When a Dog is Bitten by a Copperhead Snake

Copperhead Snake: Centers for Disease Control

I make many home visitations on people in my county here in Central Virginia, so it is only natural that I learn of many interesting developments in the area. Not the least of these in this summer of 2012 is the incidence of snakes biting dogs—specifically copperhead snakes.

Two Dogs Bitten in Two Months

Although I know it is nothing unusual for a dog to be bitten by a wild animal—say a skunk or something similar—I was quite surprised to learn a friend’s very old Jack Russell was bitten on the side of the face. I was surprised because of the visual impact: I didn’t hear of it—I saw it. It was stark and gory and it hurt my heart to see “Beep” missing the side of his face! Surely he must die?

Later, I visited a foster family that lived in a valley area encompassed by small creeks or rivers. They own two dogs—one some nondescript mixture—the other Chico, a Chihuahua. The Chihuahua was under sedation for having been bitten, not on the cheek, but above and below the right eye. By ever so bare a margin, the eye had not been struck. Can a dog so small as a Chihuahua survive such a bite?

A Spark of Hope

I was despondent, because these two dogs in particular were very dear to me. Small dogs may have their shortcomings, but no one can deny they possess “personality.” For that reason, I talked to a friend—the wife of a veterinarian—about the matter, inviting her to call with me at the home of Beep’s owners, an elderly couple.

She told us that small dogs are often bitten by copperhead snakes. Sometimes they die and sometimes they live—even if left untreated. The curious part is that if the dog is bitten in the head, especially, it is likely to live! Especially so if a small amount of Benadryl (diphenhydramine) is administered.

Return Visits

Time reveals all things. So it was that some weeks later, I visited the elderly couple. Beep not only lived; the raw meat of the cheek was covered by fresh skin and hair. She looked almost like her old self! She could go back to chasing squirrels away from the bird feeder, for which she was rewarded with bones.

Again, a visit to the foster family revealed an almost totally unscathed Chico. Two small dots remain—revealing the point of strike of the cursed copperhead. Who could have guessed such tiny animals could survive the strike of the copperhead? It only goes to show each of us, we all—each and every one of us—have much to learn about life.

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