In this episode of K9 Conservationists, Kayla speaks with Nick Brandehoff about snake bites.
Science Highlight: None this week
Links Mentioned in the Episode:
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Kayla Fratt 01:35
Hello and welcome to the K9Conservationists podcast, where we’re positively obsessed with conservation detection dogs. Join us every week to discuss detection training, canine welfare, conservation, biology and everything in between. I’m Kayla Fratt, one of the cofounders of K9Conservationists, where we train dogs to detect data for land managers, researchers, agencies and NGOs. Today I am really excited to be talking all about all things snake bite snake, snake bite care prevention, with Nicklaus Brandehoff from the Asclepius Snakebite Foundation. So Nick, welcome to the podcast. I’m really excited to have you here.
Nick Brandehoff 02:15
Thanks for having me.
Kayla Fratt 02:17
Yeah, so why don’t we just go ahead and dive right into it. As far as I think when I think snakebite prevention and treatment, the first thing I want to be thinking about are what are the highest risks for the snake bites, you know, as far as behavioral risks of what the dog is doing, what the human is doing and what the snake is doing? I know, that can probably be an entire seminar topic, but relatively briefly.
Nick Brandehoff 02:44
Yeah, I think I mean, the highest risk things that people do is, is get out into the field, right. And so the vast majority of people interact with snakes sort of at the city, city limits are butting up against usually open area. But when you get into people, probably like people listen to this podcast where you get out into the field off trail. Those are the highest risk scenarios, just because snakes don’t like to be where people are, but they will sort of butt up against that habitat. And especially people going through high grass through dense vegetation, things where they can’t see their feet very well would be for people. And then for dogs, I mean, dogs just going sort of everywhere, trailing or looking around putting their their face and everything is sort of the time when they’re gonna get bitten.
Kayla Fratt 03:37
Yeah, yeah. So do you do you see that most snake bites actually come from dogs that are intentionally interacting with snakes or more coming into contact with the snakes accidentally, through like, playing fetch and running over a snake or something like that?
Nick Brandehoff 03:52
No, it’s usually dog being inquisitive. You know, it’s usually a dog moving around. You know, it’s usually not in the setting of throwing the Frisbee or something like that with a dog isn’t because very focused on the Frisbee or the ball or what their objective is. Usually the dog just sort of muddling around, having a little bit of free time putting their nose around everything because they smell that snake scent. It’s a foreign thing to them usually. And so they’re they’re sort of being like, Oh, what’s this? And then they sort of get tagged and the majority of dogs get bit on the face, but some of them could get bit on the legs as well.
Kayla Fratt 04:31
Gotcha. Yeah, yeah, that makes sense. And I suppose knowing where they’re bitten tells us a little bit about what they were doing at the time. So you know, we were talking before recording I think this podcast is going to be pretty focused on you know, the Americas and then Africa. So we’re going to be trying to track down someone different to talk to for Australia because there’s some special considerations with all of the snakes there. So maybe for you know, North America Uh, North South America and then Africa. Can you break down some of the the definition or the distinctions between snake groups that we might need to be aware of? Again, I know, every single question I’m asking you today could be an entire seminar on its own.
Nick Brandehoff 05:17
Yeah, I think I think when you break down at least venomous snakes, well, snakes in general, so you break them down into basically three categories. There’s some nuances there. But basically, they call you a bridge, which is the vast majority of snakes, vast majority of non venomous snakes. So you think bull snakes, you think garter snakes, you think, sort of your other water snakes that people might run into in North America, for example. And then you sort of get into your venemous populations, which is your Vipers, viperidae, which would in North America would be sort of your rattlesnakes, your, your cottonmouths, your copperheads. In Africa, your your puff adders, your soft-scaled vipers, things of that nature. And then you think you break them down into the third category, which is your elapids. So those are usually your, in North America, that’s your coral snake.Aand South America, your coral snakes, and a couple others. And then in Africa, that that’s where you get into the Cobras, the Mambas, things of that nature, they tend to be neurotoxic, where where the Vipers tend to be more sort of cause bleeding and local damage. But there’s a lot of overlap there. So those aren’t finite categories.
Kayla Fratt 06:33
Sure. Okay, yeah. And so, you know, I imagine that part of the reason we’re bothering to break this down is because there’s differences and what you as a handler in the field may want to do based on who has bitten your dog. So if you, I suppose, have the fortune of seeing what has been your dog? What are some of the things that you should be doing as you’re working on getting your dog to the vet?
Nick Brandehoff 07:01
I think I think breaking it down by probably geographic region is the easiest because the vast majority of investigations that occur in North America or the US are buyer vipers, I mean, for especially for dogs, it’s usually vipers, vipers, vipers, unless you’re sort of in the Florida area, maybe Texas where you might catch a coral snake bite. But really, it’s, they’re usually bitten on the muzzle, in some way the nose. And so it’s really a gift to an emergency veterinarian as soon as possible. Largely because if you’re bitten on the face, imagine yourself getting bitten on the face by a rattlesnake. If you get any sort of swelling in that area, that swelling can can compromise the airway system.
Nick Brandehoff 07:47
And so you want somebody if they need to be intubated or have that sort of care, they need to be to the hospital immediately. So if you can carry out your dog. I know a lot of people who do this works sometimes get smaller dogs in order to be able to carry them out in an emergency. Yep. But you know, you get into here larger dogs. That can be, you know, if you’re 10 miles in and got to hike out your 100 pound German Shepherd you may be hopefully a little bit but getting them to care as soon as possible so that they can get anti-venom. If it’s available.
Nick Brandehoff 08:21
There’s no real, proven pre hospital care that improves outcome. So I hear a lot. I hear a lot of talk about using Benadryl as a treatment that does not work and does not stop the swelling. The pathway for the swelling from a snake bite is very different from the pathway that Benadryl inhibits. I hear a lot about steroids, same thing to decrease the swelling, it does not decrease the swelling in a snake bite scenario. You know, you could potentially maybe give them IV fluids or sort of subcutaneous fluids if the dogs sort of has a low blood pressure and things like that. There’s no proven pre hospital treatment. It’s really just get to dog care soon as Yeah, as soon as possible. That’s really all you got. And to be blunt. That’s all we got for human care as well. So you know, there’s people working on pre hospital stuff, but for humans, dogs, horses, cats, whoever it is get to care soon as possible.
