Boo, Hiss: How To Handle Equine Snakebites – Horse Racing News

Boo, Hiss: How To Handle Equine Snakebites – Horse Racing News

As the weather warms across the country, snakes are becoming more active – and the chance for snakebites rises. Though many horses don’t bother snakes when they come upon them in pastures and fields, it’s not unusual for inquisitive horses to be bitten on the nose, head or neck. Horses may also get bitten on the lower legs, though these bites are less dangerous to a horse’s wellbeing.

Owners rarely see a horse get bitten by a snake, but knowing how to properly handle a horse who has been bitten is key. The most dangerous snake species for horses is the rattlesnake, which is common in the southwest and western parts of the United States. Copperheads and water moccasins are also venomous and pose a danger to horses. All three of these snakes have toxins and digestive enzymes in their venom that cause extreme, localized swelling, tissue damage, and heart complications.

A horse who has been bitten by a snake will be swollen and painful at the bite site and bloody discharge may drain from his nostrils. If the horse was bitten on the head, his eyelids may swell shut and his breathing may be compromised as his nostrils and throat swell. The bite may be severe enough to cause muscle weakness.

A horse requires immediate medical attention if they received a venomous snake bite. A horse owner should keep the horse as calm as possible to slow toxin absorption until the vet can arrive. The horse should not be moved unless the veterinarian determines the horse needs to be trailered to a clinic. Owners should not try to open the wound further or remove the venom.

If the horse was bitten on the nose, a piece of garden hose may need to be inserted into each nostril to keep his airway open. If the horse was bitten on the leg, a tourniquet should be placed above the bite area. Cold water or ice packs placed on the bite can delay swelling.

The veterinarian will administer anti-inflammatory drugs and corticosteroids to reduce tissue swelling and may also give a tetanus booster or antitoxin. The vet may also administer antivenin. In severe cases, the vet may perform a tracheotomy to prevent suffocation.

Read more at AQHA.

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