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Snake Bites

In the warmer months one potential concern for dog owners is snake bites.Almost all species of snake are shy and will avoid human contact if possible, and over 90% are nocturnal.

Unfortunately our canine friends are more inquisitive and therefore in more danger of getting bitten. In Hong Kong, the main time of risk is March to November.

Snake bites tend to occur on your pet's head or neck, but are also seen on the legs and trunk. Bites involving the trunk of the body have a poorer prognosis.

Species of snake that pose a risk to dogs through envenomation are

Banded and Many Banded Krait

Chinese Cobra

King Cobra

Pit Vipers (Mountain, Point-scaled, Green)  

Coral Snake

Red-necked Keelback

Larger pythons, whilst not venomous, may predate smaller dogs.

Clinical Signs

Envenomation  (the injection of poison) does not always occur, and remember that many species of snake in Hong Kong are not (or only mildly) poisonous. Usually if the snake is not poisonous or the venom was not injected, the pain, swelling and bruising at the bite site will be minimal.

Body systems affected may include the nervous, cardiopulmonary and coagulation systems.

The severity of envenomation is related to the time of the year, the volume of venom present in the snake, the location of the bite, the number of bites, and the amount of victim movement after the bite (movement increases the spread of the venom). The amount of venom is not related to the size of the snake.

 There may be one or several small puncture wounds, bleeding, bruising or immediate and painful swelling at the site of the bite. Many toxins cause rapid vasoconstriction at the bite site, leading to tissue necrosis (breakdown)

The more severe systemic signs may take up to several hours to appear and include low blood pressure (hypotension) and shock, weakness, muscle tremors, vomiting, and neurological signs including depressed respiration.

Immediate First Aid
Identify the snake if possible.

Restrict your dogs movement.

DO NOT incise the bite wound to suck out the venom

DO NOT apply a tourniquet without veterinary assistance.

DO NOT apply ice to the area.

Seek veterinary attention immediately.

Veterinary Care

 It is important that your dog be kept quiet and the bitten area immobilized if possible to decrease the spread of the venom. The area around the wound is clipped and cleaned to check the extent of injury.

Intravenous fluids are given to help prevent low blood pressure and  oxygen is given to animals with depressed respiration.

Antibiotics are used to prevent secondary infections.

Pain medication is provided as necessary.

Laboratory tests to check for bleeding problems and organ damage are advised and may be repeated to check for deterioration.

Blood transfusions may be necessary in cases of severe coagulopathies.


Antivenin may be administered at the discretion of the attending veterinarian, and to be most effective, should be given within 4 hours of the bite. It becomes less effective as more time passes.

All snake-bite victims should be observed for a minimum of 12 hours, even when there are no clinical signs. If clinical signs are present, the length of observation is increased to 48-72 hours, as damage to organs may not appear immediately.

Trying to identify or even see the snake responsible can be almost impossible.

At Acorn we use modern combined antivenins. These contain within a single vial antivenin to a variety of snakes grouped by their effect on your dog’s systems. Our staff can assess your dog and give relevant antivenin without the need for snake identification.

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