spring and summer days in Texas make perfect
opportunities to leash up your dog and go for a walk.
They sometimes also make perfect opportunities to
encounter venomous snakes.
Lewis and his dog Leo learned that the hard way. Lewis
was walking with his 10-month-old Hungarian Vizsla down
a nature trail in Northwest Austin and spotted a large
rattlesnake sun bathing in the walkway. Leo began to
pull toward the snake, and what happened next is a dog
ownerís worst nightmare: Leo got bit.
snapped his leash and took off running," Lewis
said. "I ran after him, scooped him up and he just
went limp in my arms."
make matters worse, Lewis was involved in a car accident
the week before and was without a vehicle. He had no
choice but to make his way toward his veterinarianís
office on foot. Luckily, a good Samaritan named Harris
Johnson stopped and drove Lewis and his dog to the vetís
not only offered transportation, but also life-saving
(Harris Johnson) was very composed. I was the one
panicking," Lewis said. "He told me to keep
petting my dog so he would stay relaxed. He was very
instrumental in saving Leoís life."
attributes his knowledge to his grandmother, who trained
dogs for a living.
(grandmother) didnít give lectures or anything, she
just showed you what to do," Johnson said.
"And one of the things you do when an animal is
bitten by a snake is try to keep them calm."
and Leo made it to the emergency room before the snake
venom was able to do irreversible damage and Leo
survived the bite.
Texas is home to venomous serpents such as the
copperhead, cottonmouth (also known as the water
moccasin) and rattlesnake. Coral snakes have also been
found in Central Texas, and although they arenít as
aggressive as other venomous snakes, they are just as
toxic. Coral snakes are easily confused with the king
snake because of similar body patterns and colors.
good way to differentiate between the two is to remember
the old saying, ĎRed and yellow can kill a fellow; red
and black, friend of Jack,í" said Scott Johnson,
a veterinarian at the Emergency Animal Hospital of
venom breaks down the viscosity of tissue, affects
coagulation, may cause necrosis of the tissue and can
interfere with an animalís pressure regulations and
cardiac system, Johnson said.
venomís purpose is to predigest the tissue for the
snake," he said.
most common signs that an animal has been attacked by a
venomous snake are small, bloody puncture wounds and
severe pain. Seek medical attention right away.
worst thing you can do if your dog gets bit is
wait," said Ashlie Abbott, veterinarian and medical
director at VCA Tanglewood Animal Hospital.
vet clinics offer treatment such as pain medication,
antihistamines, IV fluids and antibiotics. If the damage
is severe and the animal needs blood or plasma, patients
are referred to the emergency room or specialty vet
clinic, Abbott said.
you are not close to medical care, Abbott said to call
your veterinary office, explain the situation and follow
their advice as well as give your animal a dose of
is always your friend because it is an antihistamine
that will reduce swelling and delay the reaction,"
which build antibodies against the venom, can reduce the
harmful effects of snake bite, but veterinary care
should still be sought, Scott Johnson said. Check with
your vetís office about the availability of vaccine
and whether itís recommended for your dog.
aversion training is another way to try to protect dogs
from snake bites. During training sessions at the Canine
Center for Training and Behavior in Oak Hill, Tex.,
life-like rubber snakes are used along with the shed
skins of rattlesnakes and copperhead snakes. Once the
dogs notice the fake snakes, they are taught to be
fearful of ó and avoid ó the snakes without using
any pain or compulsion. Sessions last about 20 minutes,
and Canine Center owner and trainer Jane Del Re said it
is a good idea to have sessions in a few different
need several applications before they go ĎAha! I see a
snake and I should avoid it,í" she said.
Johnson also suggests keeping dogs on a leash if youíre
in an area that might be home to snakes and paying
attention to the environment.
can be out in places you wouldnít expect them to
be," he said, "and rattlesnakes donít
necessarily always rattle."
suggests keeping dogs away from tall grass and
usually are in the underbrush," she said.
"When your dog gets in there, there is a good
chance it will get bit. You generally also want to keep
your dog away from new housing development areas that
have been recently cleared out."
is exactly what Lewis and Leo are going to do from now
am not going on any more trails. Iím just not,"
he said. "I donít want to go through this scare
again. It was emotionally and financially too hard. We
are just going to have to regroup and find other avenues