Better Health: Smart Health Commentary Better Health (TM): smart health commentary

Article Comments

Snake Bites: Should You Suck The Venom Out Or Not?

Last spring there was a news story about a man who said he saved his dog’s life by sucking venom from a rattlesnake bite out of the animal’s nose. After he performed this lifesaving feat and took his dog to a veterinarian, he reportedly began feeling ill himself.

It is further reported that he went to a hospital and received four vials of antivenom. The dog reportedly had its head swell up to three times its normal size and it also was administered antivenom. The man and his dog recovered.

In the summer of 1975 when I completed an externship at Fort Belknap in Harlem, Montana, we treated a couple of animals (horses and dogs) that had been bitten by rattlesnakes. When dogs are bitten on the face, the soft tissues can swell up pretty quickly. I’ve also seen this from bee stings as well. I’ve never performed mouth-to-muzzle on a dog, but I’ve heard about it. The animals can become very ill and smaller animals can certainly die from rattlesnake bites.

It’s curious that the man saving his dog required antivenom, because one doesn’t become envenomed by eating or drinking venom, which is destroyed in the digestive process. I imagine it’s possible that he had open sores in his mouth, but then he would have needed to be able to actually remove venom from his dog by sucking on the wound to get it into his mouth in the first place, which is also a long shot.

The current thinking is that mouth suction really doesn’t do anything, and in fact may be harmful (in the case of its application to a human) if it introduces harmful bacteria from a person’s mouth into an open wound. I wasn’t present, but there’s a very good chance that the antivenom really wasn’t necessary for the man who treated his dog.

(Image: Courtesy of College of Veterinary Medicine and Biological Sciences, Emergency and Critical Care Medicine, Colorado State University)

This post, Snake Bites: Should You Suck The Venom Out Or Not?, was originally published on by Paul Auerbach, M.D..

You may also like these posts

Read comments »

Comments are closed.

Return to article »

Latest Interviews

How To Be A Successful Patient: Young Doctors Offer Some Advice

I am proud to be a part of the American Resident Project an initiative that promotes the writing of medical students residents and new physicians as they explore ideas for transforming American health care delivery. I recently had the opportunity to interview three of the writing fellows about how to…

Read more »

How To Make Inpatient Medical Practice Fun Again: Try Locum Tenens Work

It s no secret that most physicians are unhappy with the way things are going in healthcare. Surveys report high levels of job dissatisfaction burn out and even suicide. In fact some believe that up to a third of the US physician work force is planning to leave the profession…

Read more »

See all interviews »

Latest Cartoon

See all cartoons »

Latest Book Reviews

The Spirit Of The Place: Samuel Shem’s New Book May Depress You

When I was in medical school I read Samuel Shem s House Of God as a right of passage. At the time I found it to be a cynical yet eerily accurate portrayal of the underbelly of academic medicine. I gained comfort from its gallows humor and it made me…

Read more »

Eat To Save Your Life: Another Half-True Diet Book

I am hesitant to review diet books because they are so often a tangled mess of fact and fiction. Teasing out their truth from falsehood is about as exhausting as delousing a long-haired elementary school student. However after being approached by the authors’ PR agency with the promise of a…

Read more »

Unaccountable: A Book About The Underbelly Of Hospital Care

I met Dr. Marty Makary over lunch at Founding Farmers restaurant in DC about three years ago. We had an animated conversation about hospital safety the potential contribution of checklists to reducing medical errors and his upcoming book about the need for more transparency in the healthcare system. Marty was…

Read more »

See all book reviews »