Daily Dawgs: Dogs and snakes; how to keep your dog safe

April 19, 2023

Hi guys! It’s me, Rufus! Oh my dog, the weather has been pawsitively amazing – clear skies, bright sun, warm breeze! Me and Mom have been spending a lot more time outside lately, and I love it! Mom worked with Poppy in the yard last weekend, mowing and cleaning up downed limbs and branches that fell last fall and winter.

I usually help Mom with whatever she’s doing, but not with yard work, for a few reasons. One, I hate the noisy mowers! Two, Mom says something about me being a little more of a hindrance than a help; I don’t really understand what that means, but I’m pretty sure it means I do better work than her, and she doesn’t want to look like a lazy-loaf. Three, and Mom says this one is the most important, she doesn’t want me to run into a snake. Mom said she was working near the woods where leaves piled up last fall, and there were lots of tree branches down. And she said those are the kinds of places snakes love to hide in.

Something you should know about my mom – she is terrified of snakes! She always says, “If it has more than four legs, or no legs at all, I don’t want anything to do with it.” Lucky for me, I have legs, and exactly four, so I’m good to go! But mom isn’t a big fan of spiders and snakes, and snakes scare her the most. But even though they scare her, she says they do important work for our environment. She says they don’t bite to be mean, only when they feel threatened, or they’re trying to have a meal, so she wants to keep me away from them so they don’t get scared and try to defend themselves.


But guess what, guys! We saw a snake in the yard a few days ago! We were just walking along, and all of a sudden Mom let out a scream that almost shook the Earth, and she jumped up really high in the air! I didn’t know she could jump so high – almost as high as I can jump, which is pretty high! Mom calls me her kangaroo boy, but I’m getting off topic.

Anyway, when her feet hit the ground again, she tugged on the leash and called me over to her. She said that there was a snake right in front of me, and if she hadn’t stopped me, I would have walked right over top of it. And then she said, if I had walked right over top of it, she probably would have lost consciousness!

After she said her heart rate had gone back to normal (she can be a little over dramatic sometimes, but I still love her), she told me that it wasn’t a venomous snake. Venomous means it has goop in some special teeth that can make humans and dogs very sick, and it can even be deadly! But not this snake. She said it was a garter snake or a ribbon snake, and those don’t have special goopy teeth, thank goodness!

We live out in the country, remember, and Mom says there tends to be more snakes around in the country than there are in towns and cities. For that reason, she has done lots of research on snakes and how to keep me safe. I don’t remember everything she said, so I’ll let her tell you!

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Most Southern Illinoisans are familiar with the yearly comings and goings of snakes in our area. We tend to learn at an early age that snakes go into hibernation in the fall and re-emerge from hibernation in the spring. They are more active at night and when the weather is warm than they are in the daytime or cooler temperatures. But how much do you know about the safety of your dogs where snakes are concerned? Well, let’s dive into it!

Wildlife Illinois says that, “Both nonvenomous and venomous snakes benefit homeowners and gardeners by eating invertebrates and rodents. They should be left alone so they can provide this important pest service.”


The Wildlife Illinois website indicates there are many species of snakes native to Illinois, but only four of those are venomous, and two of them exist in grievously low numbers.

“The massasauga is listed as state endangered. The timber rattlesnake is listed as state threatened. The cottonmouth is found only in southern Illinois, and the copperhead is found in the southern two-thirds of the state,” said Wildlife Illinois.

Of the species which are nonvenomous, it seems that some display similar markings and behaviors as their venomous brethren. Additionally, broad terms are often assigned to cover many species simply because of their natural habitat.

“‘Water moccasin’ is a general term used by the public to refer to all seven species of Illinois’ water snakes. Only one species of watersnake, the cottonmouth, is venomous. In Illinois, it is found no farther north than Carbondale, in the southern part of the state,” according to Wildlife Illinois.

There are a few things you can do to avoid unwanted interactions with snakes. Having a basic understanding of their natural habitat is one of the most important, as well as knowing which species of snakes are native to your area. Being able to properly identify them will tell you whether they are venomous or nonvenomous, which can help prevent injury to humans, other animals and the snakes themselves.

“Clear your yard of fallen logs, trash, and deep leaf litter. Don’t let your dog stick their head in holes, bushes, or tall grasses. Snakes are more active after dark and in warm weather, so keep your dog inside after dusk when you know venomous snakes are in the area. Rattlesnakes and copperheads prefer dryer areas, and water moccasins prefer wet areas,” the American Kennel Club (AKC) advised.

Hiding places aren’t the only things to be mindful about, warns the AKC. “Snakes frequent areas where they can find food. Popular prey for snakes are mice, rats, squirrels, and rabbits, so the more inhospitable your yard is to these animals, the less inviting your yard will be to snakes,” the organization said.

If you do happen to cross paths with a snake, do your best to leave the area without causing further disturbance to it. If your dog is bitten, all sources state to get your dog to your veterinarian or closest emergency animal hospital with antivenom as soon as possible. More than one source says not to waste time trying to find the snake, as many dogs will run after being bitten, leaving plenty of time for the snake to flee as well. Time is of the essence when the bite is from a venomous snake. “[E]very venomous snakebite is unique. Treat each one as though it were the worst case,” said the AKC.

Where treatments for venomous bites are concerned, the AKC says antivenom and opioid pain medication are the only proven effective treatments. In fact, they make a point to list common myths about other treatments that are known to be ineffective, including using a first aid kit.

“Tourniquet or constriction bandage, sucking out the venom, antihistamines, electric current, ice, NSAIDs (non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs) to control pain, subcutaneous fluids, antibiotics to prevent infection [and] Rattlesnake Vaccine. … If your dog was bitten by a venomous snake, the only thing you can do is remove the dog’s collar, keep your dog calm, and head to the closest emergency vet that has antivenom,” according to the AKC.

The American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty of Animals (ASPCA) advises, “If you experience a snake encounter with your pet, make sure to get to the emergency veterinarian and call the ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center at (888) 426-4435 right away. Stay safe out there!”

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Note from Mom: In the interest of being proactive, it would be a good idea to check with your regular veterinarian to find out if they carry antivenom. If your vet doesn’t carry it, it would be worthwhile to inquire around your area so you already know where to go in case of a snake bite emergency.

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Ok, back to me! Holy guacamole, Batdog! No wonder Mom is so serious when she talks to me about snakes! That venom stuff seems dangerous to tangle with! I’ll have to be extra vigilant when I’m outside, especially on my late-night patrols!

Well, Mom talked forever, so I’m out of time right now! Mom said she encourages everyone to learn more about snakes here in Southern Illinois by visiting the Wildlife Illinois website, and to read the full information offered by the AKC and the ASPCA, too!

Keep your eyes peeled for those slithery guys and stay safe!


Rufus & Mom


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