Warning to pet owners: Snake bites to dogs don't just happen in summer

MYRTLE BEACH, SC (WMBF) - Snakes are a common site in the Grand Strand and the Pee Dee, but usually in the warmer summer months.

However, that doesn't mean the snakes are out of sight during the colder months of the year. WMBF News recently learned of an incident where a pet was likely bitten by a snake at a local dog park. Experts are saying the weather here in Myrtle Beach never really gets cold enough for snakes to go into full hiding.

Remzi Emiroglu brings his dog to the Barc Park at The Market Common several times a week. He said he's noticed snakes there before, like large rat snakes and garden snakes about 5 feet long.

A couple months ago, his dog, Skylar, was running around a tree at the park and a snake fell on him from the tree branch. His dog will usually sniff out these snakes under leaves.

"What Skylar does is he goes by the pile of leaves by the gate and he will go and bark at those leaves at the gate. So, there's something living under those leaves," Emiroglu said.

Just last weekend, a dog named Petey was treated by a vet for what appeared to be a snakebite. Petey was running around The Market Common park and had his legs in the water about three inches above his paws.

There was no venom in his blood, but based on the injury and two sets of puncture wounds, the vet seemed confident that it was a snake bite.

Dr. Isabelle Ying at Myrtle Beach Animal Hospital said that there is not much a person can do for their dog at home to treat a snake bite. She urges pet owners to bring their animal to a clinic immediately if they show symptoms of a bite.

The first few hours of a snake bite are critical.

Petey's owner said he took him to the after-hours animal emergency room to be treated with anti-venom, pain medications and fluids. His bill was almost $1,400 for an overnight stay, treatments and follow-up visits to his regular veterinarian.

"Depending on how bad the venomation is as well, there is anti-venom available. The local emergency clinics keep them in stock. Unfortunately, they are extremely expensive, especially if your dog is larger," Ying said.

She added that snake bites can be fatal.

"If it's a bad case of a snake bite, their bodies can go into shock and that itself can be life-threatening," Ying said. "So, we recommend you bring them in immediately. We stabilize them with steroids and fluids and get their blood pressure under control and then treat the local tissue. Sometimes we send them home with antibiotics depending on if the site is infected."

Snake bites will most commonly occur within wooded hiking areas, as well as dog parks, where there's a lot of brush.

Remzi speaks on behalf of what many other dog owners hope will happen to prevent another snakebite from happening again.

"Yes, I think what the town should do is clean up the front of the dog park. Rake it really well, and they should rake inside the dog park by the fence because that's where I think the snakes are kind of living and hiding," Emiroglu said. "But they should clean by the fences all around the dog park inside and outside."

Ying said there have been roughly five cases of snake bites in the last three months at her hospital. She added it doubles in the warmer months.

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