Preventing Snakebites

Snakebites are not limited to humans, nor is it limited to any specific region of the world. Taking precautions to minimize the occurrence is first and foremost, but knowing what signs to recognize can keep your horse from developing serious or fatal health concerns from snakebite.

Possible Signs of Snakebite

Do you notice that your horse's muzzle may be suddenly ill-fitting or very tight? Thin blood may be running from an area of the face. Upon closer inspection you notice two small holes about an inch apart. You may also notice a bluish discoloration to your horse's face. This may be an emergency if you notice any or all of these and you should call your equine veterinarian immediately. Early intervention by a veterinarian can minimize the serious effects in many cases.

What to Do While You Wait

Depending on your equine veterinarian, you may be asked to bring the horse to them, but most likely your veterinarian will be coming to you to treat potential snakebite. In an effort to keep your horse calm, try to limit his or her overall movement. Reducing your horse's movement can keep venom from reaching the bloodstream as quickly as it would with increased movement.

Your veterinarian will administer anti-venom treatment that can reduce the systemic effects such as fainting or suffocation. More serious issues that can be avoided with immediate veterinary intervention are laminitis or heart arrhythmia. Experts agree that immediate intervention will reduce these issues.

Avoid cutting the wound in an attempt to remove the snake venom. This may only further damage localized tissue, tendons and ligaments as well as stress the horse causing absorption of snake venom into the bloodstream. Aggravating the wound could also invite bacteria and tetanus.

Preventative Precautions

In the United States, venomous snakes include pit vipers, including rattlesnakes, water moccasins and copperheads. Everyone working on your farm should be able to identify all of these snakes by site. A snake sighting should be reported immediately so that appropriate action may be exercised. Remember, as it heats up, snakes tend to infest these areas. You can further minimize your horse's exposure to snakebite by alternating grazing areas during the hotter season, being sure to reduce any excess waste or hay where snakes can easily hide or nest and performing regular checks to protect you and your horse.

Source:

Ahmed, Syed Moied; Ahmed, Mohib; Nadeem, Abu; Mahajan, Jyotsna, Choudhary, Adarash; and Pal, Jyotishka. “Emergency treatment of a Snakebite: Pearls from Literature.” Journal of Emergencies, Trauma, and Shock, December 2008.

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  • "Kath, thank you so much for being Greyson's vet, your gentle hand, compassion and great skill made all the difference for my buddy."
    --Deirdre Dekking, Portland
  • "Dr. Mertens is a very friendly, knowledgeable equine veterinarian (and a friend to the rest of the farmyard, including the chickens!). Always up to date on the latest in equine health, and even though Mertens Mammals is a small clinic giving you the personable experience, Dr. Mertens also has equipment for more advanced diagnostics and procedures!"
    —Ari Gordon, Boring
  • "I have been a client of Mertens Mammals for 10 years. Kath (Dr. Mertens) is the most kind, thoughtful and caring Vet I have ever had for my animals. I have 3 horses: my Appy "Breeze" who turns 30 this year, my Paint " Rocket " 14 and my other Paint "Fergie " 3 are all under Kath's care. I also had a dog "Cowboy" who I lost to cancer last July. Kath took care of him also. Dr.Mertens came out on Mother's Day about 7 years ago to treat Breeze for a cut above her right eye. After a few weeks of recovery we were happy to not have a huge scar. Kath also spent 2 hours with me 3 years ago when Rocket had a small case of colic. (Thank God). I couldn't ask for a better person to take care of my girls. Kath always calls to check in on the patients. When people ask who I use for my veterinary needs for my horses, I'm always proud to refer them to Mertens Mammals. I am so thankful for an honest and caring Vet. Thank you, Kath!"
    --Michelle Schatz, Portland
  • "I got looking at Sassy’s records and it will be 6 years in July when you first met Sassy—I feel so fortunate that you became her vet and have looked after her all these years. You are such a wonderful and caring doc and I know you always have Sassy’s best interests at heart. I also know I can always rely on you to help me or Sassy when needed. Thanks for all you do for both of us—will keep you posted on Sassy.”"
    —Judy Becker, Eagle Creek
  • "My horse, Pester, would have lost her eye had it not been for the great care and dedication by Mertens Mammals. They are truly there for you any time you need them. I could go on and on. Kath Mertens has been so good to us!"
    --Troy and Wendy Mohr, Estacada
  • "She has always been there for us. She is forever in my thoughts as the best vet. She saved our hours old filly from certain death. She knew exactly what to do in an instant after just seconds in seeing her. We are forever in your debt...thank you!"
    Barbara T.
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    Suzi C.