Are Garter Snakes Dangerous To Dogs?

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Oh, those slithering, slippery snakes, tempting your pup with their wiggling ways. If Buddy's the least bit frisky, a scurrying garter snake may be too much for him to resist. Buddy doesn't know the difference between harmful snakes and safe ones; he only knows they're fun to catch and play with.

Ubiquitous Garter Snakes

Garter snakes are thin snakes, about 2 or 3 feet long, who sport yellow, white or red stripes the length of their bodies. Their stripes are flanked by spots in a checkered pattern. If you and Buddy spend much time outdoors, don't be surprised if you come across one of these guys, as they're common in North America, found in backyards, grasslands, wetlands and forests.


Garter Snakes and Buddy

Garter snakes are considered mildly venomous, meaning a bite from one could cause irritation but shouldn't be serious. If your pooch has an encounter with a garter snake, his reaction will depend on what kind of interaction he's had with it. If he killed the snake without ingesting any of it, he should be fine. Garter snakes emit a pungent musk to ward off predators, so don't be surprised if Buddy experiences mild symptoms, such as gagging, swelling or salivating from his encounter. If he swallowed the snake or shows a reaction to his meeting, give the vet a call to make sure there's nothing to be concerned about.


By Betty Lewis

References Q&A: When a Dog Meets a Garter Snake
Animal Planet: How to Identify Garden Snakes

About the Author
Betty Lewis has been writing professionally since 2000, specializing in animal care and issues, business analysis and homeland security. Lewis holds a bachelor's degree in journalism from West Virginia University as well as master's degrees from Old Dominion University and Tulane University.