Some dogs are so domesticated that they don’t even notice nature’s animals running around. Others love to bark at them. Still others will hunt them, and even eat them.
It’s part of their natural instinct, and nothing to shame your dog for. They are simply doing what comes natural to them. However, when they eat a snake, there are some health concerns you should be aware of.
What happens if my dog eats a snake?
Your pooch caught a snake in your yard and began chowing down. You are dismayed and perhaps disgusted. You are also wondering if you should be concerned.
The good news is that most dogs are fine after eating snakes. However, there are some potential health issues that could arise.
Poisonous and venomous are often used interchangeably, but they are actually very different.
To put it in simple terms, when something is venomous, you are harmed when it bites you. When a creature is poisonous, you get hurt when you bite it.
Most snakes are venomous or non-venomous. However, there are a few snakes who are poisonous. One of these your dog isn’t likely to run across. The Japanese Grass Snake makes its home in Asia.
They eat poisonous toads, and collect the toxins in their salivatory glands. When a dog, or a person, ingests the snake, they also ingest the poison, which will make them ill.
The other poisonous snake is likely in your backyard right now. Yes, it’s the harmless, or so we were always told, garter snake. It turns out this diminutive reptile is both poisonous and venomous, although its venom isn’t strong enough to cause any real harm to humans.
Like it’s Asian counterpart, the garter snake gets its toxins from its prey. The most common source of toxins for garter snakes is newts. The snake is immune to the poison newts contain. It stores the poison in its liver, where it can remain for up to 2 weeks. They may also derive toxins from toads.
Garter snakes will eat anything they can catch and fit into their mouth. This includes small fish, insects, newts and lizards, and eggs.
If your pooch eats a garter snake, it’s possible that they will not have any negative consequences. However, it’s also possible that the poison can make them sick. It really depends on the garter snakes diet before it was eaten, and the size of your dog.
Snakes can carry salmonella on their skin. The good news is, salmonella is rarely a problem for dogs. Their stomach acid is stronger than ours, which is why they can eat so many things we can’t.
If your dog does develop sickness from salmonella, they can experience diarrhea, fever, lethargy, and lack of appetite, and vomiting.
Spirometra is a parasite that can be contracted from reptiles, amphibians, and birds. Symptoms include diarrhea, weight loss, and vomiting. It is treatable, and it’s rarely serious with proper treatment. However, it can cause death in rare cases.
Anytime your dog eats something unusual, there’s a risk of stomach upset. Your dog’s digestive system is sensitive to dietary changes. Dogs can adapt to a wide range of foods, but a sudden change can upset the delicate balance. This can cause vomiting, diarrhea, and discomfort.
The garter snake can also cause stomach upset, even if it’s not poisonous. They contain a foul smelling substance that they release to deter predators, similar to a skunk. This isn’t toxic to your dog, but it can cause digestive problems.
What happens if my dog eats a snake’s head?
Eating a snake’s head shouldn’t cause your pooch any problems. The head itself doesn’t typically carry bacteria or parasites, although you should still keep an eye out for symptoms after the encounter.
What if It’s a Venomous Snake?
Most people are concerned about a dog eating a snake’s head because the snake was venomous. A rattlesnake, cottonmouth, or copperhead can be fatal to your dog if they are bitten.
However, most snakes are venomous, not poisonous. This means that if your dog gets bitten, they will become very sick and may even die. However, if they eat a venomous snake, even the head of the snake, they will not get sick from the venom.
This is because venom must be injected into the bloodstream to cause harm. The snake’s fangs act like needles, injecting the venom into the tissues or bloodstream.
When your dog eats the venom in the form of a snake head, the stomach acid breaks down the venom. It’s rendered harmless.
This is the case as long as your dog doesn’t have a wound in their mouth or esophagus. If there’s a break in the skin, the venom can enter into the system.
This is why first aid experts no longer recommend a person sucking the venom out of a snake bite. You may have a mouth wound you are unaware of, and accidentally introduce venom into your system.
What happens if my dog eats snake skin?
Probably nothing at all. Snake skin is made of keratin. Keratin is essential for dogs, humans, and reptiles. It’s unclear if there’s any benefit to ingesting keratin, but it hasn’t been shown to cause any harm.
Cow hoofs, which are made of keratin, are sometimes given to dogs as a treat. However, this isn’t recommended because it can break a dog’s teeth. Shed snake skin is highly unlikely to contain parasites or harmful bacteria.
What to do if my dog eats a snake?
You found your dog with a portion of snake hanging out of their mouths. They’ve clearly eaten most of it. What do you do? Should you rush them to the vet, or simply have a laugh?
Monitoring Your Pooch
The most important thing to do is monitor your pooch. If they seem fine, there’s likely nothing to worry about. If they have symptoms of stomach upset, including vomiting or diarrhea, you’ll need to watch them closely. If it becomes severe, or continues for more than a few days, contact your vet.
You’ll need to keep an eye out for the next few weeks. If they develop stomach upset more than 24 hours after eating the snake, they may have contracted a parasite. Dogs can take can take up to 2 weeks to begin showing symptoms if they contract a parasite.
Look for Signs of a Snakebite
If your dog has encountered a poisonous snake, you’ll need to watch for signs of a snake bite. Examining them for signs of a bite is a great start. However, it’s possible for a bite to be hard to detect, particularly if your pooch has long fur.
One sign of a snake bite is weakness or collapse. Your dog may recover very quickly, walking normally again afterwards. Diarrhea and vomiting are common. They may become unsteady or weak, and eventually paralysis can occur. Other signs include drooling or foaming at the mouth, bloody urine, and dilated pupils.
If your dog displays signs of a snake bite, they will need immediate veterinary attention. 80% of dogs survive a venomous snake bite with prompt treatment.