Ask the Veterinary Services Expert – Leah Turner

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Ask the Veterinary Services Expert – Leah Turner


We are seeing lots of swollen animals these days.  Sometimes a bee sting or a spider bite will cause a dog or cat’s face to swell up.  If there is a lot of swelling in the neck area the animal might have trouble breathing.  Allergic reactions sometimes lead to laryngeal edema which also can lead to difficulty breathing.

We have also had several pets with rattlesnake bites lately.  Usually the owner hears the pet yelp and the swelling is not noticed until later that day.  Our rattlesnakes are not deadly poisonous but the swelling that they cause can be serious.

If the dog is bitten on the nose the side of the face swells up and the swelling will go right down the neck and on to the chest by the next day.  Bites on the legs cause painful swelling and the dog might not put any weight on the leg.

Horses are usually bitten on the nose and the nose swells up to twice the size.  The halter gets tight and should be removed.  The horses have noisy breathing from the swelling in their nose and neck.

If they get bitten in the lower leg the leg is swollen right up to the top by the next day.  One horse we saw get bitten in the lower leg started sweating and shaking.

We usually treat the bites with antibiotics, anti-inflammatories, sometimes steroids and antihistamines depending on the case.

If you see your pet get bitten or suddenly the pet has a huge swelling after being out and about somewhere where snakes might be call your veterinarian.  Usually the swelling gets worse even with treatment before it gets better.

Hospitals have antivenom for people but it costs almost $1000/dose and goes quickly outdated so most veterinary clinics and even some hospitals don’t carry it.  Serious reactions to the antivenom can also occur.

Some worry that the snake population is decreasing but this year they are sure around and biting.

Also be careful with your pets and children around irrigation ditches and culverts.  The water is fast moving and dogs that go for a swim can get swept away before you know it.