Watch where you step!

08/31/2014 12:00 AM

08/29/2014 6:51 PM

Paula Foxx came home to chaos last week, a frantic husband and a dog in danger.

“I opened the door and Jerry said ‘Jake was just bit by a snake,’” Foxx said. “Jake went charging in and the snake popped him. He was bleeding from his nose, his breathing was labored and his face was swelling.

“Luckily, Jerry got a picture of the snake,” Foxx said. “The vet said ‘That’s a copperhead.’”

Copperhead sightings are not uncommon in Mansfield, but daily calls to animal control are, said Lori Strittmatter, animal control manager for the city. Copperheads are venomous and distinguishable by their reddish-brown color with brown bands.

“This is the first time we’ve seen this many,” Strittmatter said. “The new nature center and lots of construction cause things to move around a bit. It’s been hot and dry. Would you want to live in a hot, dry place or a nice, plush yard?”

Mansfield Animal Care & Control will pick up snakes found during the day. They will come after-hours if the snake is in the house. If the snake is outside after office hours, residents need to call a pest control company, Strittmatter said.

Close encounters with copperheads are not unusual for dogs or humans.

“Every summer we get several snake bites,” said Dr. Ketan Trivedi, a physician at Methodist Mansfield Medical Center. “Some people say it was a copperhead or a rat snake, but they’re often not sure. We treat based on symptoms instead of what the patient says.”

Usually, people get bit on the leg (from stepping on the snake) or the hand (reaching into a bush or playing with the snake), he said.

“We observe them if it’s a non-venomous snake or a venomous snake with a dry bite,” Trivedi said. “If it’s a venomous bite, the extremity is going to start changing color. We give them antibiotics, pain medication, fluids, update their tetanus shot and observe them. If we do give them anti-venom, we will go ahead and admit them.”

People who get bit by any snake should wash the area and, depending on how severe, drive themselves or call an ambulance to take them to the hospital, Triveldi said.

“The symptoms make take a few minutes to come on, but they can come on very quickly,” he said.

It’s also important to go to a hospital, which carries the anti-venom, instead of a doctor’s office or smaller hospital, which wouldn’t have it, Triveldi said. If people can get a photo of the snake, that will help, he said. People do not need to bring the snake, especially a live snake, to the hospital, he said.

Dogs get bitten even more often than humans, cats not as much. Dr. Toby Rouquette, a veterinarian at the Animal Emergency Hospital of Mansfield, sees a couple of snake bites per week. Most of them are not severe, and treatment is the same as for humans. A severe bite be dangerous and require anti-venom treatment.

Jake’s bite was severe.

The veterinarian kept the 8-year-old bichon frise overnight, gave him an IV and anti-venom. He’s still on pain medication and antibiotics, Foxx said. The vet bill -- including the $800 anti-venom -- came to $1,600. His buddy Georgie, a young Yorkshire terrier, was bitten at the same time, but the Foxxes didn’t notice until the next day. Georgie is also on antibiotics and pain medication, but he is not as swollen as Jake.

“I guess it’s just nature doing what nature does,” she said. “Our dogs have been more expensive than our kids, medical-wise.”

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