Thehorse.com - Full Article
by: Edward D. Voss, DVM, Dipl. ACVIM
October 01 2005, Article # 6165
Q: Our area has a healthy population of rattlesnakes. We spend six to 10 hours a week on trails where we have seen snakes. I would like to be prepared in the event one of our horses gets bitten. What are the procedures and supplies we should have on hand? Pat
A: When on excursions into areas frequented by pit vipers (also called crotalids, including rattlesnakes), it is prudent to consider some basic precepts concerning bites. Approximately 20-60% of bites are "dry" or defensive type of bites with little or no venom injected by the snake. These are bites that do not swell much within 10 to 15 minutes of being bitten and are not overly painful. It is difficult to ascertain whether a bite is dry, so assume envenomation (injection of venom) and proceed to obtain veterinary care. Rapid swelling and pain suggest venom injection. Venom has a Super Glue-like consistency and is absorbed rapidly from the bite site within 30 seconds to several minutes. Cutting an incision on the bite and suction is not recommended; icing of the bite is not a good idea, nor is a tourniquet.
Most bites occur on the muzzle in curious horses, and application of a dry absorbent wrap is not possible. Things to consider bringing on such excursions would be: