Thursday, April 11, 2013

Name that snake! And keep your dog safe

Itty bitty snake with big attitude
I found this tiny guy on the pathway behind our house yesterday and posted its picture on the CDOG Facebook page to get comments on identification. I've become more snake-aware since a friend's dog was bitten by a rattlesnake a year ago and needed emergency treatment. I want to be able to identify different types so I could keep my dogs at a safe distance--or know how serious a bite might be should one happen.

This baby snake was very, very little. I almost missed it. But when I leaned in with my nearsighted eyes for a closer look, he reacted with a big-snake get-out-of-my-face attitude.

The first response on Facebook was: "My dog ate one just yesterday!" Whoa! I wasn't expecting that! But, of course, there's no accounting for taste when it comes to dogs.

Eastern garter snake: courtesy of John White, Maryland DNR
One person called it a brown snake. Another said it was a "don't touch me I'm icky" snake, while another said "Eastern garter." After doing a little research on the Maryland Department of Natural Resources site, I concluded that the winner was garter--with a nod to "icky". While not venomous, the Eastern garter snake is "a fairly aggressive snake" that readily strikes and bites, according to the DNR. If handled, it will release a foul-smelling (i.e., "icky") musk. Allergic reactions to bites have been reported. "Best policy in general," said Chuckie, ". . .  avoid."

Jamie, whose dog ate the "snake snack" said that it was definitely a garter snake and that she had dogs who ate much bigger snakes too. Her main concern was that her dog was not scared of the snake, and would just as easily go after a venomous snake.

Credit: Appalachian History
Are they toxic if eaten? From what I can tell, eating a garter snake may not in itself be dangerous to a dog. However, one person cautioned that snakes eat toads, and toads are very toxic to dogs. So if your dog eats a sort of "toad-ducken", i.e., a toad contained inside a snake, it could be a problem.

More on snakes:

Columbia Dogs on the Go

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