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Treat non-venomous snake bite


Treating snake bites is important even if it is from a non-venomous pet. The most docile of snakes has the potential to suddenly and without warning bite you. The size of the snake and the size of its teeth will have a lot to do with how much damage it can potentially do to you. Regardless if you are handling a 12 inch Garter Snake or a 15 foot Reticulated python there is always a potential for a bite. If you are bitten there are some basic steps you can take to reduce the chance of infection and inflammation.

Get the snake to release
Fortunately when it is just a bite most snakes will let go on their own. However if the snake is persistent in holding on, or for some reason unable to let go you’ll need to encourage them a bit. Do not pull the snake free from your skin. Most snakes have teeth that are curved towards the rear so they can get a better grep on their prey. If you just rip the snake away you’ll almost certainly tear your skin more than it needs to be torn and you’ll probably break several of the snake’s teeth at the same time. Instead hold it firmly behind the head and gently push it towards the bite so the teeth come out of your flesh and then pull it away from you.

Obviously the above works fine for a small to medium sized snake, but what about something massive like a 20 footer? I’ve heard (and read) from several sources that pouring holding a cotton ball soaking in rubbing alcohol over its face will get it to release. I’m not sure who packs around an alcohol soaked cotton ball while handling their snakes so that begs the question who is going to think to drag a 20 foot snake that has clamped on to your flesh through the house to get to the alcohol and cotton balls? I’ve also heard that you can get a large snake to release its bite by rubbing the scales “against the grain” from the tail end towards the head. I’ve not had a reason to try either of those methods, but apparently they work.

It’s also important to be able to recognize, particularly with the larger snakes, when it is more than just a defensive bite. In other words you need to be able to discern when the bite is a feeding attempt. If it bites and releases it is just a defensive bite. If it bites and hangs on but does nothing more it is a defensive bite. On the other hand if it bites and attempts to start throwing coils you must realize how serious the situation is. Get the snake off of you as quickly as possible using whatever means you need to use to assure your safety. I met a guy who claimed to have torn a 9 foot boa in half when it threw coils around his neck. I don’t know if it is true or not, but I do know it is an appropriate response in order to preserve your own life.

After the snake has bitten you
Once the snake has released the bite you need to treat it. A snake bite can be a combination of puncture wound and/or laceration depending on how deep it goes and how much damage is done to underlying tissue. Of course if you need stitches get to the doctor and get stitches. I say that right up front because sometimes we have a habit of not doing what we know we should do. But suppose it is “just a bite” and stitches are not required.

  • Irrigate the wound with fresh, clean water. This is the key to cleaning, not the soap.
  • Clean the wound with a mild anti-bacterial soap. Avoid using hydrogen peroxide as it can actually cause damage to the healthy tissue needed to heal the wound. Also avoid soaps that contain alcohol because it can irritate the bite area
  • Dry the wound by blotting it with a soft, dry cloth or towel. Don’t use friction to dry the wound or you could cause more damage
  • Don’t bandage the wound unless there is a risk of cross contamination. Bandaging a wound makes the area dark, moist, and warm. The perfect breeding ground for bacteria.
  • If you’ve been bit by a venomous snake forget everything I said and get yourself to a medical professional immediately!

There you have it, treating a snake bite isn’t hard. In fact it is almost the same as treating any other kind of minor open skin wound.

Infection from a snake bite
Despite our best efforts bites from any animals can become infected. If this happens you’ll likely need a treatment course of something such as penicillin. That is beyond the course of this article except to say speak with your doctor and he/she will get you on the right regiment of medications.

Disease from snake bites
Snakes, like all animals carry a host of diseases. Some are worse than others but none are pleasant to deal with. They also carry large number of protozoa. Some of the disease and protozoa include:

In closing please keep in mind that anytime you are bit by any animal there is a potential for serious side effects if it isn’t addressed as quickly as possible. The first line of defense once you’ve been bitten is cleaning it to get bacteria out of the wound. Once again if it is a bite from a poisonous species of snake don’t wait around get to a medical professional as soon as possible.

