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Rattlesnakes: Don’t Get Hiss-terical!

Imagine taking your dog out for a morning hike. Your pet is trotting along happily when suddenly a rattle can be heard. What’s that in the bushes? A snake! 

Rattlesnakes are a fairly common animal seen in Arizona. Being a desert environment, this state is a good place for many kinds of rattlesnakes to call home. However, there are plenty of ways to help keep your dog safe from these venomous animals. 

Get your dog the rattlesnake vaccine!

The rattlesnake vaccine is made from snake venom. The rattlesnake vaccine works by stimulating the dog’s immune system to produce antibodies against snake venom, and it helps lessen the reaction a dog may have to a snakebite. It works in a way that if your dog is bitten, the reaction to the bite is REDUCED and may be delayed. The reaction is not completely eliminated, however. Your dog will still need veterinary care as soon as possible! 

Walk your dog on a leash.

When out walking or on hikes, always keep your dog on a standard 6-ft dog leash. If you hear a rattle or see a snake on the ground in front of you, it is easier to avoid it with your dog on a leash. The vast majority of rattlesnake bites occur when a dog is off-leash or on an extendable/flexi-lead.

Avoid rocky areas, grassy areas, or dense bush

When walking with your dog, always stay on the trail or road provided for you. When you can, choose wide trails or roads over narrow or brush-bordered trails. When walking on wide trails, you are much more likely to spot any snake that may have wandered onto the road and be able to stop or avoid it in time. 

Snake Identification 

Rattlesnakes and other venomous snakes have: 

  • A pit between and slightly below the eye and nostril

  • Long movable fangs

  • A "cat's eye" pupil

  • Undivided scales under the tail

  • A large triangular-shaped head with a small shiny cap over the nose.

Most nonvenomous snakes have: 

  • Large smooth cap over the top of the head past the eyes

  • Divided scales on the underside of the tail

  • No pits

  • No long fangs

If you encounter a snake…

Always attempt to avoid snakes, even if you are unsure if it is a rattlesnake or not. If you see a snake or hear a rattle, calmly and slowly back away until you are no longer in striking distance (about the length of the snake away) and until the snake stops rattling at you. Then carefully leave the area–if there is one snake there are likely to be more around. 

If you see a deceased snake, still take great care to avoid it. Dead snakes can have some muscle contractions after death, and thus have been known to bite even once deceased and are still capable of envenomation. Never handle a dead or injured snake–not even a decapitated head.

Know the rattle-snake bite symptoms

Any rattlesnake bite can be fatal if not treated immediately. It is always wise to familiarize yourself with symptoms. 

Immediate symptoms can include: 

  • Puncture wounds (with or without bleeding) 

  • Pain/touch reactivity 

  • Swelling

  • Restlessness

  • Panting

  • Drooling

Depending on how much venom the bite injected into your dog or the size of your dog, more severe symptoms may appear quickly or within a few hours: 

  • Lethargy

  • Weakness

  • Collapse

  • Muscle tremors

  • Diarrhea

  • Seizures

  • Neurological signs

  • Depressed respiration or difficulty breathing

If your dog is bitten by a rattlesnake…

Any dog bitten by a snake should be taken to a veterinarian immediately. If you can, pick up your pet and carry them to your car to prevent them from moving more than necessary. Always try to keep your pet calm and still if possible. Be aware that painful dogs can react to touch and take care to avoid being bitten. If you are unable to pick up your pet, ensure they are walking to your car. Do not allow them to run or jump. 

Never attempt to “suck out” the venom yourself. This can put your health at risk as well. Do not attempt to cut over or around the wound. Never use an ice pack or tourniquet over or around the area. 

And if you're ever in doubt, consult your veterinarian!

Post made June 1st, 2024

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