“Feral ~ from feminine of ferus wild: having escaped from domestication and become wild…”


A Rattlesnake bit my baby's nose - continued

Beginning of this whole horrific episode here 

They say most prairie rattlesnake bites are not fatal to horses ; but if it is a muzzle strike -  which is most common as a horse is either grazing or nosing a snake out of curiosity when they get bit  - its the suffocation that kills because the nasal passages swell up cutting off air supply and life.  Horses can only breathe through their nose, not through their mouth because thats just how their anatomy works - when a Horse inhales, it creates an airtight seal to the opening of the larynx (voicebox) that connects to the trachea (windpipe) to the lungs, so they can only breathe through their nose.  Taking this into consideration, most first aid recommendations for horses in poisonous snake country is to keep on hand at least one ' 7 inch piece of tubing to insert into a swelling nostril after a snakebite.  It should be approx. 3/4 of a inch width at the least - but no more then an '1 inch width - anything else would damage the soft lining of the nasal passage and less then 3/4 would not be effective in getting enough air into their lungs. This tube should be greased up with petroleum jelly (like vaseline), and inserted BEFORE the nostril closes off completely due to swelling. Plastic tubing used for aquariums, a typical garden hose, or large animal plastic syringe with the plunger removed & the narrow tip cut off can all work.  A horses nasal passage is slightly curved downward, so its almost mandatory that the tube be straight in order to work effectively, and theres no worry of  added damage by the tube insertion itself. The swelling will hold it in place; if it doesnt, dont tube! However, some people even will duct tape the outside diameter of tube that is outside of the nostril, making somewhat of ring around it to prevent it from sliding in further as the swelling goes down (they then duct tape a strip from this to the nose band of a halter.) When using a plastic syringe with the plunger removed and tip cut off, this has a natural flange at one end to prevent it from sliding further in so no taping is necessary. As stated before, you DO NOT put this in if there is no swelling yet - harm can be done to the sensitive nasal membranes, even more so then the bite itself if its not a full venom bite. This tubing is considered a last chance option, not a first option ; but it has saved many a horse's life when used at the proper time.

But what they dont tell you - even the most trained horse will not let you touch the bite area without some noticeable reaction - the pain is incredible.  The muzzle is the most sensitive area of  the horse as they can determine between a blade of grass, a tasty treat or a humans finger without  seeing it ; think of it as their blind spot "feeler".  People who have been bit say that a rattlesnake bite feels like an extreme burning sensation, and you are without relief until medicated. Any pressure in the area of the bite makes the pain feel a thousand times worse ; now approach a horse to insert a plastic tube into their swelling nasal passage thats right next to a bite...I knew I had a problem, and I hadnt even gotten the tubing yet from Mr. Foresterman...Right now  he'll let me halter him, wont let me sponge his muzzle, but will he stand for the tube insertion? 

As I stood there, contemplating putting the halter back on, going through this procedure step by step in my head, Mr. Foresterman came back, breathless from doing so many things at once... He told me he got a hold of the other large animal vet in town as he handed me the tubes right away. Then he looked at me hard and said that the Vet told him to be careful, that tubing might kill me when I try to insert this, as even the most docile horse will try to fight it. It was like a switch went off in my brain - all of a sudden all these questions ran through my head - how swelled are they? Is one swelled more then the other? Is any of them swelled shut? What is his total body condition? Can he support himself - is he getting  woozy, stumbling from lack of oxygen?  

Total assessment of the situation -  KISS - keep it simple, sweetheart, i told myself under my breath... 