Kayla Fratt 09:23
Yeah, just get them to that antivenom. Yeah, that’s when we were, we got a little bit snake crazy. And I should have done this podcast before this field deployment. But we did two weeks of fieldwork in really remote Guatemala where I think we were about six hours from our car for several days on end and then let alone how far the car was from a hospital. We were probably 10 hours from the nearest veterinary hospital and I got lucky. When I spoke to a veterinarian in Costa Rica about this, they actually sold me anti venom. So I was able to have anti venom with me which, I was for sure nervous about because the whole package was in Spanish and I’m fluent, but you know, I’m reading the instructions over and over and over and trying to memorize them and not feeling super qualified to actually administer anti venom were something to happen and we didn’t need to. But, you know, we were lucky enough that that was something that was available to us in Latin America to at least carried that on us. Again, I was the sort of thing that I was not super psyched about having to figure out if it happened.
Nick Brandehoff 10:29
Yeah. And the reality is, you know, there’s no evidence are specific to certain snakes. And so it really depends on what Jana Venom Do you have, some of them are what we call polyvalent, which cover multiple species, but some of them are monovalent over one. And you’re working in an area that like, is more ecologically diverse, like Latin America, or Africa. There are lots of snakes that aren’t covered by the anti venom that may be causing injury. And so it gets a little difficult.
Nick Brandehoff 10:58
In North America, we’re more lucky in that we have in a veteran that’s recovers the vast, vast majority of bites. And we do have coral snake anti venom as well for dogs. University of Florida is like a pro proletarian coral snake investigations. In many bites. Yeah. But I mean, the reality as well is that most, most people don’t see what injured their dog. It’s usually the dog came back, you know, some whimpering or has some pain or some swelling or something is going on. And it’s really hard to parse out, was it a, you know, was it a snake bite? Was it one of 1000 other things that the dog could have encountered in the field? Did the dog put its face in a hornet’s nest? Like, it’s really hard to tell sometimes?
Nick Brandehoff 11:44
Yeah, that’s something, I think you and I got connected through that National National Veterinary Snake Bites support group on Facebook. And it seems like one of the most common questions is people posting photos of injuries and swelling on their dogs and not knowing for sure whether or not it’s a snake bite, not knowing what the next step is.
Kayla Fratt 12:03
Yeah, yeah. 100%. Yeah. So, you know, again, knowing now that there’s just not much we can do, but beyond just trying to get the dog to the vet as soon as possible. What should people expect in the case of a snake bite, as as that’s actually happening for them and their dog?
Nick Brandehoff 12:28
So the expectation would be, they’re going to continue to swell, they might have some local bleeding and by Viper bite, you know, they’re going to be a lot of pain. And that is only going to continue to get worse until they get the treatment involved. Now a lot of lot of dogs do quite well with snake bites. There’s this fallacy though, that dogs do better than humans do from snake bites. I don’t think that’s actually true. I think dogs are better at hiding pain than we are, to be blunt, especially working dogs. When you get into the working dog class. Like I have a Dutch Shepherd Malinois makes like she could care less about anything, as long as she’s doing what she wants them to do. Yeah, and I think dogs are the same way.
Nick Brandehoff 13:20
And so I think, you know, you’re going to expect swelling, pain, they might be a little bit more sort of tired and not not working through what they want to be doing. And maybe a little bit of bleeding. Now they get bit by neurotoxic sprinkling a coral snake or a mumble Cobra, they may not show any signs other than sort of weakness. And so that weakness will usually start with one the facial area blends a little bit sometimes, but then progress to the respiratory, so they might be breathing a little bit faster, might be panting a little bit. And so that and then they get some more shit, they get faster respirations but shallower breathing, and then can progress. Those are respiratory paralysis and not being able to please breathe fully. That’s where like putting them on a breathing machine can be beneficial for them.
Nick Brandehoff 14:15
Whereas a viper, they might get put on a breathing machine but only to sort of get past that swelling, if you will resolve before they can they take the breathing tube out. Those are pretty drastic measures and being in in being in a place where they have that ability. Usually you’re talking about a university bed setting or, you know a more advanced emergency that setting you know, we’re lucky in the US that we have all these places. But I can I can assume in Latin America these places are minimal. I can tell you working in West Africa firstly by care in humans that having even care for humans instead of this advances is incredibly minimal. So I’m not sure sort of what their dog capacity would be. And so, you know, if there’s a group that’s working, for example, in Guinea, where we have a clinic for working dog, you know, they may need to go to the human place. And that human place to do that for a dog is probably a heavy undertaking.
Kayla Fratt 15:26
Yeah, yeah, gosh, I can imagine I know, we didn’t necessarily look into where the nearest you know, places that could intubate a dog were for us in Guatemala, but my dog had, we ended up being so worried about snakes, and then he got a tick borne diseases and got ended up paralyzed from two different tick borne infections at the same time. And when we were when we were trying to troubleshoot that whole thing, we were speaking to a veterinarian in El Salvador, and they were like, Yeah, so the nearest the nearest MRI is going to be in Guatemala City for you, which is actually only like a six or seven hour drive away. So it wasn’t terrible. But they’re like, you know, do you want us to call and get that scheduled for you? And we ended up having some other options. And it turned out to not be necessary. But yeah, you know, I was actually surprised it was as close as Guatemala City.
Nick Brandehoff 16:18
Yeah, I mean, we even in our in our clinic, for humans, their average transport times eight hours, right. So for dogs, it’s, I don’t even know if it’s a possibility unless you already have a system in place. Yeah. for that. So if you’re working, if you’re a handler in those regions, you know, knowing people having a having an exit strategy for whatever reason, is would be an important thing. Because putting, putting that into putting putting that into motion can be a very heavy undertaking there.
