Snake Bit


If you follow us on Facebook and Twitter, then you probably already know that what I thought was likely an injured ligament, turned out to be (most likely) a snake bite. I’d like to relate a little bit of what happened because this incident will probably change the way I evaluate injuries to my dogs.

You will know from my last post, that I returned home Friday to find that all my dogs had food poisoning. After spending most of the afternoon and evening cleaning up and ministering to the needs of the dogs I got ready to go pick Jackie up from work.

Right before I left, Tosha came up to me with that look in her eye that meant “I gotta go NOW!” Even with all her urgency, it still took Tosha a good 5 minutes to figure out where to exfoliate the yard. It took her almost as long to do her business as it did to find the sweet spot.

When she finally finished, she leapt up, (for Tosha that’s a six inch vertical) and dashed around the corner of the house to bark at whatever it is that she barks at. I called Tosha inside because I was already running late. I decided to crate her just in case nature decided on being an ass, and I went to pick up Jackie.

When we got home we released the hounds and immediately noticed that Tosha was limping. Something I definitely did not notice before I left. Jackie and I took a look at her right hind leg and noticed some swelling in her right hind hock, but didn’t see much of anything else.

I immediately thought of her straining to go and the little hop she did as she ended her previous bathroom session and pole vaulted to the conclusion that she had injured a ligament. She didn’t seem to have any other symptoms, and considering the food poisoning et al., she was in good spirits. So we bundled everyone off to bed and would check things in the morning.

Saturday morning the swelling in the hock seemed to have gone down a bit, even though Tosha was still a bit lame. She was quiet most of the day as were all the dogs, recuperating from their run in with the Chicken Gotchatore.

As evening progressed, I noticed Tosha wasn’t moving around as much as the other dogs that were already busy protesting the fasting period I’d imposed because of the mildewed meal.

I waited until Jackie got home before undertaking a thorough examination to help me overcome Tosha’s likely protestations. It was then we discovered the swelling further up her leg and the heat emanating from it. Knowing Tuesday would likely be the soonest we could get to our vet. We headed out a bit before midnight on our way to the emergency vet.

An Australian Shepherd, Tosha has very thick, dense fur. But once the vet shaved the area in question we knew she had suffered either a snake or spider bite. After pulling a CBC and getting all normal range results, the vet sent us home with some antibiotics and Rimadyl for the pain, fever, and swelling.

Feeling better now!

I am happy to report that Tosha is doing well and seems in much better spirits since then. The limp is almost non-noticeable and the swelling and heat have reduced substantially from what they were; all this without having to employ the cone of shame, much to Tosha’s delight. Also, there is no evidence of necrotic tissue yet, a good thing for sure.

What has bothered me as a result of this whole ordeal is, what could or should I have done different? How could I have better handled this?

In my opinion, I think I made the mistake of assuming her injury was a strained ligament. I should have done a more thorough check of the area instead of just chalking it up to circumstantial evidence. Had I used a simple pair of clipper early on to shave the area to get a better look, maybe I would have found out sooner that she had been bitten?

We were lucky that Tosha did not receive a more serious bite. They say that hind sight is 20/20 but it can be 20/100 if we take the time to learn from our mistakes.

I am curious to know what you would have done in my situation. What else should we have done to better evaluate Tosha’s injury? Help me and others learn from my mistake.


Kevin, Jackie. Gavin, Elbee, Annie, and the imminently better, Tosha

7 thoughts on “Snake Bit”

  1. You made an honest mistake, Kevin, so don’t beat yourself up over it. You were faced with a situation in which what you were thinking made sense at the time. You did the right thing getting her to the vet when you realized the problem wasn’t improving. If you hadn’t done that, I think that would have been a much worse mistake.

    Could you have done anything differently that would have made a difference? Maybe. Maybe not. It’s possible that you might have seen the wounds sooner had you looked closer. It’s also possible that the wounds would not have been so easily spotted early on.

    The important thing is that Tosha is improving and feeling better 🙂

    • Thanks, Lorie.

      Not really beating myself up as much as trying to learn from mistakes. People handle situations differently. Seeing how other people might have handled what happened to us can help everyone be better prepared.

      With Tosha and Gavin’s long, dense fur, I will do a bit more thorough examination from now on instead of relying on my sense of what may be wrong. I have never dealt with a snakebite before even though I now live in prime snake habitat, but it will be something I consider from now on. 🙂

  2. Easy to overlook hidden problems… Done it myself, but I suppose in the same situation now, I am inclined to do a fingers through the fur/fingertip search, flex limbs, press firmly, etc… Only coz I have a bunch of nutters who charge off first, limp home feeling sorry for themselves later!!
    This would’ve attracted attention to the heat & if the dog isn’t too stoic, the tender area…
    Hindsight’s great, aint it! 🙂 x

  3. I agree with Dawn – I likely would have flexed the joints and gently poked around a bit to see if I could identify the source of the pain. But, as Lorie mentioned, you might not have been able to find it right away. The important thing is that you kept an eye on things and got the help you needed.

  4. I agree with the above comments…with Tosha’s thick fur, you may not have see the bite on a more thorough examination. Having said that, as a pet first aid, CPR & care instructor in Los Angeles, we advise doing a snout-to-tail assessment on all your pets on a weekly basis (or even more often). We do this in order to establish a baseline of the animal’s health…that which can be measured, can be improved. We encourage pet owners to conduct the snout-to-tail assessment with deliberate intention and to make it a bonding experience. Perhaps had Tosha been a little more familiar with being poked and prodded (in a loving manner, of course) on a more consistent basis, you would have felt more comfortable with examining her before Jackie came home…allowing you to discover the bite sooner and perhaps get to a vet during normal office hours. Lord knows, those midnight runs to emergency really sock your pocketbook! I have to agree with the other commenters…the most important thing is you kept an eye on things, noted her lack of improvement and got her to the vet when you realized she was bitten.

    • Thanks for you comments Jillian. I agree that a snout to tail examination on a weekly basis is a good idea for both health and bonding reasons. In fact I do something similar to this will all my dogs as they usually get a rub down on a consistent basis where I am alert for bumps and lumps etc. However, when a dog is injured, they sometimes aren’t as cooperative as they might normally be.

      Unfortunately the bite took place on a Holiday weekend and even if I had discovered it the instant it happened, I still would have had to go the emergency clinic route; which, as you pointed out, is not easy on the pocketbook.

      I would love to have you do an article on how we should give the snout to tail assessment if you like! Would be a good thing to share with my readers.

  5. I think I am always first to assume that my dog has “pulled something” because she has done it in the past, and I probably wouldn’t be thinking that she may have been bit by something (of course, now because of your two posts, I would consider that!). Cali is a golden/aussie mix, so she has the same thick fur – it would be hard to spot a bite.

    I do the same thing with Cali – morning “massage” sessions so I can stay on top of her many lumps and bumps (she’s 12!!). I think you did what I would have done – thanks for sharing!!

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