Animals and Pets

SC hospitals and veterinary offices see uptick in snake bites

(WSPA) - Lowcountry hospitals and veterinary offices are reporting an uptick in snake bites.

There are six types of venomous snakes in South Carolina, but most encounters are with copperheads.

Josh Zalabak, herpetologist at the South Carolina Aquarium says, "There's a good chance in the Lowcountry that you will come across them at some point. They live in pretty much every habitat you can think of and are well adapted to live in urban environments."

This is the time of year when copperheads have babies.

Zalabak says, "Baby copperheads certainly can be as dangerous as the adults. They can't inject as much venom, but it's just as potent."

On top of that, some local areas saw heavy rainfall and flooding from Hurricane Florence which pushes the snakes to higher ground.

Dr. Henri Bianucci, co-owner of Veterinary Emergency Care in Mt. Pleasant says, "With the warmer weather, and even the rain just helps to concentrate them into areas of higher ground which can tend to be around dwellings."    

All of this together is why local hospitals and vet offices are seeing more patients with snake bites.

People can work to make their yards free of snakes by keeping the grass cut and the yard clear of any brush. Doctors say if you see a snake, stay away. Many people end up getting a bite while trying to kill a venomous snake.

Dr. John Walters, Chairman of the Emergency Department at Roper St. Francis Mt. Pleasant Hospital, says, "Just don't handle the snakes. Don't try to chase a snake down, that's where really we see most of them."

Not every bite from a venomous snake contains venom.

Dr. Bianucci says, "There are often times what we call 'dry bites' and something surprises the snake, and just gets them, and there's not a whole lot of venom there. But when a dog is getting a snake agitated, they get a more loaded dose."

ER doctors and veterinarians agree it's best to get medical treatment quickly for any person or animal with a venomous snake bite.

Dr. Walters says, "If you get bitten, you need to come down to the hospital. Reality is, you may go four hours and have no symptoms and then they start to show up."
Dr. Bianucci adds, "The antivenom is basically antibodies to the toxin. So the sooner it gets bound to antibodies, the less damage it does."

Initial symptoms for pets and people following a snake bite include pain and swelling.


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