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Leerburg Dog Training Blog

The best source for dog training news, tricks and treats, right from world class leaders in dog training.

The best source for dog training news, tricks and treats, right from world class leaders in dog training.

What to do if bitten by a poisonous snake while on a hike

I found some good information today about what to do if bitten by a poisonous snake while out hiking. We have had 4 snakes in our yard this past week (not poisonous) but neighbors have had rattlesnakes in their yard here in AZ.

Our next door neighbor was sitting on her outdoor couch on their patio last Sunday – she glances to her left and there was a large bull snake about a foot from her left shoulder (laying on the top cushion on the couch). Needless to say she jumped about 15 feet. ?

Here are a few things to consider if you are bitten by a poisonous snake:

1 – First, don’t panic. Go 30 or so yards and sit down for 5 minutes and concentrate on relaxing and plan your next move. Do not wait for symptoms to show. Sitting down will reduce chances of fainting ( a possible side effect from the poison)

2 -Remove any tight clothing or rings watches etc. Do not tie a tourniquet around your limb (or your dogs if it’s been bitten).

3- Carry a sharpie with you and draw a circle around the bite – write the time next to it. Then every 15 minutes draw a circle around the swelling and write the time next to that circle.

4- Do not use any of the old wives tails about treating snake bites. i.e. cut the bite and suck the venom out or use electricity to draw the venom out No treatment is always better than the wrong treatment. The only effective treatment for a snake envenomation is the right anti-venom to neutralize it.

5- Walk slowly back to where you had cell service or your vehicle. Driving could be dangerous.

6- Drink water if you have any and if you have any energy bars eat them.

7- No snake bite kit on the market works. So don’t buy and or use one.

8- Here is the Snake Bite Poison Line (1-800-222-1222) available 24/7

9- You are most likely to encounter rattlesnakes in the early morning or just at dusk. When you hike, don’t wear earbuds, you won’t hear the buzz from the snake (if you have never heard on rattle – it’s not very loud)

JJ Belcher (one of Leerburg’s instructors) was bitten by a rattlesnake several years ago while hiking. He never saw the snake, his wife was behind him and saw the bite. He was in ICU for 3 days and had over 20 anti-venom shots. Not all rattlesnake bites are that bad, you just don’t know how it’s going to affect you when it’s your turn.


  1. Avatar
    April 27, 2017

    What should I do if my dog is bitten by a rattlesnake. We have plenty when we hike in the summer and she lets me know where they are and stays away from them. But accidents happen. Sometimes we are near civilization but often are hours or days away on foot. She is a heavy dog to carry anywhere for very far (65b) but possible on top of my back pack. It is often just the two of us (old lady and dog) so I need to be able to do whatever is needed in the field. The anti-venom is expensive, perishable and in short supply. Even humans don’t get it unless venom appears to have been injected by the snake. I would like to hear advice from people with experience and knowledge about this.

  2. Ed Frawley
    Ed Frawley
    April 27, 2017


    I wish there was a silver bullet answer. There is not other than finding a professional trainer that does “snake avoidance training”. While the methods of this training vary they all use REMOTE COLLARS.

    If you do not have local trainers that do this work I would have my dog wearing a remote 100% of the time when I hike ( probably the Dogtra 1900 series the offers a high level of stimulation). Then when I hike I would be very aware of what my dog was doing 100% of the time. Most of the time you will see when the dog become aware of a snake. When you are sure the dog is focused on the snake give a high level of stimulation – this is one of a very few cases where I would not use a voice command and use the highest level of stimulation to put the dog into true avoidance.

    If you do this correctly, which is when the dog is looking at the snake, you will probably only have to do it one time. This falls under the concept of one good correction is worth 1,000 nagging corrections. But your timing must be correct. To stimulate the dog when you see the snake but the dog has not yet seen it accomplished nothing.

    But if your dog gets bit all you can do is give him water, walk slowly back to your vehicle and get him to the vet asap. If he is bit in the face, be very careful about how tight his collar is on.

    When I was a kid on my Uncles ranch in South Dakota one of his coon dogs got bit in the leg. I was young but I remember his leg swelled to 3 times its size and he laid on the porch for 2 or 3 days. He did recover but the first day he looked like he was dead. This was a long long time ago – before the days of anti-venom.

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