Kayla Fratt 16:56
Yeah, yeah, definitely. Yeah. And especially again, because there’s just not much you can do until you get there. So it sounds like in most cases, then it would be once you get to the veterinarian, you’re hoping that they’ve got an appropriate antivenom for what’s going on. And then it’s kind of breathing support, are there any other things that you can expect? I’m sure, survivability varies quite a lot. But people would probably love to know, you know, what, what can we be expecting? As far as timelines and likelihood of survival?
Nick Brandehoff 17:27
I think that’s totally dependent on the snake living, it’s heavily dependent on the size of your dog. I think it’s heavily dependent on the nutritional status of your dog. Now, I’m assuming most people for this podcast would be, you know, they’re working dogs, and so they’re well cared for. But I think I think it just depends on a multitude of factors, you know, a, a 20 pound terrier versus 140 pound Pyrenees, what is going to be sort of a different survivability rate based on seeing strike. You know, it also depends on how much venom about injected, you know, six to mediate their venom in terms of control how much they inject. And so there’s a multitude of factors there. That would say, you know, you get into your more toxic, neurotoxic things like Cobra, or Mambo Biden, West Africa is probably a lot less survivability than, say, a Copperhead biting us. So it just, it just varies so much based on who? Who has it? What’s going on? And where, what location you’re in.
Kayla Fratt 18:40
Yeah, it does. Do you see correlations as far as time to the veterinarian being really important? Or is it a little bit more predetermined based on the dog and the bite?
Nick Brandehoff 18:54
No, I think there’s so this is the same for all everything being bitten, the faster you can get carried, the better your outcomes gonna be. Yeah, we know this, because, you know, anti venom doesn’t necessarily reverse. What is the damage that has already occurred if there’s damage being done to local tissue, or, but it does stop that progression. So the sooner you can get there, so that the anti venom can be administered and be neutralized the venom than the better things will be. Now it may in some scenarios, depending on the snake, for like, neurotoxic bites to cause paralysis. It may reverse that paralysis. It may not depending on the mechanism of the venom and how it’s working. And that varies.
Nick Brandehoff 19:38
Interesting. Yeah, yeah, that’s really, really interesting. I there was a period of time back when I was an undergrad that I got really interested in a lot of these phantom questions, and had I been better at biochemistry. I think this one is one of those things that I would have really enjoyed going into. Because it’s just so fascinating. I mean, the different mechanisms and Just how varied it can be is it’s really, it’s really wild. So, um, okay, I know, some people are going to be wondering about the rattlesnake vaccine. I know I have not made the jump for it because I have not seen any data behind it. But what? What has your hands on experience with vaccine?
Nick Brandehoff 20:24
So I’m not a vet. I’m a human toxicologist and snakebite doc, but I, you know, I work with a lot of vets and know the research quite well. There’s been no proven data showing benefit from the rattlesnake vaccine. I know that it’s marketed to sort of increase your time to, to get to the vet, and things of that nature. No data supporting that, that assertion. And the the immunology part, and the biochemistry part doesn’t make a lot of sense for the mechanism. And so not having a plausible mechanism not having the data or anything like that I don’t look read that is useful.
Kayla Fratt 21:14
How does it get approved? If it doesn’t have that sort of? And that might not be a question for someone like you, that might be more of a rhetorical question, but it seems like they shouldn’t have to have some amount of proof if they’re going to be marketing something as consequential as a vaccine.
Nick Brandehoff 21:31
So they have, they have minimal proof and a mouse modeling. Okay, for western diamondback venom, which is the venom they used to do the immunization. Okay, now, you’re gonna get into a lot of complications here because the Venom’s from even just a single species. So Western Diamondbacks have a very broad range from Southern California through Texas. And up through Oklahoma, the Venom’s vary based on the different specific geographic populations, and then when you start getting into different species of snakes, you know, Mojave, rattlesnakes, and, and prey, rattlesnakes and all the different rattlesnakes, their venom composition is different as well. And so you’re gonna get, you’re gonna get a lot of variation in that venom. And so the idea of being able to be immunized against all those variations is just not accurate. And then the approval, the reason the approval process is there’s a much lower standard for animals and humans.
Kayla Fratt 22:45
So we don’t have enough, it doesn’t show –
Nick Brandehoff 22:48
Yeah, if it doesn’t, if it doesn’t show any harm, then it’s probably okay. But it doesn’t show any benefit as well. So why, yeah. Why do it? You know, I think I think it gives people peace of mind as if they are doing something it’s kind of a placebo effect. But there’s no benefit. That’s been just been shown to be proven.
Kayla Fratt 23:09
Yeah, yeah. I mean, I think it’s, I see where that comes from. And I’ve, you know, I haven’t I’m not gonna say I haven’t considered it. Because, you know, especially when you start learning, like, okay, tourniquets, and you know, everything that you hear about us, these old wives tales of what to do with snake bites are not advised. And you just start feeling like God, I just want something to feel like I’ve, I’m helping my dog, and we’ve got another episode, that’ll be coming out a little bit before this one on, you know, avoidance training, and trying to figure out how to help our dogs not not encounter these snakes and understand that they need to avoid them. And, you know, depending on the methodologies, results are really mixed there, too.
Kayla Fratt 23:50
So it’s just hard because we want to be keeping our dog safe. There’s just not much that we can. We can do beyond you know, and we’ve, I think we’ve covered this well enough in the show, but people can let me know if they want a separate episode, you know, other than doing all the research we can about who is out there and what their habits are, and how can we set up our surveys, so that we’re minimizing the likelihood of running into these snakes and then just that’s kind of all we can do.
Nick Brandehoff 24:18
Yeah, like, I think, you know, I’ve I’ve done avoidance training with my dog, and I’ve worked with some really good avoidance trainers. But I’ve also seen some really bad ones. I think that’s probably where the mixed the mixed efficacy comes from. So if you’re going to do avoidance sharing, I highly recommend getting a good recommendation for one rather than like I did, I did my name initially in California with my dog was briefly we’re working towards SAR training and my schedule is too busy to continue it.
