great others were downright misleading. I know snakes are a part of the ecosystem and all that and I do feel bad for killing them but when you have this many snakes in your yard and your babies won't leave them alone then you have no other choice. Plus I don't like snakes, especially copperheads, their heads are smaller than their bodies and they just look freaky like weird aliens. I don't like spiders much either - they remind me of those little aliens in the movie aliens that stick to your face and put the aliens inside of you. Like they're walking nuckles - /shivers.
Take care everyone. Please always take your vets advice first.