How a Poisonous Snake Bite Nearly Killed My Dog

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Lily playing in dirt: How a Poisonous Snake Bite Nearly Killed My DogIt was one of the scariest moments of my life when my dog Lily was bit by a poisonous Copperhead snake. All I could do was rush to the vet and pray for the best. But this very frightening experience has made me a huge pet insurance advocate and I hope my story helps you know what to do if you are faced with the difficult life and death pet decisions. 

Lily vs Copperhead

We adopted Lily from the local animal shelter in April 2013 (just before she was due to be euthanized sadly). She was a new member of our family but fell in perfectly with my husband and I, our other dog Bella and our home.

Fast forward 5 weeks later… Lily was enjoying a warm spring day last May in our backyard. We had never given a second thought to whether our dogs would be safe in our own backyard and Lily really loved to explore and bask in the afternoon sun. When we called the dogs in for dinner around 5 pm, Bella came running but Lily was nowhere to be found. First we thought she had run away (she was new to our household so we did not really know) but then Bella ran back down to show us where Lily was – behind a tree licking her wound. Her normally little leg (she weighs 35 pounds) was as wide as a Great Dane’s leg! She could not walk on her tender, swollen foot/leg. We did not know what was wrong but we picked her up quickly, put her in the car and drove as fast as we could to the vet.

Get To the Vet ASAP for Snake Bites on Dogs

Dog with Copperhead Snake Bite on FootWhen we arrived, they were waiting for us on high alert. Based on our description on the phone, they were pretty certain it was a Copperhead snake bite. And, they quickly determined they were right so we had to act fast. Sadly, they were about to close their doors for the night and she would need at least 24 hour on-watch supervision, if things went in a positive direction. So, they called the emergency vet to explain the situation while we drove there to get her treatment. It was only a 15 minute drive but we had been told already that her chances of making it decreased significantly every minute treatment was delayed, so it was a LONG drive.

When we arrived, the emergency vet was ready and waiting. They put Lily on an IV to start rehydrating her and the vet sat us down to discuss our options quickly:

  1. Give her anti-venom which may work but also has a high risk of creating other health issues that could be deadly.
  2. Hydrate her and hope it washes out the venom. But the speed at which her swelling was progressing, this option seemed pretty much a death wish.

Anti-Venom: A Costly Decision

The cost of the anti-venom (option 1) was high with an estimated cost of $1,500-2,000 for the treatment over the next 24 hours. But we had to act quickly or she would be gone.

For most, this financial decision, especially on a dog who was new to our family, would have seemed insane but lucky for us we had signed Lily up for pet insurance with Petplan the week we adopted her because we have seen minor benefits of hedging your risks with our other dogs. But, this truly tested the limits. With pet insurance as our cushion, we made the call to administer the anti-venom ASAP and hope for the best. We did not really think, we just said to the vet, “We have pet insurance” and hoped for the best. The vet immediately said, “Oh, thank goodness. Let’s get started right now.”

Pet Insurance Saved Lily’s Life and Our Wallets

And that vet was right. After two nights in the hospital, Lily made it through and had a positive response to the anti-venom. When all was said and done, the bill came out to $1,700. We submitted the claim online to Petplan, our pet insurance carrier two days later and within a week we had a check in our hand for 90% of the total cost. So, with one freak accident in the backyard and the treatment needed to resolve it, our pet insurance (~$30/month) paid for itself for the rest of Lily’s life. I am thankful everyday we had the ability to make that choice so quickly to treat her because now we cannot imagine our family without her in it.

Whether it be snake bites on dogs or a car accident injuring your cat, I strongly encourage you to visit the Petplan Pet Insurance website to see if it can help you save stress and money too.

Video: How to Detect Snake Bites on Dogs

Not all Poisonous Snake Bites Are Venomous

Not all poisonous snake bites release venom (about 25% according to WebMD) so your dog may not show signs of swelling or pain. However, keep a watchful eye on them as they  may just not have the outward symptoms while internally, their bodies are still fighting the battle. Give them lots of fluids and if they sows signs of sluggishness, vomiting or other irregular behavior, visit your vet for an exam immediately.

Disclaimer: Information regarding insurance company offerings, pricing and other contract details are subject to change by the insurance company at any time and are not under the control of this website. Information published on this website is intended for reference use only. Please review your policy carefully before signing up for a new pet health insurance contract or any other contract as your unique circumstances will differ from those of others who may be used for example purposes in this article.
Since the day she was born, Michelle has lived in a home full of dogs and dog lovers. Her home is no exception with two adorable rescue pups of her own, Bella and Lily. Their unconditional love and never ending tail wags make every day brighter.

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