Rattlesnakes and Pets: Safety Tips for the Savvy Pet Owner

Chatoak_iStock_000015823910_Large (1)Rattlesnake encounters can be a scary part of living in California. The warmer the weather, after all, the more likely these sneaky snakes are likely to venture out where you may encounter them.

Rattlesnake season in the southern half of the state runs from about April to October; meaning it’s just around the corner. Do you know what to do in the event your or your pet stumble across one? Read on to learn what you need to know about rattlesnakes and pets.

Avoiding a Rattlesnake Encounter

If you are careful, you may never have to worry about what you will do if you meet a rattlesnake. But for many active pet owners that enjoy the great outdoors, that reality is unlikely. However, by understanding a little bit about rattlesnakes, you can up the odds of avoiding them altogether.

Snakes feed on small prey – Anywhere there are rodents, birds, and lizards there is likely to be snakes. Keeping your yard and home free of debris and hiding places for these little critters make them a less likely abode for rattlesnakes.

Snakes hide – Brush, rocks, and crevices all make great hiding places for snakes. When hiking try to stay on marked trails and keep your pet on a leash. Do your best to keep tall grasses and weeds in your yard under control. Be careful when moving logs or other debris.

Snakes don’t bother us unless we bother them – Snakes, even rattlesnakes, are not aggressive towards us or our pets unless they feel threatened. Never allow your pet to pester wildlife. Keep him or her on a leash when possible. It is also helpful to be sure your pet knows how to come when called and how to “leave it” so that you can interrupt a rattlesnake encounter in its tracks.

Rattlesnakes and Pets

A rattlesnake bite in a pet or person can be deadly.  When a rattlesnake bites it injects a venom into the tissues of its victim that causes disruption of the blood vessels in the area. This causes severe swelling, blood loss, and shock.

All pet owners should know how to recognize a rattlesnake bite in their pet, as bites are not always witnessed. Pets are often bitten on the nose or paws as these are parts that are usually bothering the snake. There is often localized swelling, bleeding, and pain in the affected area. Low blood pressure may cause weakness and pale membranes.

What to do if Your Pet is Bitten by a Rattlesnake

If your pet is bitten by a rattlesnake (or even if you think that he or she may have been), time is of the essence. Do not delay in seeking treatment. If your pet has been bitten be sure to:

  • Avoid old wives tales such trying to suck out the venom or applying ice to save time
  • Call us immediately or start driving to the nearest veterinary hospital
  • Stay calm
  • Keep the bite below heart level if at all possible

Once at a veterinary hospital, treatment will be started in order to help shock and blood loss. The pet will also receive antivenin, an infusion of antibodies to rattlesnake venom. This only is helpful within the first four hours of a bite, making prompt treatment vital.

Pet owners should also consider vaccinating their dogs against rattlesnake venom. This vaccine does not eliminate the need for treatment, but does make the prognosis much better. The rattlesnake vaccine should be administered about a month before rattlesnake season starts and boostered every six months where year round exposure is a concern.

Rattlesnakes and pets don’t mix, and it is important for pet owners to understand how to prevent and deal with encounters. Call us today if you have questions or would like to have your dog vaccinated.