Potentially life saving tip for dog owners in water moccasin states: Benadryl

My sister’s 14 year old shepherd was bitten on the face by a water moccasin this past weekend. (Most snakes shy away from humans and large animals by nature, but water moccasins are extremely territorial and aggressive snakes and this one came all the way up to the back door of the house, striking the dog the moment she went outside for her walk.) The dog’s face swelled immediately, so it was clear that the snake did envenomate.

The same dog was bitten by a rattlesnake a couple of years ago. That was not only an emotional ordeal for her owners but an E-X-P-E-N-S-I-V-E one; a single vial of antivenom costs more than my car is worth and it was weeks before the dog was recovered or back to (what for her passes for) normal. When I first heard the dog had been bitten I was afraid she was probably going to die due to her age or that if not it would be a similar financial and emotional drain for my sister.

Instead, it was two Benadryl. That was the vet’s advice over the phone- he didn’t even see it worth taking the dog to the 24-7 vet hospital. (She was bitten late at night.) Far from witch doctory or country remedy stuff, it worked- the dog slept for most of the next day but the swelling went down and within a couple of days the dog was back to (what for her passes for) normal. They took her to the vet just as a follow through, but, no real need.

Again, this isn’t true of rattlesnake bites, and it may not be true of all water moccasin bites, but I wanted to share since

  1. I didn’t know it before
  2. I don’t usually keep Benadryl on hand (because it knocks me out)
  3. This is a TERRIBLE year for snakes*

Quick googling on water moccasin bites indicates that the reason it’s nowhere near the ordeal a rattlesnake bite is include

  1. It doesn’t envenomate as often as the rattler does
  2. When it does envenomate, it doesn’t use a lethal dose as often as the rattler
  3. Its venom doesn’t include nearly as powerful anticoagulants that make rattlesnake venom so deadly.
    My dog is a Jack Russell mutt and anybody who has one knows that they are crazy-stupid brave little things, and that’s not always a good thing; if he saw a snake not only would he not shy away from it, he’d attack. He’s already attacked a harmless little green snake that came into my [90% concrete] back yard this year. So, I’m picking up some from the store to keep on hand just in case, and hope others will do likewise. (And the gods preserve us from rattlers.)
    *I don’t know about other states, but Alabama’s snake population is out of control. I’ve seen more snakes near my house this year than in all the years I’ve been here combined; luckily they’ve all been non poisonous. A friend of mine with a large yard and no tendency to exaggerate estimates she’s killed two dozen snakes this year (not even trying to) just with her riding mower, including several moccasins.

Christ on a cracker, I hate water mocassins. We have a lake house in southeastern Kentucky and every now and then we come across a Copperhead. They’re pretty nice fellows as snakes go, and obviously don’t want to fight, which is great because Buddy the beagle is as stupid as he is brave.

However, one time we were out boating and swimming, and had just settled in on the boats for our lunch. A few minutes later, a huge water mocassin entered the water and made a beeline right for our boats. We were all wondering what it was that was heading towards us when he raised himself out of the water and passed by very slowly, baring his white mouth at us as we sat there, mouths agape. All the kids had been in the water not five minutes earlier.

Brrr! (crossing myself and throwing salt behind my back)

We have Benadryl at the lakehouse cause there’s all kinds of things to be allergic to in the middle of the woods. Good to know that it’s there in case Buddy gets on the hurting end of a snake fight.

Good info! Wish it worked for rattlers too.

I should put the disclaimers out of course that “I’m not a vet/this isn’t veterinary advice/probably does not work in all instances/etc.”, but I would say if you’re at the “I’d piss on a spark plug if I thought it’d do any good” phase and there’s no vet nearby it’s probably going to do more good than harm.

This is great to know! The Mister and his Mutt often find themselves in the woods and swamps in the rural parts of the county, and the Mutt is too brave/stupid/focused to back down from a snake. Tony already keeps Benadryl in his human and K9 first aid kits, but he probably wouldn’t think of it for a snake bite. (And it’s a looong way from the boonies in his county to the nearest emergency vet.) Only 2 Benadryl for an adult GSD?

