A little more than a week ago, Savannahian Betsy Kameron, like she has done hundreds of times, opened the back door for Piper, one of the family’s two dogs. When Piper walked into the kitchen, Kameron glanced at the dog and noticed a small dot of blood on her muzzle.
“At first I thought our other dog had nicked her when they were playing,” said the Daffin Heights resident. But upon closer inspection, Kameron saw two dots the exact same size and noticed swelling, and had a sick feeling that it was a snake bite. The Casey Canal is about a half-mile from the Kamerons’ house and, although she didn’t see the snake, she figured it was poisonous because of the swelling and the pain the dog seemed to be experiencing.
Despite the occasional dip in temperatures, poisonous snakes are still being spotted in residential areas near the Casey Canal and elsewhere, and are sinking their fangs into curious dogs, cats and occasionally people. And even though it’s November, veterinarians at the Savannah Veterinary Emergency Clinic are still treating snake-bitten pets, sometimes as often as three or four times a night.
“We see snake bites year-round here,” veterinarian Janice Wiest said of the emergency clinic, adding that pit vipers like copperhead and cottonmouth snakes are “pretty common” in this area. The clinic keeps a supply of anti-venom on hand and uses it regularly on pets that have had run-ins with snakes. The concern with a poisonous snake bite is tissue “destruction” where the fangs punctured the skin, Wiest said.
Typically, she added, dogs are bitten on the nose or the muzzle, while cats are bitten on their paws. A poisonous snake bite will cause swelling and pain, but not usually death, she said.
As soon as the Kamerons realized Piper had been bitten, Betsy’s husband, Jimmy, took the 85-pound dog to the emergency clinic where Piper was given a shot, a supply of antibiotics and pain medicine. Today, Piper is back to her old self, although Betsy says “she hasn’t wanted to be near a bed of azaleas” that may have been where the snake was.
When she took to social media to warn others about snakes, several people posted their own scary stories. One man said when his cat was at the vet being treated for a snake bite, another cat there also had been bitten. Another resident warned people to be careful around flower pots because snakes like to curl up inside the containers.
Wiest said there’s no 100 percent way to prevent snake bites in pets, but she did suggest that people tidy up areas with undergrowth and weeded areas where snakes like to hide. As careful as some pet owners are, they still can have a cat or dog that will be a victim to a frightened snake.
“A friend of mine has a dog that has been bitten three years in a row,” Wiest said.