Nick Brandehoff 24:51
But then we moved to Colorado and I was like, oh, I need a sort of real per boy to train. So I just went to one of the courses and I’ll be i was so incredibly upset with the methods and how they’re doing and they clearly are used to working with honey dogs, which tend to be a very different class and working with a Malinois class, which, you know, they’re not better or worse. They’re just different sort of approaches.
Nick Brandehoff 25:19
And so having somebody that can tailor that approach is important, I think. But but we want to do something, we want to do something for our dogs, for our kids for all sorts of stuff. This is why snakebite kits are sold and Rei still suction devices, all that stuff. None of them work, this lot of them causes more harm, but they continue to be sold by the millions every year because people want something in their backpack to show. This is why the Benadryl thing makes its rounds constantly through social media.
Kayla Fratt 25:50
That would be nice. If it was true.
Nick Brandehoff 25:53
It would be fantastic. I know is that baffles me when people are like you don’t know, you know, you’re in with pharma and all these things. And you’re like, like, no, like, I want I would love to have something,
Kayla Fratt 26:07
Well, yeah, pharma, you would be trying to sell the things, wouldn’t you think?
Nick Brandehoff 26:13
They think it’s, like, I’m trying to push anti venom as the sole thing. And first of all, I want to say I don’t get paid for any anti venom stuff. And to is, you know, as a physician for humans, why wouldn’t I want something that would work? And as an avid hiker with my dog, why would I want something that would protect my dog, or improve my dog’s outcome? If they did get bit in the field when we’re, you know, eight miles, and it’s a ridiculous assertion, but there’s just we want something to work. There’s nothing that works, because we don’t have any sort of great pre hospital care right now.
Kayla Fratt 26:51
Yeah, yeah. Is there anything to you know, I guess, I have heard, you’re trying to keep the dog calm, trying to keep them comfortable? You know, I can’t imagine that’s the sort of thing that hurts.
Nick Brandehoff 27:03
But no, I think I think that is one of the things that could be beneficial. We know that, you know, we know that snake venom travels through the lymphatic system. So you know, your veins, your veins have a way there’s this, there’s a secondary system, for for having fluid returned to your heart, you still have your venous system, and then your lymphatic system, your lymphatic system is great for we’re sort of fight stuff, viruses and bacteria and stuff like that. And the other way, that’s how venom gets through your system as well. And so there’s not a lot of pressure there.
Nick Brandehoff 27:45
So the way that it moves is every time you move your muscles, that little sort of motion squeezes little those, those lymphatic pipes, if you will, and move stuff forward. And so theoretically, if you can keep your dog from moving, it would decrease stuff now trying to keep a dog for moving things, like trying to keep a three year old from moving. That’s a really hard thing to do. But, you know, if your dog gets bit on the lake, for example, if you can split the leg where they’re not bending and a lot interesting, that might be that might be a benefit, but you’re getting into a lot of MacGyver ish type modes at that point, especially from the backcountry and have to hike out and, you know, if you’re using a 20 pound Terrier, again, for example, that’s a lot easier. You throw that dog in your backpack and try to keep them from moving versus, you know, your big ol grandparent is not caring for your dog.
Kayla Fratt 28:42
Yeah, I mean, it’s part of the reason I, you know, I run Border Collies, and part of the reason actually, just before we hopped on got an email from another person. We get we get this email, like once a month, someone’s in over their head with some Czech line working German shepherd. And, yeah, it’s a 90 pound German Shepherd, I It’s too it’s too much. Just one more thing that I would have to worry about with that dog.
Nick Brandehoff 29:09
Yeah, well, I mean, I think it’s one of the reasons that there are a lot of my colleagues in search and rescue us sort of smaller pocket rocket mountain wasn’t Dutch shepherds in that in those arenas, because they’re great working line dogs, but you can get a good dog for 45 or 50 pounds, which is more manageable than you know, there’s, there’s been this this movement of breeding these much larger Mountain was for for protection work, and, you know, it’s like, I don’t want my dog is 60 pounds. I don’t want her to be 90 pounds.
Kayla Fratt 29:45
Yeah, yeah, both are on that 45 to 50 range and I’m, I’m like 130 so even my 50 pound Border Collie’s gonna give me a run for my money carrying them out if it’s going to be more than a couple miles. And we carry you know, we’ve got like, a rescue harness so that you can turn the dog into a backpack. And actually, that’s one of the things, you know, how concerned are we about collars harnesses, those sorts of things with swelling.
Nick Brandehoff 30:12
So that is a big, so any person that take off anything, so I wear a ring and a watch, my ring is rubber, so I can rip it off at any point. But anything constricting, especially for dogs, you know, your collar, you know, depending on the harness, I guess, depending on what if it’s one of the lower chest harnesses that don’t sort of go up around the neck area and sort of stay below what would be the dog’s collarbone region. If you equate that from human to sort of the dog from a anatomical standpoint, it’s probably fine. But anything that’s going to cause any constricting around the neck should be taken off. And if you have anything that so say you have, you’re using paw pads, or some sort of any paw shoes, that would be something else I would remove. Just because you don’t want anything constricting as that swelling progresses in those scenarios.
Kayla Fratt 31:07
Yeah, yeah, that makes that makes sense. And that kind of that was one of the first things I was thinking about when you were talking about potentially splinting as oh, gosh, how would you how would you splint to live effectively without potentially creating another construction point?
Nick Brandehoff 31:21
You know, that’s where people get a lot into the application of crepe wraps, which is what Australia uses for a lot of their states in human bites. The reason being is there’s things don’t cause swelling, the ways that the way that our students so if you did, even if you could do a functional crepe wrap, which most people can’t put it on appropriately. Because you got to sort of reach a very specific threshold of pressure. Once that swelling starts, that pressure gets greater and greater and you might actually do more harm than good at that point. And so if you haven’t, if you’re going to splint your dog, make sure it’s quite loose. You know, basically try to hold like keep keep a stick or something sort of to keep it from bending, but at the same time, don’t wrap it tightly. Don’t use Cobain, because Cauvin is is as you the more raps you make the tighter it gets. So you can actually cause more harm than good in that scenario as well.