Here we go - First, the bite was located almost right in the middle of his muzzle - 2 1/2 to 3 inches down from the point of his nasal bone - there was a little more swelling in his right nostril then his left. There was that blowing puff sound, but no wheezing or frothing; it was consistent, rhythmic breaths. His heart rate right now was at 72 beats per minute - anything over 80 at rest is total stress and requires immediate assistance.  The normal reactional discharge of a rattlesnake bite, clear but rusty (blood) water, was dripping very slowly, out and down, away, not plugging up the openings. Swelling hadnt affected the upper half of his face, he could still move his lower lip and tongue,  and the discharge and bite wound had dried some, meaning time had passed since first bitten  - swelling is at its worse immediately and during the first few hours. He stood with his head lowered, wide eyes, but with his back foot cocked back in a relaxed pose, legs and feet cold.  His stomach grumbled, a normal gut sound - good, no colic.  I stared blankly at the sky, thinking... The negatives of inserting a tube right now could make his breathing stressed further, panicking him, increasing his heart rate, moving the venom even more. Theres also the chance that the tube could plug with the unwiped discharge as it was inserted, blocking it from working effectively at all, and factor in a 44 mile dusty trailer ride in 90 degree heat... and finally, I would have to make sure Me and Mr. Foresterman didnt get hurt during this whole process. Ebony didnt want me to wipe the discharge - he most likely will fight a tube. I need him calm if I have to trailer him.  I made my first hard decision that day. I looked back at Mr. Foresterman.

No tubing.

to be continued....

Warning - graphic pictures posted



Ebony's Prairie Rattlesnake bite on muzzle, first hours
Swelling of the soft tissues and discharge from nostrils, first hours after bite

Wide eyes, lowered head labored breathing stance, first hours after bite
I hate this picture - it reminds me...



  1. i'm thinking you made a wise choice. to rile him up and make him fight you with the tubing could have made his situation so much worse. but lordy...

  2. Jeez, I sure do hope this turns out well!

  3. I've had two of my horses bit. But because they were up on the hill, I didn't know about it until many hours after the fact. Both horses came out fine with no sloughing of skin. Mostly they were pissed off they they couldn't eat...and after a day they were fine again.

    It was too late for me to insert any tubing...but I have them in my vet bag just in case. I hadn't thought about how much pain was involved and how difficult it would be to insert the tubes...excellent, informative post...and I hope all comes out well in the end~

  4. I am a nurse ..Used to work in a Pediatric unit. With RSV babies (its a respiratory infection)
    If the babies were to distressed........No IV...unless desparately needed...because the stress from the IV would risk further resp. distress...I think you made a wise choice at the time

  5. ooohhhh noooooo, those dadgum snakes!!!

  6. Likely a wise choice; stress can be dangerous for a horse, let alone for you and your husband. Poor horse!
    I really hope this story has a happy ending...

  7. Oh sweetheart... I just arrived and read both posts. I can only say that I am so sorry that this happened. I know nothing about horses, meaning: treating and caring for them in circumstances like this.

    I'll be praying for things to improve and your baby to be well soon. I mean it, from the heart.
    Be strong!

  8. Good call Feral there are always quick decisions to be made on the farm or ranch when your animal(friend) is in trouble.
    Man I am waiting to hear what happened. Let us know when it all turns out fine, and it will I just know it.
    Take care my friend I am praying for your baby. B

  9. Oh, man, this is a bit tense. Poor Ebony! Poor you!

  10. Oh goodness. What an awful thing. Poor Ebony. He really looks distressed in that last picture. And what a scary thing for you to go through too. You sure kept your cool. I'm hoping for a happy outcome.

  11. Poor horse. What a terrible situation.

  12. This is awful. I am on the edge of my seat and my stomach is in knots... and it isn't my horse! I can't imagine how awful it was for you. Poor Ebony - their noses are so sensitive - it must really, really hurt.

  13. That poor horse. You can just see how bad he feels. I hope this story turns out well. I can imagine how much the stress can worsen a situation. Stress worsens everything.

    Cindy Bee

  14. tough call there, but the logic seems sound. What meds can you give at that point for pain management?


I am feral, I dont respond at all like most domesticated bloggers- However thank you for even wanting to leave a comment, as long as it doesnt involve death threats or name calling, I might even respond!