Rattlesnake Season: Understanding the Dangers to Protect your Pet

Written by: Katie McCarthy

Anaheim Hills Pet Clinic is gearing up to host our Rattlesnake Aversion classes in one week and what a better way to kick off our very own blog than by talking about rattlesnake aversion prevention tips and what to do if your dog gets bit! This information is not meant to replace the knowledge you obtain from a trained rattlesnake aversion professional or veterinarian, but merely serve as a guide for some fundamental knowledge when enjoying the outdoors with your beloved companion.
Summertime is nearly upon us and with that comes the desire to get outdoors and have some fun in the sun with your dog! While the country is on social-distancing orders, many people are beginning to go a little stir-crazy in their homes which is an even bigger reason to head outside and take a walk with their dog. It is important to understand the dangers that you and your dog may face when hiking and walking in certain terrains. Rattlesnakes are very common here in southern California, so it is imperative to know to how prevent a bite, what the signs of a bite are, and what to do if your dog is bit.

How do I prevent a rattlesnake bite?

Dogs are 20x more likely to be bit by a rattlesnake than a human, that is because they are naturally curious creatures and have a tendency to veer off the beaten path during a walk, resulting in possible run-ins with a rattlesnake hidden in the brush or under rocks. That is why it is in your absolute best interest to remain on all marked trails and sidewalks, including your dog, while on a walk or hike. Moreover, preventing your dog from curiously investigating holes and rocks can prevent a bite as well. This will increase your chance of avoiding any rattlesnake that may be hiding or sleeping. Try to avoid using a retractable leash as they give your dog allowance to walk much further ahead of you, having your dog stay close to you will ensure your ability to keep him or her away from any danger. If you are an avid hiker or even just partake in regular walks in your neighborhood, the chances of seeing a rattlesnake are likely high. If you do see a rattlesnake and you are able to notice it from a large distance, keep that distance! A rattlesnake can strike at a length no more than half of its body length, so be sure to maintain a wide perimeter and keep your distance ONLY if you can safely pass it. If you are unable to pass the rattlesnake, it is best to turn around and find a different path. Never try to coax a rattlesnake to “go away,” and never allow your dog to sniff or get close to a dead rattlesnake as they can still muscle contractions that cause a bite to occur.

What are the signs of a rattlesnake bite in my dog?

There are some telltale signs of a rattlesnake bite in dogs, and whether or not you see a bite happen, knowing these signs can be life-saving. It is important to look for: bleeding puncture wounds, swelling around the wound, bruising and discoloration of the skin, vomiting, collapse, muscle tremors, labored breathing, and possible limping. Two of the most common places for a rattlesnake to bite a dog are the face and the legs. This is because when a curious dog approaches a rattlesnake, its nose is what is closest to the nesting predator. Additionally, a dog’s legs are readily accessible when walking by an awaiting rattlesnake. If your dog is bit in either of these locations, you will see the area beginning to swell rapidly.

My dog was bit, what do I do?

First, do not panic. It is important that you remain calm as your dog will respond to your energy. If you remain calm, your dog will have a better chance of remaining calm. Make sure that the rattlesnake is no longer near your dog after the bite occurs, you cannot begin to help your dog and risk being bitten yourself. If you can approach your dog, be sure to keep him or her calm. Do your best to assess where the bite is located and keep the wound below heart level. For example, if your dog was bit on their front right paw, do not let them lay down on its side with the paw raised above his or her head. If your dog was bit on the neck, remove their collar. Additionally, if you can, try to muzzle your dog to eliminate any chance of being bit. When a dog is in pain it can bite unexpectedly or from being handled, this is for your own protection.

If you are physically capable of carrying your dog to your vehicle, place him or her inside and immediately call the closest veterinary clinic to seek emergency treatment before driving. The sooner you seek medical treatment, the likelier your dog will have a smooth recovery. It is estimated that 95% of al dogs that have bee bitten will survive if they received emergency medical care! Again, it is important to remain calm so that your dog stays calm. A dog that is panicked and physically volatile is making the venom spread faster throughout the body.

Medical treatment for your dog may be lengthy and expensive. Antivenom is the only proven treatment that can save your dogs life if bitten, and depending on the size of your dog, many doses may be required. Expect your dog to be hospitalized but remember, it is the best thing for them, and the safety and care of your veterinary clinic is the best place for them to heal and recover! Rattlesnake bites are incredibly dangerous but receiving rapid treatment can help ensure your dog has a speedy and complete recovery.

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