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Humans aren't the only ones at risk from snake bites

Posted September 9, 2020 7:29 p.m. EDT

— As people and their pets are spending more time outdoors, they're encountering snakes more often.

Dr. Benjamin German, an emergency room physician at WakeMed, said the hospital has already treated 22 percent more copperhead bites so far this year than in all of 2019. In addition to continued development of forested areas across the region, he said the coronavirus pandemic may be part of the reason behind the increase.

"There’s more people, I think, doing outdoor activities and trying to social distance," German said.

Humans aren't the only ones at risk, either.

Mike Blackwell was at the Carolina Pines Dog Park, off Lake Wheeler Road in Raleigh, on Tuesday with Cocoa when a copperhead bit one of the dog's back legs.

"She was running when she got bit," Blackwell said, adding that he initially thought Cocoa had twisted her leg but then saw blood and swelling.

"Copperheads are the most common venomous snake around this part of the state, so those are usually the most common ones we see," said Dr. Brittany Enders, an emergency specialist at North Carolina State University's College of Veterinary Medicine.

With early treatment, most dogs recover fine, Enders said, but owners need to get any bite checked out.

"The best thing you can probably do is just try to keep your dog as calm and quiet as possible and try to limit movement. That can delay absorption of the venom into the bloodstream," she said. "Then, seek veterinary care right away so that your dog can be evaluated."

German said he isn’t surprised by Cocoa’s story, noting that any wooded area is likely to be home to copperheads – even a dog park.

"Usually, early morning or especially at dusk, you want to be a little more careful because the snakes are more active at that time, and also the visibility is poorer, especially at dusk," he said.

Dusk is when Cocoa got bitten, Blackwell said.

"I wanted to let people know that something like that could happen and just to be able to keep an eye out on their animals, even if they’re running around," he said.

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