Dealing with a Snakebite

If you live and ride in an area with poisonous snakes, it is vital to know how to handle a potentially deadly snakebite.? Here?s what to do if your horse gets bitten.

  • Call your vet.? This is an emergency situation that requires immediate attention.? Most bites occur on the horse?s muzzle, and the resulting swelling can cause them to have breathing and swallowing difficulties.? If left too long, the venom can also cause more severe symptoms such as fainting and irregular heartbeats, and bring on side effects such as laminitis.
  • Avoid moving your horse as much as possible.? Keep him quiet in his stall until the vet arrives.? The more he moves, the more toxins he?ll absorb into his bloodstream.
  • If you can do so safely, identify the snake that bit your horse.? If you can?t identify it, remember what it looks like.? This will help your vet know what to expect from the venom.
  • Don?t try to treat the wound yourself.? Cutting the wound open and attempting to get the poison out rarely works and will risk further infection to your horse.? Applying heat or ice to the wound may cause tissue damage.
  • Be prepared to tell your vet when your horse last had his tetanus shot.

Many horses do not receive enough venom in the bite to actually be fatal, although if left untreated, they may be at risk of secondary infections and conditions.? When there is a high amount of toxin administered, only about 25% of cases are fatal.? Your veterinarian will perform a blood test to determine whether your horse requires anti-venom, and whether his body will accept it without a negative reaction.? He will then administer it intravenously and also inject it around the wound site.? This tissue will slough away, leaving an open wound that will require care for the next several weeks.?

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