Did you know that 90% of snake bites (in the northern hemisphere) occur between April and October? Do you know what to do if your horse gets bitten? Here are 7 tips you should know in case your horse ever gets bitten by a snake.
#1 - Be prepared
The best way to help your horse in the case of a snake bite is to have some things prepared before anything happens. While horses are occasionally bitten on the legs, usually after stepping on a snake, their inquisitive nature typically results in bites to the nose.
Since swelling can begin rapidly and may impair your horse’s ability to breathe, you should keep two 8” long sections of garden hose handy to slide into your horse’s nostrils to keep their airways open. Your vet may recommend other first aid items to keep handy if you live in snake territory. You should already know how to monitor your horse’s vital signs.
#2 - Stay calm…
...And try to keep your horse calm. The more his heart races, the faster venom will speed through his body. Also, about half of all snake bites are “dry bites” with no venom. If swelling doesn’t begin within the first couple of minutes, he probably got a dry bite and won’t have as many problems (although secondary infection is still a concern).
#3 - Call your vet
The vet will know whether you should bring your horse to them, if they can come to your horse, or if they can talk you through treating your horse from home. The vet will typically prescribe an antibiotic and an anti inflammatory in order to prevent infection and reduce swelling.
#4 - Don’t try to cut or suck the venom out
It doesn’t work, it might make you sick, and it may lead to secondary infection. Also, don’t apply a tourniquet or heat. Ice is your horse’s best friend - it will reduce swelling and slow the spread of venom.
#5 - Don’t try to trap or kill the snake
It’s a dangerous waste of time when you should be attending to your horse. Since antivenin is rarely needed in adult horses, it’s not very important to know what kind of snake bit your horse. If the snake is trapped in a building, call a professional to remove it. Be sure to keep your cats and dogs away - their smaller size makes them more likely to die from a snake bite.
Bonus tips for avoiding snake bites in the first place:
#6 - Avoid riding near paved roads at night.
After dark, snakes are attracted to the radiant heat of the asphalt.
#7 - Trust your horse.
Give your horse the benefit of the doubt if they shy away from a bush or hesitate to cross a barrier.