Kayla Fratt 32:21
Gotcha. Yeah, that’s, that’s all really good information. And again, we’re gonna try to get someone to come on and talk to us specifically about Australia.
It is always weird listening, but it’s humans, dogs, everything. It’s their unique bunch.
Kayla Fratt 32:38
Yeah, they’ve got Yeah, they’ve got all sorts of things I love that are snakes here. Some of them have rattles. That’s, that’s one of my favorite features of our snakes.
Nick Brandehoff 32:49
Yeah, I hear you know, I hear this. This is this is bantered about all the time about snakes losing their rattles evolve to avoid predators and humans and cattle and things like that. And all that. It’s never that has not been proven. It’s very, very controversial. When that came out, yeah. It’s a very ethnocentric sort of, like, we’d love to think that we influence everything going on in the world in as far as agriculture and ecology goes. Which we do in a lot of ways, right by Yeah. You know, there’s reasons that conservation dogs even exist. But the whole, like, snakes are losing their rattle playing isn’t there? That isn’t an actual proven thing yet.
Kayla Fratt 33:44
Oh, yeah. That’s interesting. I mean, it’s funny, though, I think about this, you know, like all the Rattlesnakes I’ve seen, I think almost all of them I’ve been rattled at. But I also don’t necessarily know the snakes that I’m missing that didn’t have rattles, or didn’t rattle at me. But again, I always appreciate we just had our most recent rattlesnake encounter like a week ago, and the snake actually didn’t rattle at us the first time we encountered it, my friend was probably a step and a half away from stepping on it and something in that, you know, that back bit of her brain set off and she stopped and then realize why she stopped dead. And the snake didn’t rattle at that point. It rattled with, you know, as it was moving.
Nick Brandehoff 34:24
When you’re in the field, you pass about 1000 snakes that you never see. Yeah, right. People always like they always remember that water two times they run into a snake. And that was like, Oh my God, there’s snakes in the area. I can promise you if you are a hiker, or if you’re out in the community, away from city life, and there’s you know, it’s a habitable area for snakes. There are snakes around. They love they use their camouflage before anything else. You know, they don’t rattle rattlesnakes are great for listening but they don’t rattle until they absolutely have to because they don’t want to give way they’re camouflage. So they’re not battling 50 yards away, you know, they’ll rattle right next to it. And honestly, a lot of times in human bites still bite first and then rattle after it because you got so close, you’re now a threat to them. And they are biting you and then they’ll rattle, which is kind of, you know, frustrating.
Kayla Fratt 35:19
Not super helpful, buddy. Yeah. Thanks for having me rattle. Yeah. Every time I’ve been rattled that I think it’s been in the process where I like had the initial startle, I backed up, I got my dogs under control. And then I’m going into take a photo, which is probably a lot of people get bitten as well, I always think I’m being careful. But so it’s the thing with rest risk stuff to where it’s like, I think I’m doing this intelligently. But that’s just because I haven’t been bitten yet.
Nick Brandehoff 35:47
Yeah, and I heard a, I heard a very interesting presentation from a guy out of South Africa, working with working with dogs. And he was saying that they have attempted to use dogs here to try to find puff batters. So there’s, there’s a group, you know, there are some groups in the US that use dogs to try to find rattlesnakes, and sort of point them out. And they’re having some success with that. But they were saying that the puffer matters in South Africa, the dogs can’t find. And they have no idea why. You know, and in the puff adders are incredibly well camouflaged. From a from a sight standpoint. So it’d be interesting to know from a smell standpoint, for what the dogs are missing on, but I thought, you know, when you start getting into the high scent dogs, you would think they’d be able to smell a snake like that. And they can’t, apparently, yeah, so it’s really interesting.
Kayla Fratt 36:51
We haven’t worked on any reptile projects yet. But I know I’ve heard you know, similar things with a lot of reptiles as well as some amphibians, it seems like it really varies seasonally, and kind of depending on what they’re doing behaviorally as well, it seems like it varies quite a bit, but they do seem to have pretty, pretty good olfactory camouflage and part of it especially with these venomous snakes is you might wonder, okay, if the detection distance is half a meter you know, at that point the dog is already well within striking range and is probably no longer a viable no no longer a viable option. You know, if the dog can’t tell it’s a snake from you know, 5, 10, 15 meters away it’s it’s not really a safe proposition anyway.
Nick Brandehoff 37:36
Yeah, I think that the dogs least that, like I know, Kim Beck is using her labs out of Utah for finding rattlesnakes and doing a lot of conservation work that way. And I know there’s a few others I just don’t know off top my head, but they they’re having good success and there’s you know, they their dogs see people don’t realize that random things for example, leasing a defensive strike not not an offensive strike for prey catching buffer defensive stuff. When a dog human gets nearby, they only strike maximum probably, half their body length, like even a three foot rattlesnake, which is a pretty big rattlesnake in the west area. You know, some of the Western Diamondbacks get much bigger five or six feet, those are rare now can only strike well half of his length, so you’re talking about a meter. So even if the dog picks up the scent, two or three meters out and sort of stays that far away? They’re still within safety margin.
Kayla Fratt 38:34
Yeah, yeah, definitely. Yeah, again, as long as the dog doesn’t move closer, and the odors moving in the right directions, and all sorts of all sorts of things.
Nick Brandehoff 38:44
While your dog’s not curious and has the appropriate aversion to that scent and things like that, then then you’re good but a lot of times they pick up that scent and want to get figure out what that what it is so that when they get in the danger.
Yeah, I’m sure people who are doing that must have a lot of questions for the explosives, dog handlers on you know, working on getting the dogs to alert at a very safe distance and you know, they have the the snake people have the additional challenge of the snakes being something that can move and it’s ecologically interesting to dog because dogs aren’t inherently interested in sea four. But a snake is going to be interesting.
