What to Do When a Viper Bites a Dog

Snakes and scorpions are said to get out on Saint George’s Day. It has been a while since then, so it’s no surprise that we can see a lizard or a snake when on a walk somewhere or in our gardens. They already left their underground shelters designed for surviving in winter due to the increasing temperatures. However, bumping into a viper doesn’t need to end well. What can you do when your dog is bitten by it?

Most often, you can see a viper somewhere on a sunny spot. Moreover, their breeding period is in full swing now and males are more active. They can move up to one kilometre a day when looking for a female. So it can easily happen that you or your furry friend will bump into the only wild poisonous snake in the Czech Republic when you are on a trip, on a long walk or even in your garden. You can see it both on sunny hillsides and meadows as well as in tall grass, in wetlands or close to streams of water or water holes. Bumping into it may result in biting, especially if the dog is too curious and friendly or, for example, too excited about finding a ball and doesn’t pay attention to its surroundings.

Before we get to the advice what to do when a dog gets bitten, I have one reminder to share. Vipers are critically endangered species and they are protected. So, if you bump into them, pass them and leave them alone. Don’t let your dog companion to irritate the reptile or hurt it. Keep in mind that vipers are very timid. They attack only when they feel in danger and have nowhere to escape. They try to save their venom which they mainly need for hunting prey. 

Your dog is not always so close to you when wandering outdoors, so you also need to how you can say it was bitten by a viper, if it happens out of sight. Vipers usually crawl away right after the attack, so you don’t have to see them at all. The first thing you’ll probably notice in most cases will be the dog’s startle accompanied by yelping and jumping aside after the bite. The bitten spot is painful, so it won’t probably be difficult to find it. Moreover, soft tissues start to respond quickly to the bite and swelling, reddening and sometimes also haemorrhage come. Some serious and life-threatening reactions such as vomiting, difficult breathing or choking, fainting, muscle weakness or spasms and circulatory collapse may appear in some dogs.

However, whether the viper’s bite is life-threatening for the dog depends on several factors. The dog’s size (the smaller it is, the worse), its age (it might me more difficult for puppies and older dogs) and medical condition play important role. The time when it happens is also crucial. Vipers have more venom in spring and its amount slowly reduces during summer. Therefore, the amount of venom for a bite will be much lower in autumn. The spot for a bite also makes difference, too. A bite on a neck, a head or a spot with a significant blood flow (which carries the venom into the whole body then) is particularly dangerous. A possible allergic reaction is also risky. On the other side, it’s not so risky when the bite is so-called dry as it happens without venom shortly after hunting – when the venom glands couldn’t be refilled (the statistics say it might be up to 27 % of bites in the Czech Republic). A large-scale statistical survey conducted in 2011 in the Great Britain says, that only about 5 % of 411 bitten dogs (recorded cases) died or had to be put down. 

It’s always necessary to contact a vet as soon as possible after the bite. So, it’s good to find some contact information for a nearby vet and save it to your phone before going on a trip or holiday. Try to move your dog to the clinic as quickly as possible. Your furry friend should, however, do as little physical activity as possible, as it would speed up the spread of the venom in its body. Therefore, carry your dog or at least make the journey as simple as possible. Don’t try to suck the venom or press it out, it’s almost impossible and you could waste some valuable time doing that. Take the dog’s collar down, especially if it’s a neck or a head bite, so it can’t strangle if swelling occurs. If it’s a leg bite, try to immobilize it.

Have your furry friends bumped into a viper? How did it end? I hope you will never need the advice here, but it’s better to be prepared. Enjoy summer and take care of yourself and your dog companions!

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