At the conclusion of “Summer Dangers – Snakes (Part One)” Cooper the black lab had been in the Veterinary Hospital for a few days after being bitten by a rattlesnake. He had received anti-venom serum, and Wendy, his temporary caregiver, along with the veterinary staff, was starting to see signs of improvement.
A Reminder of the Cast of Characters:
Cooper – four-year-old black Labrador Retriever
Morgan – Cooper’s Golden Retriever friend
Wendy – Morgan’s mom, and Cooper’s caretaker when his family is on vacation
Jill – Cooper’s mom who was on vacation in South America during the time of Cooper’s experience with the snake
A: Cooper was hospitalized for five days. By the time we returned from Peru, much of his swelling had gone down and his prognosis was very, very good. I recall that he was a bit sluggish when we picked him up, but otherwise quite normal and in good spirits.
Q: Now, two years later, how is Cooper? Any lasting effects? Any signs of trauma, like not wanting to hike in particular terrains anymore?
A:Cooper has no lasting effects from the snake bite. He has no fear of prairie-like terrains, no fear of vets and is always up for a walk in the wilderness. He also has no lasting physical effects from the bite.
We are forever indebted to Wendy for her rapid response to the rattlesnake bite and for doing exactly the right thing every step along the way to ensure Cooper’s health and well being. In addition, our VPI Pet Insurance covered fully two-thirds of the cost of the veterinary treatment and care
Q: If Cooper should happen upon a snake again in the future, would his immune system withstand another bite experience?
A: I am not sure of the answer to this, and I suppose the circumstances would contribute as well. We hope we won’t have to find out, and remain aware of the potential for snakes on Cooper’s behalf when are on hiking trails.
Wendy: The advice I would give is to be aware of where snakes may be prone – if walking in the area, go during cooler times of the day. Look out for particularly sunny spots where snakes like to bask in the sun. If you or your dog is bitten – act quickly – do not delay in getting to the nearest hospital.
Jill: Avoidance of areas with a preponderance of rattlesnakes is best during the summer months. It is also worthwhile knowing vets in the area that are likely to have the anti-venom on hand.
Comments from Cooper
Cooper was my first (and so far my only) snake bite client. As Wendy referenced, she called me very soon after getting Cooper to the hospital, and I attempted to communicate with Cooper a few times during his recovery. My notes from the first communication with Cooper, which was within a couple of hours after his run-in with the snake, included:
I remember asking Cooper what it felt like in the area (between his eyes) where the puncture wounds were found. I assumed much of his discomfort would be focused around his upper nose, eyes, and forehead area. It was surprising to me that I didn’t pick up on any information about that area – he didn’t talk about pain between his eyes, having a headache, or any significant sensations in that area. He continually brought my attention, however, to very unusual sensations in his mouth. It felt as though his lips and gums were turning inside out, and he couldn’t stop the drool. I was sure I was misunderstanding him, but my visit to Cooper a couple of days later confirmed what he shared – his lips and interior cheek tissue was extremely inflamed. Poor guy. As bad as he looked, I knew he felt worse.
My attempts to communicate in any detail with Cooper over the next couple of days were largely unsuccessful. Once he was more alert and his prognosis for survival was clear, I talked with him about the snake. He didn’t have any idea what happened to him. “I just got sick” he said. As I described the sounds (rattles) and smells associated with rattlesnakes, I never felt that he fully connected the snake with his illness.
My thanks to Wendy and Jill for agreeing to be interviewed. Chances are you will never need to know how to tend to your pet in this way, however, according to some statistics found online, animal snake bite cases are on the rise. If you live or hike in areas with known snake activity, take appropriate precautions for your animals, and know where the nearest emergency veterinary clinic is located just in case. If you feel your pets may be at higher risk for a possible run in with a poisonous snake, talk with your vet about snake bite inoculations. As with any vaccination, there are risks and some animals may develop allergic reactions to the vaccine so consider all the pros and cons.