Fall is finally here, and everyone is so excited about the cooler temperatures and the more minimal presence of those pesky bugs!

But did you know that fall comes with challenges of its own for horse owners?

Now is the time when more horses get bitten by copperheads.  Copperheads are very adept at hiding in some scattered leaves.

copperhead in leaves
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They don’t make noise like our friend the rattlesnake does and it is very easy for a horse to walk right on top of one.  Should your horse get bitten by a copperhead don’t panic.  A full sized horse actually metabolizes the venom differently than a human does.  (foals, shetlands and minis require an immediate call to the vet).  First you need to check yourself carefully for little cuts or hangnails.  While you are cleaning up your equine friend’s new bites, if you get the venom in a breach in your skin you will become much more ill than your equine pal!  Take your horse quietly back to a hosing area and hose the bites thoroughly and for at least 15 minutes with cold water.  Hot water will cause the venom to be spread through a wider area than cold.  Make sure to bleach the water surfaces on the ground afterward as copperhead venom even diluted in a puddle can make something else sick.  If a horse is not up to date on tetanus it will need to receive a booster now.  Your vet may advise you to begin an antibiotic protocol or may tell you to watch and see if severe tissue necrosis develops.  The results with antibiotics in either scenario is about evenly split so there appears to be no right or wrong with those.

IF your horse has been bitten on the nose by a venomous snake and it looks like it is evenly slightly starting to swell, the owner should insert a piece of garden hose or some similar tubing that has been wetted on the penetrating end, into one horses nostril about 4 inches deep.  REMEMBER a horse cannot breathe through its mouth so once the nose goes the horse will die rapidly.

Banamine or Bute may be administered to control inflammation as long as the horse is drinking well as they don’t seem to experience blood clotting issues after bites like humans do.

Cold hosing the bite wound several times per day for about 4-6 days is advised and the horse should stay fairly quiet while it recovers.  Most of the time they deal with a copperhead bite very well and it leaves no extreme side effects.  You should keep a very close eye on your horse for at least 72 hours and it is advisable to call your veterinarian to tell her that your horse has been bitten by a copperhead.

Occasionally an equine body will form a wall around the venom and therefore create an abscess pocket.  If you notice a hard lump around a bite site, you will need to call your veterinarian who will probably ultrasound the area to see if this is going on.

This article helps Heart of Phoenix To grow a community of knowledgeable, rational advocates, HORSE People and potential adopters who make great homes for horses in transition looking for their new homes #RIGHTHORSE