Pet Talk: Beware of Snakes

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By the Texas A&M University College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences

Spring and summer are a great time to get outdoors. However, warmer temperatures also mean that certain creatures, such as snakes, will be more active. According to Texas Parks & Wildlife, the vast majority of Texas snakes are harmless and non-venomous, but just in case, you should always be cautious.

Dr. J. Jill Heatley, associate professor at the Texas A&M College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences, said garden snakes, a non-venomous group, are some of the most common snakes in the Bryan College Station area. But be careful; venomous snakes also are prevalent.

“Common garden snakes in the area include the rough green snake, rough earth snake, the rat snake, and the diamondback water snake,” Heatley says. “There also are non-venomous snakes in the area that may mimic venomous snakes, such as the hognose snake. Common venomous snakes include the cottonmouth and copperhead.”

Though some parks may not require you to keep your pet on a leash, it may be a good idea to keep Fido controlled in case you do encounter a snake. In this situation, Heatley said to lead your pet away and avoid the snake by taking another path. Even if the snake doesn’t appear to be venomous, it is always better to be safe than sorry.

Though we can do our best to avoid snakes when they are visible, sometimes they can be hiding in places we least suspect, such as in brush in our backyard. To help prevent snakes from making your backyard their new home, Heatley recommended removing all brush and other possible hiding places.

“You can give snakes a warning before doing yard work,” Heatley says. “Get outside and rustle around before working the leaf pile to give snakes time to get out of the way.”

Unfortunately, snakebites can happen. If you or your pet are bitten by a snake, move away from the snake and call medical help right away. Heatley says venom from snakes can damage blood, nerves, and protein in the body, and can even lower blood sugar. In addition, swelling and pain at the bite-site can occur.

“If a pet is bitten by a snake, they should see a veterinarian, especially if the bite-site is swelling,” Heatley says. “If left untreated, the bite could develop into a bacterial infection because snake mouths can harbor a variety of bacteria.”

The best way to prevent any trouble with snakes this season is to treat each snake with respect and give it plenty of distance. Enjoy the great outdoors, but always explore with caution.