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About Snakebites in Horses

Seeing a venomous snake can be a rather rattling experience. When the sun comes out, snakes are more likely to come above ground and sun themselves. While we all enjoy a good tanning session, no one wants to come across a slithering surprise. Snakebites in horses are a somewhat low threat in the United States, but having a plan of action could save your horse’s life if the situation arises.

Smaller and younger horses and ponies are at higher risk for danger when a venomous snake bites them because their smaller bodies can be affected by the venom faster than bigger horses. If they are younger, they may not be as strong to fight off infection, and they might run more out of fear, making the venom be absorbed faster.

What Are Dry Snakebites?

Whether the snake is venomous or not, snakebites are scary and painful. “Dry Bites”, or snakebites where no venom is involved, cause minimal wounds. They are usually shallow, and the biggest risk is infection. A tetanus booster injection can help prevent infection from deeper bites. Your horse health professional will advise you depending on the wound.

Venomous Snakebites in Horses

When a venomous snake bites your horse, you need to act fast. Call your veterinarian or trusted horse health professional immediately. Snakes may bite from being stepped on (leg bites), or your horse may have gotten a little too curious and the snake bit its nose out of fear. 

After a rattlesnake or other venomous snake attacks, you may immediately notice some indicators: the rattling of the snake’s tail before it strikes, two pin-sized red holes at the site of the bite, swelling around the infected area, and/or soreness around the bite area.

The sooner your horse can receive professional medical help, the higher chance it has to survive and recover. Once you know (or think) your horse has been bitten and you call a professional, you should try to keep your horse as calm and still as possible.

What to Do Until the Veterinarian Arrives

After you confirm that medical help is on the way, halter your horse and keep them calm. Stay with the horse until help arrives. The less your horse moves, the less toxin the toxin will be absorbed into their blood. Avoid touching the bite area, and try to encourage their head to stay in a comfortable position looking down (this discourages the spread of the toxin).

You can also gently apply a cool, damp cloth to your horse if they feel overly warm. Just be careful not to hurt your horse by touching the infected area. Do not try sucking the venom out or other questionable rumors you have heard. Next, if you can comfortably and safely do so, try to identify the snake. Any information (snake type, bite location, tetanus booster history, etc) can help the veterinarian once they arrive. 

We hope that you and your loved ones never have to go through the pain and stress of any snakebite, but we hope that these tips will help you feel prepared so that you can act fast if needed. Contact us at BRD Vet Rx today for questions or horse health product information.

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