When my dog was bitten by a rattler I used benedryl first, to reduce the swelling. Antibiotics (I had injectible penicillan in the fridge for horse use). The day after I stopped by the vet’s office for a steroid. Fortunately I have my vet’s cell number on my speed-dial. She pulled through. (Dog, not vet)


BTW according to the vet tech at our local doggie ER the dosage is 1 mg Benadryl to 1 lb body weight for dogs.

One of the Duck Hunter/Salesmen/Thieves at my previous place of employment said that he would show dogs a dead snake, and jab the dog with a cattle prod when it examined the snake. He claimed the dog would point on a snake after that, rather than go after it.
He also used a cattle prod to teach dogs not bring the duck back through the water, but on dry ground.
He wasn’t a nice guy, he was a salesman.

There are so many things I’d love to teach him with the same cattle prod.

Yeah, but he was a lot taller than I.

If I know the type, he probably also loved the shocked reactions he got when he told people about using cattle prods on his dogs.

I give my dog Benydryl every day for allergies - so some is on hand. Hopefully though, she’ll never run across a water moccasin. Glad it worked out for your sister’s dog.

Benadryl is good for wasp stings too.

In bigtime rattler country (like Texas etc) many people “rattlesnake-proof” their dogs at clinics where a guy with a rattlesnake in a cage shocks your dog with an electric collar remotely until the dog associates the snake with the shock.

May sound cruel but if you’ve ever lost or nearly lost a dog to a rattlesnake bite (I have – the latter), and live in the country or hunt/herd with your dog, you might think different. Dogs usually get hit right on the face and their throats swell up and they suffocate. Not pretty.

I’ve never done the proofing myself . . .

This actually isn’t a bad idea and what some Search and Rescue teams do to snake proof their dogs. Better a zap now then the dogs getting into trouble in the field.

We live on a farm so benadryl is always kept on hand for things like this but my vet told us years ago when the barn cat got struck that dogs and cats actually handle snake bites better than humans. Of course she wasn’t saying its no big deal but it was reassuring to us when we thought The Cat was going to keel over.

When the dog was bitten by a rattlesnake 3 years ago my sister took some steps toward ‘snakeproofing’ her property with mothballs and commercial snake repellant. She stopped when she’d been doing it religiously for a few weeks and saw (non poisonous) snakes in one of the places where she’d put mothballs. She started again when she saw a moccasin a few weeks ago, but apparently it doesn’t work on them or she didn’t put in the right place or, whatever. Any suggestions for a general “moccasins be gone” that can be used in a suburb? (i.e. geese are right out)

Most of the bites I’ve seen have been copperhead bites, but we always put them on antibiotics and usually some steroids. Standard treatment was a diphenhydramine injection, an antibiotic injection, sometimes a steroid injection if the reaction was really bad, and then oral antibiotics and prednisone to go home. Recheck in a few days to make sure the swelling is going down and there was no infection/necrosis/anything weird with the bite site. A lot of dogs do fine without even that much treatment, though I really wouldn’t recommend trusting to that.

We saw a few rattler bites at the emergency clinic in NC, though, and that was a whole different kettle of fish. Even if the dog didn’t die outright in the first few hours, they ran the risk of systemic sepsis and/or intravascular clotting. It was some bad shit.

Benadryl is dipenhydramine.

Yes, I’m aware of that. My point was that an antihistamine isn’t the sum total of recommended treatment for pit viper bites, so people really shouldn’t assume that if they give a couple of Benadryl, the dog is fine and they don’t need to go the vet.

So I assumed, but it’s possible somebody reading didn’t.

Stop…you’re making me nostalgic for SE Texas.*

Marked improvements in your property’s drainage should help. I can only remember seeing one of those things during my time in Texas, and that was in the aftermath of a tropical storm and it swam up near the back door.

*we gave the snakes that featured in our more notorious encounters nicknames. I particularly remember Big Green and Slobodan.