Rapp’s Dr. Kevin Jones: ‘Dead snakes can still bite’

This newspaper reported last week that recent wet weather was driving snakes out of their dens and other resting areas and closer to our homes and pets.

“I have seen one copperhead bite so far this year — last week,” reports Dr. Kevin Jones of Rose Hill Veterinary Practice in Washington. “I had another client contact me two weeks ago saying that she saw one try to bite her dog but it missed the strike.

“In an average year I see 3 to 5 bites, with most of them between July and August,” says Dr. Jones. “While copperhead bites are rarely life threatening they are still considered a veterinary emergency. The key element of managing these bites is controlling pain and inflammation. Antivenin is rarely indicated in my opinion but is controversial and has to be made on a case by case basis. We do not carry it and it costs a fortune.

“We advise clients to not suck venom out of wounds, ice the site, or apply tourniquets,” he continues. “None of these things help and can make the wound worse. Immediate transport to a veterinarian is always advisable. Follow up care varies patient to patient. [A snake bite] may resolve with oral meds and time. Others can require surgical wound care . . .

“Lastly, we do not encourage owners to dispatch the snake and bring it to us. Dead snakes can still bite and envenomate and we do not want our clients being bit in this process.”

As for ticks, they are crawling on everything — and everybody — in large numbers this year.

“We have seen an enormous number of ticks out this season,” says Dr. Jones.

Most recently we reported of a rare exotic tick — the East Asian or Longhorned tick — that was discovered on an orphaned calf in nearby Albemarle County, only the second such time this tick has been found in the United States. Now, the Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services has issued its own statement about the tick:

“The tick is normally found in Asia, Australia and New Zealand, where it is known to transmit both livestock and human disease. Virginia state veterinary officials will continue to work with the U.S. Department of Agriculture . . . to determine the extent and significance of this finding.

“The adult Longhorned tick is dark brown in color and grows to the size of a pea when engorged. The other life stages are very small and difficult to see with the naked eye.”

Livestock and pet owners are asked to be on the lookout for the tick and to contact the Rappahannock County Extension Office if one is found.