  • http://petsnakes.com nihat

    i want to buy a snake but i want to ask can i find a snake without poison and how do i understand that its not dangerous to touch and carry with me

  • Dawn

    Hi all. I met a reptile breeder at a show once who got bitten bad by her burmese python ( I believe) when she was trying to feed it and another snake that was in the same enclosure. Apparently, she put in a pre-killed chicken, both snakes latched on to it- one at either end, and without thinking she grabbed the chicken with her bare hand to pull it away from them. (never a good idea). That was when the python bit her hard, not surprisingly. Although it hurt a lot she was very concerned about bad press about snakes, so she did not go to get any kind of treatment. Although, she ended up with nerve damage in her hand she is still happy with her decision not to get treatment. I realize that she had the right to decide what to do, but I will say that I would not make that choice! If I was bit deeply or needed stitches I would definitely go to get it taken care of and make sure the people helping me all knew that it was my own darn fault!

  • Jay

    I would suggest NOT using antibacterial soap. It doesn't clean any better than non-antibacterial unless you intend on leaving it on the wound, which would certainly be a bad idea, and it can be more irritating. Unnecessary antibacterials is a bad habit to be in.

  • Rose

    I got bitten the other day by the 12 foot Burmese at my work place. I was able to make him let go by applying pressure on his jaw bone with my free hand. (Much like how you see people do on various snake documentaries), this allowed him to open his mouth, and I was able to wiggle my arm out from his grasp. This broke off none of his teeth, and once pressure was applied to the wounds, it left nothing but a fancy bite mark and some minor bruising.
    I figured it was good info to know in case anyone gets bitten by a larger snake.

  • Jonny

    where do ya work nd where bouts

  • Jonny

    put it up your arse

  • Jonny

    im really glad i havent been bitten by a snake thanks to my nana lol who is now dead

  • Pingback: Why are snakes good pets? « People & Paws

  • Melony

    Huh how .?!?!?! nvrm dnt wanna know

  • Mike

    how do you get broken snake (red rat snake) teeth out of your skin. I was’nt aware there were actual teeth in me until about two weeks later. I guess my question is are the harmful and can they safely stay in my skin.

  • http://pet-snakes.com Pet Snakes

    I’d be concerned about infection. Talk to a doctor and see what they say.

  • Jeepwoman45

    please if i can get help i need it bad my dog just got a snake bite i think its swelling and he cant walk on it hes just holding it up.i dont think it was a poison.is there anything i can do to help him until i get him to a vet in the morning

  • Poison

    Are non-venomous pet snakes likely to bite you? If so, can it be painful? I’m thinking about getting a pet snake that’s why.

  • Jess

    Is it normal for little red welts to appear where the bite were made and is that a sign of an infection?

  • Mcmoberg2

    I was bit in my for arm by a 7 foot cuban boa. It has been 6 months and I am having allot of trouble with my arm still. I have been to physio and have been put.on 6 + different meds. And still I am suffering. I even had to quit my job in animal care. The pain to my muscles has.moved to my shoulder. Does anyone have any suggestions. I would love any input. Thank u.
    m

  • anthony

    i know alot about snakes, ive read many books and even tought how to handle a mid size snake. the biggist snake ive ever owned was a 5 ft ball python, i was looking here today how to handle big snakes. im gonna get a 110 pound 6ft boa constrictor and wanted to learn how to handle big snake bites and what to do when getting bit or attacked. u seem to be a snake expert i specialize in corn snakes and ball pythons and i would like to get bigger. im also going to write a snake book and i would like a guy like u to help me. if you are intrested then email me. ( aglass1998@yahoo.com)

  • http://pet-snakes.com Pet Snakes

    Good luck with your book and learning about big snakes.

  • http://pet-snakes.com Pet Snakes

    Follow the advise of your doctor and medical professionals. If you’re not getting the treatment you need consider getting more opinions. I do know that a snake’s mouth is not a sterile environment so getting bit can transfer some nasty germs, even if the snake is not venomous.