Nick Brandehoff 39:24
They are Yes. Especially when you get into the more higher prey drive dogs, you know. I’m sure with the conservation dogs, there’s probably a lot of training that out but if you a lot of the other working dogs that maybe are designed for prey catching, you know, like I can really picture Jack Russell. You know, that dog is 100% Yeah, want to get that snake.
Kayla Fratt 39:53
I think the fact that we’re already because we’re the conservation dog stuff are already so focused on selecting dogs dogs that aren’t as interested in prey animals and doing a lot of training to get like, automatic disengagement that probably helps us out quite a bit because it’s not that snakes are the exception, but it’s the same rule with snakes is everything else that we run into in the wilderness, don’t interact with it.
Kayla Fratt 40:17
But I know I told this story when I was talking to Ken Ramirez about the snake avoidance. What I’ve run into with my older dog barley is, you know, we’re all ecologists. So we all get excited whenever we find anything interesting out in the woods. So barley has now found for us, several snake sheds. And, you know, he found a dead howler monkey and a dead porcupine and you know, all these other interesting things that we he would, he didn’t necessarily alert to them but showed interest enough that we came and found them. And I’m always worried that, you know, I could very easily if I was careless, accidentally trained him to find snakes for me in a way that would not be safe or thoughtful for him.
Nick Brandehoff 41:01
Yeah, yeah, that projection of your excitement on the find, they 100% pick up on that.
Kayla Fratt 41:08
Yeah. So, we’ve actually got a rattlesnake shed that I just picked up in California a couple days ago. So we’re gonna, we’re gonna go back to the to the basics on okay, this is actually a thing that means when you smell as you recall to me, and like you do not tell me about it, you don’t investigate.
Kayla Fratt 41:24
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Kayla Fratt 41:57
So, okay, the last question that I wanted to kind of circle back to because we we hinted out but didn’t dive into it all is are there any tips or any kind of diagnostic criteria we can look at if we’re looking at some symptoms or a suspected by how is there any way to tell that it’s been a snakebite versus something else? Or is it better to just load and go get to get to the veterinary hospitals and as possible?
Nick Brandehoff 42:24
I think if there’s any concern for snake bite, even if it’s not 100, not 100% on it, you need to get to the hospital and let them do their thing. Because as we said earlier, it could be 1000 different things. A lot of those things could be completely benign and not cause any progression, your dog can go on just fine. But there are some things in there that the dog could get much worse really rapidly and need need emergency care. So if you have any concern for a snake bite, just get to the vet. When you get to the vet, you know, signs like bleeding, lab abnormalities, there’s you can get some some changes in your red blood cells that the vet can see that that sort of hint and a snake bite. A few other things. But really, it’s just if you’re out in the field, and there’s concern for one, there’s not a there’s not a lot of other things I would do I would just get to the vet.
Kayla Fratt 43:21
Yeah, yeah, that makes sense. And yeah, even when we’re way, when we’re way out there, then getting a head start is probably even more important. And you always have, you know, as I said, in Guatemala for 10 hours away from the vet, I think we’re probably going to know if it’s a nothing burger before we get to the vet. And we can always turn around before we pay.
Nick Brandehoff 43:40
Yeah, I mean, it’s the same. It’s the same with humans, if they’re out on the trail, if there’s concern get to get to the hospital as soon as you can. You know, I would think with humans, we have a little bit more support, right? We can always use one of our spots or garments or something like that to call emergency services. Now. I doubt there’s many systems that have helicopter rescue for dogs. Probably not, unless you’re potentially military or some other sort of, well, very well connected dog. But I doubt that. And so it’s really just, if there’s any concern, get to get it out as soon as you can. And then, like you said, as you get out, and you are spending more and more time getting out and your dogs going to declare itself. Now keep in mind there, snake bites can take several hours to progress. And so if there’s no progression, the first 30 minutes, I wouldn’t necessarily stop at 30 minutes say, Oh, my dog is fine now. Yeah, because it could take a couple hours for that swelling to really, really make itself pronounced.
Kayla Fratt 44:44
Yeah, that’s interesting and good to know. I know the only bite that I’ve ever had to deal with for my animals other than ticks is a brown recluse or that’s what we’re fairly certain it was because of how the necrosis progressed. And that was a multi week process, which I know is It’s different. But it was really surprising how many times we kind of thought Barley was out of the woods and then it would get worse a couple days later and you know, he’s losing chunks of chair.
Nick Brandehoff 45:09
What location was that?
Kayla Fratt 45:10
That, this was a southern Indiana.
Nick Brandehoff 45:16
Okay? Yeah, so recluse territory. And the only reason I asked is there’s so many. So many things that look like a recluse bite that people then say, Oh, my dog got their back. Yeah, well, they don’t really exist in Nevada. Right, or they don’t they don’t they don’t you know, you were in Washington when this occurred, just not really. There’s no replaces there. So. But there’s a lot of sort of similarities of things that can occur. But yeah, same, same sort of thing. The unfortunate thing with recluse is we don’t have a treatment. And we just were watching we do good one care.
Kayla Fratt 45:49
Yeah, yeah. It was just a lot of wound care for weeks. And yeah, you know, the same as what you’re saying we don’t we say it was probably a recluse bite. And that’s just going off of what the vet told us about how it progressed. But yeah, we didn’t. We didn’t see any I would imagine when spiders even less than snakes, you’re actually going to get the chance to know what got your dog.
Nick Brandehoff 46:09
I see so many misdiagnosis in humans who have spider bites, and really, it was just a skin infection. Spider bites are incredibly rare.
Kayla Fratt 46:22
Yeah. I mean, a bunch of Entomology, Facebook groups, and most of it is just memes. People making fun of everyone on the internet who thinks that everything is a brown recluse.
Nick Brandehoff 46:32
100 100% Yeah, yeah. Again, it’s it’s funny because I’ll get consults for in Colorado. For humans thinking they got bit by a recluse. Well, we don’t have them so probably not. So by request by certainly happen in the in the geographic distribution that occurs, it’s just often misdiagnosed.
