Really Rotten Rattlers!

western-diamondback-rattles_5873_600x450Ok guys, I hope your early summer is progressing nicely, and you are getting some good opportunities to get out and enjoy the glorious weather we have been having. As you all know, I am a huge advocate of getting out and getting active with your dogs, however, I write today with a small word of caution.  In the past 2 months, we have had 2, yes you read that right, 2 rattlesnake bites treated at Rosemont. It’s not even the middle of June!! One of the victims was out hiking on a trail, but the second one was in her very own back yard! Both bites were delivered by young rattlesnakes, and both dogs were nipped right on the muzzle. Rattlesnakes are out in full force this year, and it seems they have been active a little earlier than usual. I wanted to share a couple pieces of advice regarding rattlesnakes, bite prevention, and care.

Snakes seem to be most active in the mornings and evening hours, however, a snakebite can occur in any waking hour of the day. Most commonly, curious dogs are bitten in the muzzle after getting too close or startling a snake. Any rattlesnake can deliver a deadly bite, but the juvenile snakes are particularly dangerous. This is because the kiddos are novices, and they haven’t yet developed the control needed to deliver a small amount of venom, therefore bites from juvenile snakes tend to carry more venom and cause more severe damage. Rattlesnake bites are incredibly painful, and they cause sever damage to the tissue around the bite wounds. Usually you will find one or two puncture wounds, one of the telltale signs that a bite has occurred. The tissues will swell rapidly and can cause breathing difficulty if the airway is involved. The venom can also set off a cascade of blood clotting disorders resulting in internal bleeding and damage of the blood vessels which can be life threatening.

Should you see your pet bitten by a snake, or even have a suspicion that a bite may have occurred, immediately get your pet to the veterinarian. The sooner you begin treatment, the better the outcome. Time is very much of the essence. Most veterinarians have antivenin in stock and can begin administering it as soon as you arrive at the clinic. Administering antivenin greatly increases survival chances in dogs, especially if it is given within the first few hours after the bite. Fluids, antibiotics and pain medications will also be administered to stabilize your pet, keep him or her comfortable, and treat the conditions associated with snakebites.

What can you do to prevent such an event? Keep an eye on your dog when in the yard, especially if you have a large property with lots of hiding places. Snakes don’t usually bite if they aren’t provoked, so if you see your pet a bit too interested in something, it is worth a look. If you see a rattlesnake on your property, call the local animal control, they will come out to pick up the snake and relocate it. Keep your dogs on leash during the warm months, this way should you run into a rattling reptile, you can redirect your dog and avoid disaster.

Finally, did you know there is a rattlesnake vaccination? This does not prevent treatment should your dog be bitten, but it certainly gives you a little time to make your way to the vet and gets the dogs immune system working to fight the venom. The vaccination is safe and inexpensive and just might save your dog’s life. I have included a link to a very informative website with a presentation about rattlesnake bites, vaccinations, treatment and prognosis for those of you who are interested, and of course you can always call us for further information or to schedule the rattlesnake vaccination for your dog.

As always, happy trails!! Enjoy the summer!!



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