  • http://twitter.com/xFireAndIce Anna Marie

    I was bit by my pet approximately 15 foot albino Burmese Python.  I don’t know her weight but she was a little thicker around than my upper arm.  The bite itself barely hurt, I knew I was bit more by the sudden blur of movement, the feel of wind, the sudden weight on my arm and the squeezing.  I was dropping a rat into her cage after the usual tapping warning to tell her it was feeding time.  She must have been a little more eager than usual and she missed the rat and latched onto my hand, her bottom jaw fully centered on my palm and upper jaw on the back of my hand.  I was alone, stupid I know, I was already in the process of moving her to a new home since I deemed her too large to handle on my own any longer.  There was no way I could see to lift her entire body out of the snake tank and go anywhere.  I’d had a lot of snakes and watched them a lot so I did what seemed the logical thing…  I let my entire hand, arm and shoulder go limp.  All my pythons and boas always strangle their food then let it go completely to maneuver it around so they can swallow it head first.  I figured once she thought her prize was “dead” she’d let go of me to swallow me hand (head) first.  She did just that and I whipped my hand and arm out of there so fast I rivaled her speed. 

    I had a beautiful perfect double row of teeth marks on the top and bottom of my hand (including lighter marks like escalator treads in the center).  As I said the bite didn’t really hurt but until you’ve been squeezed, their constrictor abilities are always underestimated, believe me.  The squeezing hurt something awful and the pain was enough that shortly I wouldn’t have been able to think straight enough to come up with many ideas to get loose.  One more week and she’d have been in her new home with two people to manage her at all times.  I was lucky.  She was well-cared for and her tank always clean.  I closed the tank, washed my hand, put on some bactine, admired the truly cool looking bite and took pictures.  Obviously I was not exactly traumatized but she was always good natured and I’ve no doubt her biting me was just a near miss on the rat, which of course my hand now smelled like.

    When she bit me she, as is typical, immediately wrapped her body over and over all around my hand and arm in a huge knot, so the idea of pulling her head forward to release her teeth was useless, I think this would only work on a relatively small, weak constrictor since a larger one is going to wrap all around and cover her head.  Her scales were very smooth and brushing them backwards never seemed to particularly bother her as I did this when she got little bits of twig under her scales from climbing.  Knowing her I figured freezing was the first, best bet and it worked like a charm.  A few seconds of no movement and she let me go to turn around and swallow my arm head first.  I was busy with the bite but when I got back the rat was gone and she was ready for more though she wasn’t really happy till I got a washcloth and washed the blood off her.  Apparently I don’t taste or smell all that great as a meal.

    I’d include a photo of the bite but don’t know how.   There was no permanent damage and no sign of the bite left after about 10 days.

  • http://twitter.com/ALATEIA Alateia

    I was half asleep when… (stupid i know) i went to check on my roomie, my 3 meter long jungle python who lives free in my bedroom.  
    well to cut a 3 meter long story short, i got a wake up call when he bit my hand and got my wrist, he punctured a vein in my wrist it seems, lots of blood.  I let him have my hand until he let go and didnt want to pursue the matter, so I went to clean up.  I then realised i didn’t have any ANTISEPTIC!!!!! …… 

    There is alittle swelling, some bruising and I feel alittle queezy in my tummy and abit sleepy, mind you i worked till 5am so probably that. 
    Should I be panicking and get ma butt to the docs asap? hospital? or just relax and monitor it?

    suggestions guys?

  • Kimbrrrly

    Get to a doctor! Better safe than sorry!

  • Mudrock

    You don’t have a right to bring in species that will destroy our native species.

  • Mcmoberg2

    Me again. If u get bit see ur Dr. I am in the midst of getting a MRI. I am still having major problems and it almost has been a year since I was bit. I am so frustrated. My Dr wants me to see some specailists through WCB but WcB will not approve my Dr Request. So I am going to be dealing with WCB etc to try and get answers and help.
    Does anyone know of anything that is causing me rhis much pain and discomfort…..

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