Snake Bites

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Snake Bites

Post by Sunny Admin on Sat Feb 20, 2010 4:22 pm

Doc- I have a concern when I trail ride- snakes. I'm always looking out for them. Sometimes I see them and can avoid them, but sometimes I ride right by and see them RIGHT THERE on the trail within inches of my horse's feet as we're walking by. I am ever-concerned about what to do if I'm miles from my trailer and he (or I, for that matter) get bitten. What is the protocol when you are miles from nowhere and get snake bitten?



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Re: Snake Bites

Post by Dr. Daniel Pike on Sat Feb 20, 2010 6:22 pm

Snakes can be a seemingly dangerous threat when out on the trail. The reality is that the actually risk of a snakebite is rare, but it does happen. Some veterinarians will carry anti-venom, or plasma containing an anti-venom, but most practioners deal with the secondary bacterial skin problems and necrosis or death of structures underneath the skin. So, treatment in the field should be based on the prevention of these secondary conditions.

If your horse is bitten on the head or neck, and swelling is seen immediately after the bite, this indicates your horse is having an anyphylactic reaction, and you should seek immediate veterinary attention, as this swelling could cause a narrowing of the upper airways and lead to asphyxiation, or lack of functional breathing. Typically, you are more likely to experience snakebites on the lower extremeties. If this does occue while on the trail, it is essential to get back the trailer or base camp as soon as possible. You should institute first aid care to decrease inflammation. If you have phenylbutazone, or banamine available this a good time to use an appropriate dose to insitute a defense against inflammation. Nex you should turn your attention to cleansing of the wound. Cleaning the skin at the site of the bite with Betadine or Chlorhexadine scrubb would be indicated. Clipping the hair around the bites may be in order. After cleaning, applying cold water or ice-wraps or icing the horses leg in a bucket of ice is usually a good idea. At this time, it is also a good idea to contact your veterinarian for prudent advice given the specific situation. Your veterinarian may have you wrap the leg, although sometimes we may want to leave the leg unwrapped, depending on the situation.

Further medical therapy may be necessary to institue a stronger anti-inflammatory response, and strong broad-spectrum anti-biotics may be necessary to treat/prevent debilitating secondary cellulitis. This may dependon the integrity of the horse's tissues and/or the toxicity of the venom. Basically, if a snake bite occurs, it is important to treat it as a serious wound and institute first aid care to provide early wound cleaning and an anti-inflammatory response. Rarely will snake bites cause an immediate debilitating condition, but they should certainly not be taken lightly, and the secondary effects can be career-ending. Good luck and be safe!!

Hope this helps,

Daniel R Pike, DVM
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