Kayla Fratt 46:58
Yeah, yeah. I’m surprised actually in Colorado, that people I mean, I feel like I’ve seen so many gajillions of Black Widows out there. That would be the thing that I would be. That’d be my my Wolf. I’d be crying about all the time in Colorado.
Nick Brandehoff 47:11
Yeah, we definitely get a lot of Black Widow investigations here. For young pups.
Kayla Fratt 47:17
Yeah, yeah, definitely. I’ve definitely moved stacks of wood and had, like, Oh, that’s not a spider, I want to see crawling away from my hand. Sort of experiences. Yeah.
Nick Brandehoff 47:29
I mean, we’re now getting more and more. So the brown widow has come over from Europe and is still venomous, still can cause some symptoms. Typically, symptoms are way less than a black widow. But they’re actually pushing out the Black Widow out of urban areas where people live. So the brown widow was much better at inner local co living with us. Whereas the Black Widows tend to like more rural areas. And so we’re seeing a shift there, which is kind of interesting. Yeah. Long term. Yeah. I mean, it we’ll see how it plays out long term. But that’s sort of been something that people have observed.
Kayla Fratt 48:16
Yeah, that’s fascinating. Well, okay, is there anything that normally you’d like to bring up or anything you wanted to circle back to or clarify about snakebite care prevention treatment?
No, I think, as we were discussing, I think before we started, you know, snake bites, especially when you start getting in different geographical regions, different continents, can be nuanced and complex. But at the same time, the treatment is very simple. It is get out as soon as possible to appropriate medical care. And that exists for humans and dogs, and cats and horses, and every other thing that needs to be treated in these scenarios. Because, unfortunately, there’s just no great pre hospital care at the moment.
Kayla Fratt 48:59
Yeah, yeah. I mean, and I think that’s just as useful to know and good thing to be clear eyed about as, as we’re heading into things and yeah, preparing yourself and your dog the best you can and knowing where your nearest antivenin is. No, if that’s all we can do, then we better do it well.
Nick Brandehoff 49:19
Yeah, I think if you you know, I, what I try to tell people is know where your nearest hospital is, if you’re gonna go out, but also in the setting of sort of working dogs and other you know, agricultural places where people horses and stuff is know where your nearest emergency vet is, most events that sort of, you know, have a nine to five schedulers like that most of them don’t carry in. And then um, so knowing where which veterinary system around you has anti venom, what hours they’re open, things of that nature would be beneficial because I can tell you in the setting of a snakebite or any other emergency, your mind goes 1000 different ways, right. I’m, I’m trained in emergency medicine, and I work in the emergency department. And even then, you know, when chaos ensues, you sort of have to have a very algorithmic system in order to not lose your mind. When you’re out in the field, even though a lot of that stuff goes out the door.
Nick Brandehoff 50:15
And so having, you know, thing, okay, there’s the bite. Here’s the phone number, this is where we’re going and alerting them ahead of time, it’s probably beneficial as well, awesome. They can prepare for everything. But it’s, you know, I wish that I wish that we had better pre hospital system care. And I wish that we had more veterinary places that were amenable to treating snake bites, but it is a very pretty niche area of veterinary medicine and even human medicine as well.
Kayla Fratt 50:48
Oh, yeah. Yeah, definitely. I mean, it’s just one more thing that we all need to have in our vehicle binders and have, you know, ready to go saved in your phone. I know, when we were in California, the big thing, you know, we have two different emergency hospitals that were kind of equidistant. But, you know, it was just remembering, okay, if something is to happen, we won’t have cell service until we’ve already had to make a couple turn decisions. So we at least need to know. You know, we’re heading down towards Santa Barbara or towards Lompoc. And we’ll call as soon as we get cell service, but we need to know which way we’re going before we’re going to have cell service again.
Nick Brandehoff 51:24
Yeah, yeah, and one thing, some people like people have working dogs is having vet insurance and stuff like that. And those insurances, you know, I don’t want to speak for all of them, but they should cover your vet your vet bill for snakebite because considered an emergency. So, you know, it should follow it should fall under that category. So if you don’t have it to consideration, but, you know, it’s dad becomes a economical decision, I think for a lot of people.
Kayla Fratt 51:57
Yeah, yeah, I think most of our listeners probably have pet insurance. And I would really recommend it for working dog people. I just, I mean, I would be $15,000 in the hole with barley in the last year and a half. Otherwise, but he’s also barley is uniquely gifted at you know, needing a tplo docky. ACL reconstruction and, and two different tick borne diseases in seven months. So,
Yeah, yeah, mine is now retired, and she’s just an old, old dog house dog. And so I’ve not done that and got rid of her insurance. But when she was out working we did we definitely had it because she was prone to just full bore searching, but would go right through barbed wire and things of that nature. So there’s a lot of there’s a lot of home surgical repairs occurring, and if I couldn’t fix it, then we’d go.
Kayla Fratt 52:55
Yeah. Yeah, yeah, that’s my younger dogs favorite move is the barbed wire. You know, full on.
Nick Brandehoff 53:05
Oh, my God couldn’t have seen. I’ve seen her tick down Cal fences, just like Oh, my God. It’s like a wrestling. It’s like a wrestling match. It’s like it right into the ropes. And then small tears. Yeah.
Kayla Fratt 53:18
Yeah, that’s the scariest one that Niffler did for me. And this is my younger dog now. But he ran into a barbed wire fence with his mouth open and shredded his tongue. And I didn’t see it happen. So he comes back to me and we’re on a trail run, and he comes back into me and there’s just blood pouring out of his mouth. You know, he’s like, choking on it. And I was, I thought he was gonna die in my arms. I’ve no idea what’s happened. But this is terrible. And then eventually realized it was you know, quote, unquote, a wound on his tongue. It’s fine. Like, I called the vet and they’re like, don’t bother bringing them in the tongue stuff. It gets better. No packets like okay. Go from thinking to the vet telling me not to bring them in in about 10 minutes.
