Dog Lameness Assumption Trap: Tosha’s Snake Bite

Acute and chronic lameness are likely to have different causes. That doesn’t mean that figuring out what happened is easy.

Past experiences, things we read and hear breed biases. When your dog starts limping, don’t jump to conclusions; make sure you know what is really happening.

Thank you, Kevin, for sharing Tosha’s story.

Dog Lameness Assumption Trap: Tosha's Snake Bite

Tosha’s story

It all started with a case of food poisoning.

If you have a multiple dog household, the last thing you wish for is a multiple dog belly trouble! They all shared the same offending food item, and they all ended up with bad diarrhea.

Because they’re all healthy dogs, they gastrointestinal tracts recovered fairly quickly.

Tosha, however, presented with a limp.

Limping Tosha

All dogs seem on the mend now, but I’m afraid Tosha may have injured a ligament in her right rear leg from straining while doing so many squats. We fear some possible ACL damage.

We are all biased by our past experiences and by what we’ve learned in the past. Would I suspect an ACL injury if I saw my dog limping on a rear leg? Most certainly so. Should I jump to a conclusion?

On one of her urgent potty breaks, Tosha lept up and dashed around the corner of the house to bark at something that required being barked at. Then she returned inside.

Later that day, Tosha started limping.

Swelling on the leg

Jackie and I took a look at her right hind leg and noticed some swelling in her right hind hock, but didn’t see much of anything else. I immediately thought of her straining to go and the little hop she did as she ended her previous bathroom session and pole-vaulted to the conclusion that she had injured a ligament. She didn’t seem to have any other symptoms, and considering the food poisoning et al., she was in good spirits.

The next morning the swelling seemed to have subsided, even though Tosha was still a bit lame. She was also rather quiet, but so were the other dogs, recovering from their culinary adventure.

Tosha becomes lethargic

As the day went on, though, Tosha was much quieter than the rest of the dogs.

A thorough examination revealed swelling further up her leg, which was very hot. They decided to take Tosha to the emergency vet.

The diagnosis

Once the vet shaved the area in question we knew she had suffered either a snake or spider bite.

Tosha left the emergency clinic with some antibiotics and Rimadyl for the pain, fever, and swelling. She has recovered very well.

What has bothered me as a result of this whole ordeal is, what could or should I have done differently? How could I have better handled this? In my opinion, I think I made the mistake of assuming her injury was a strained ligament. I should have done a more thorough check of the area instead of just chalking it up to circumstantial evidence.

Tosha was lucky that she didn’t receive a more serious bite. And doubly so, because her parents got to learn from this incident without having to pay a high price.


We can all fall into this trap.

We see what we expect to see, depending on our experiences. If your dog was bitten by a snake in the past, you will think of that first. If you had a dog with a knee injury, that is what will come to your mind.

The trick is not to give into assumptions, but instead, investigate.

When your dog starts limping, check everything, starting from the toes. There are so many things that can result in a limp, I’ll write about that later.

If you cannot find anything, do keep an eye on your dog for any changes, such as Tosha’s unusual quietness. Where we live, the chances of a snake or spider bite are quite low. If you live in an area where venomous snakes or spiders are common, do put it on your list of suspects.

Original story:
Snake Bit

Related articles:
Why Is My Dog Limping? Causes of Lameness in Dogs—Symptoms To Watch For In Your Dog
Common Limping Misdiagnoses in Dogs

Further reading:
Dog Lameness – Causes and Treatment of Limping in Dogs

Categories: ConditionsLimpingSnake bitesSymptoms

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Jana Rade

I am a graphic designer, dog health advocate, writer, and author. Jasmine, the Rottweiler of my life, was the largest female from her litter. We thought we were getting a healthy dog. Getting a puppy from a backyard breeder was our first mistake. Countless veterinary visits without a diagnosis or useful treatment later, I realized that I had to take Jasmine's health care in my own hands. I learned the hard way that merely seeing a vet is not always enough. There is more to finding a good vet than finding the closest clinic down the street. And, sadly, there is more to advocating for your dog's health than visiting a veterinarian. It should be enough, but it often is not. With Jasmine, it took five years to get a diagnosis. Unfortunately, other problems had snowballed for that in the meantime. Jasmine's health challenges became a crash course in understanding dog health issues and how to go about getting a proper diagnosis and treatment. I had to learn, and I had to learn fast. Helping others through my challenges and experience has become my mission and Jasmine's legacy. I now try to help people how to recognize and understand signs of illness in their dogs, how to work with their veterinarian, and when to seek a second opinion. My goal is to save others the steep curve of having to learn things the hard way as I did. That is the mission behind my blog and behind my writing. That is why I wrote Symptoms to Watch for in Your Dog, which has turned out being an award-winning guide to dog owners. What I'm trying to share encompasses 20 years of experience.

  1. I’m sure I would have jumped to the same conclusion. I would imagine ACL injuries are more common in domestic dogs than snake bites. Thank goodness there was an emergency vet available to diagnose the bite.

  2. I’m glad that Tosha is okay! It is easy to make assumptions about the cause of an injury, and this is an important reminder to get it checked thoroughly!

  3. Wow, what a great story. I’m glad everything went well for Tosha. Who would expect a snake in your yard? I’m glad you figured out to investigate farther. I hope you don’t have any more GI illnesses going around.

  4. I’m glad Tosha is ok. That could have been a bad deal if it was a venomous snake. It’s easy to make assumptions. I’ve done it with a cat that I thought broke or sprained a leg jumping off an entertainment cabinet – turns out his brother bit him and he had an abscess.

  5. Wow I am glad Tosha is OK.

    If you live in an area with seriously evil spiders (OK I am biased) or snakes this MUST be part of your thought process after a limp appears – right? I am grateful I can usually do a quick paw check on my cats if I need to but, I could (honesty) be at the vet so fast if I wasn’t happy.

  6. I am happy Tosha is ok. When Layla hops which she has done since I got her I just check her paws and if there is nothing then do not worry as my vet told me not to

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