Snakebit: Leave the wound to the vet — and snake at home

‘Dead snakes can still bite’

Rappahannock News - - FRONT PAGE - By John Mc­caslin Rap­pa­han­nock News staff

This news­pa­per re­ported last week that re­cent wet weather was driv­ing snakes out of their dens and other rest­ing ar­eas and closer to our homes and pets.

“I have seen one cop­per­head bite so far this year — last week,” re­ports Dr. Kevin Jones of Rose Hill Vet­eri­nary Prac­tice in Wash­ing­ton. “I had an­other client con­tact me two weeks ago say­ing that she saw one try to bite her dog but it missed the strike.

“In an av­er­age year I see 3 to 5 bites, with most of them be­tween July and Au­gust,” says Dr. Jones. “While cop­per­head bites are rarely life threat­en­ing they are still con­sid­ered a vet­eri­nary emer­gency. The key el­e­ment of man­ag­ing these bites is con­trol­ling pain and in­flam­ma­tion. An­tivenin is rarely in­di­cated in my opin­ion but is con­tro­ver­sial and has to be made on a case by case ba­sis. We do not carry it and it costs a for­tune.

“We ad­vise clients to not suck venom out of wounds, ice the site, or ap­ply tourni­quets,” he con­tin­ues. “None of these things help and can make the

wound worse. Im­me­di­ate trans­port to a vet­eri­nar­ian is al­ways ad­vis­able. Fol­low up care varies pa­tient to pa­tient. [A snake bite] may re­solve with oral meds and time. Oth­ers can re­quire sur­gi­cal wound care . . .

“Lastly, we do not en­cour­age own­ers to dis­patch the snake and bring it to us. Dead snakes can still bite and en­ven­o­mate and we do not want our clients be­ing bit in this process.”

As for ticks, they are crawl­ing on ev­ery­thing — and ev­ery­body — in large num­bers this year.

“We have seen an enor­mous num­ber of ticks out this sea­son,” says Dr. Jones.

Most re­cently we re­ported of a rare ex­otic tick — the East Asian or Longhorned tick — that was dis­cov­ered on an or­phaned calf in nearby Albe­marle County, only the sec­ond such time this tick has been found in the United States. Now, the Vir­ginia De­part­ment of Agri­cul­ture and Con­sumer Ser­vices has is­sued its own state­ment about the tick:

“The tick is nor­mally found in Asia, Aus­tralia and New Zealand, where it is known to trans­mit both live­stock and hu­man dis­ease. Vir­ginia state vet­eri­nary of­fi­cials will con­tinue to work with the U.S. De­part­ment of Agri­cul­ture . . . to de­ter­mine the ex­tent and sig­nif­i­cance of this find­ing.

“The adult Longhorned tick is dark brown in color and grows to the size of a pea when en­gorged. The other life stages are very small and dif­fi­cult to see with the naked eye.”

Live­stock and pet own­ers are asked to be on the look­out for the tick and to con­tact the Rap­pa­han­nock County Ex­ten­sion Of­fice if one is found.

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