Nick Brandehoff 54:02
Yeah, well, I do want to pitch if anybody wants to learn more about snake bites and Snake by care, including vet management. We’re doing the Denver medical conference on September 22. In Denver, excellent. And so we’ll be talking about snakes, Snake ecology, Venom variation, human management and veterinary management and think bites at that time. There’s an in person, we’re doing it at the zoo, where people will get behind the scenes access to the zoo. And then with there’s also virtual options. So if people can’t make it to Denver that day, or if they want to get the recorded lectures later. They can do that as well. And so you can go to buy foundation dot orc and see and click on the Denver Venom conference weekend. It’s a one day event. We’re doing a we’re doing a herping tour the weekend after. So we’re taking some people Love to find sneaks at that point.
Kayla Fratt 55:02
Wow, this looks so cool. I am not going to be able to be in Denver for it. But I’m almost like going to be signing up for that virtual op. Yeah, I’m so glad you’ve got that.
Nick Brandehoff 55:14
Yeah, we do. So this group of lectures, we’ve very lecture, but you know, we oh my god, this is so affordable. Yes, we keep it we keep it to, we keep it to not be incredibly expensive for people, because we want people to learn. And, you know, the people, the lectures we have are the movers and shakers of like, snake bites, snakes, right. These are, these are world class experts in their field, we’re not having you. They’re all they’re all based in their lectures off of evidence. And if anybody needs their paramedic, or they’re an EMT, a nurse and physician, they need continuing education credits that’s available. If you’re a vet tech or a vet, and you need race credits for ongoing continuing education, we have race credits for everybody. And if anybody’s working towards their farm credits are their wilderness medicine credits, where wilderness medicine credits as well.
Kayla Fratt 56:17
So that’s good to know, I’m short on CEUs for wilderness medicine.
Nick Brandehoff 56:21
Yeah, so if you need FAWM credits, we have FAWM credits. And there that is one of the few credits, there’s no electrical charge for We’re just kidding. We just have fun. So excellent. If people need on, please sign up. Hopefully this gets out before September 22.
Kayla Fratt 56:38
So I was just thinking, I’m gonna send this over to my editor. And we’ll get this out as soon as possible, then to make sure people have time beforehand, it might be coming out just a couple days or a week beforehand. But that should still give people time to sign up online. And for anyone who’s driving, right, yeah. 65 To 80 bucks. So really, pretty affordable for a few days worth of learning.
Nick Brandehoff 57:01
The in person for the $80 section will be we have to close that September 10. Just for food, we got to order the food and all that for the day. But if if the if it’s after September 10 set up for virtual and you guys can be able to review the videos whenever you want. Yeah. Which will be nice.
Kayla Fratt 57:23
Yeah, that’s amazing. I’m really excited about that. So yeah, we’ll, we’ll shuffle around some things in our publishing schedule to get this out then. So yeah, no worries. Alright, well, Nick, thank you so much. I’ve learned quite a bit and I don’t know if I feel any better about being out in snake country with my dog. But I guess knowing what is not helpful, it’s still good.
Nick Brandehoff 57:48
Yeah, an hour of saying there’s nothing we can do kind of the juice, but get to care. But yeah, the other the other stuff is, you know, there’s a lot of myths, misconceptions out there on snake bite management. We try to just educate as best we can. Yeah,
Kayla Fratt 58:06
Yeah. I mean, that’s the that’s all we can do. And that’s what we’re here for. And, you know, it doesn’t do anyone any good to tell them that, you know, this, this, and this is gonna is gonna help if it’s not going to help that, you know, false sense of security isn’t useful either. So Well, Nick, if people are interested in as staying up to date on your movements, other upcoming conferences or learning options, where can people find you?
Nick Brandehoff 58:34
They can find me at www.snakebitefoundation.org. That’s the good snake bite foundation. So you know, we do a lot of care in West Africa. But we also try to we do blogs and things like that for ongoing education for boats, both humans and animals. So we have a few blogs on, for example, the vaccine not working and Benadryl not working and things like that. But we’re a group of conservationists, who are with work with herpetologists physicians a bunch of other different sort of people to improve snakebite care in West Africa. Yeah, yeah, that’s really great. If anybody has questions, they can click that link as well. On there to contact us and we were we respond to emails regularly.
Kayla Fratt 59:29
Yeah, yeah, I’ve definitely found it really helpful. And we’ll also link in the show notes that I think it’s National Veterinary snakebite support group or something like that, that, again, I’ve found.
Nick Brandehoff 59:40
So there’s two groups. There’s the National Veterinary snake by support and there’s national sneak by support Yeah, for which I’m a part of both. I think either group is quite good. I think the national snakebites support is a more active group. But either one is the but it is a good group for learning and for education on snake bites for humans and dogs. This natural state by support desk, human and dogs, National Veterinary snake bites support does just animals just
Kayla Fratt 1:00:14
Yeah, I know I’ve learned a lot from just kind of lurking in that group and picking up things. So,
Nick Brandehoff 1:00:19
Yeah, it’s a good group to have, I think, you know, the National snakebite support, I think we have eight that’s now who sort of answer your questions and they’re all they all work at places they treat a lot of snake bites. So that’s very helpful. Uh, you know, it’s where I’ve learned as being a human physician, human doctor, a lot for my, my veterinary colleagues, both on the nuances, but also similarities that we get from the same stuff.
Kayla Fratt 1:00:48 Yeah, yeah. Yeah, I’m sure there’s a lot of similarities. And then a couple little things that are different from maybe big things, but All right, well, for everyone at home, I hope that you learned a lot and you’re feeling inspired to maybe look up your closest emergency vet and make sure you’ve got that saved in your phone and then go outside and be a canine conservationist in whatever way suits your passions and skill set. We’ll be back next week with something else on dog safety, or other other topics. I’m not quite sure now that we’re shuffling our publication order. As always, you can find our online course our Patreon learning group, bento boxes, tote bags, dog water bowls, whatever it is that you need, you can get it with one of our dog’s faces on it, all of that is over at k9conservationists.org.