20160511_173914Meet Doc, a happy-go-lucky hound who decided to get a little too close to our local wildlife. He was rushed in to our hospital after receiving a rattlesnake bite right on top of his nose. His owners recognized symptoms quickly so luckily Doc was able to get the care he needed right away. A couple years ago we published a brief overview on rattlesnakes after seeing several bites in the same week. It seems our resident snake population is getting set for another busy year so we wanted to share our best tips for keeping your dog safe:
Get your dog the rattlesnake vaccine

The vaccine is made from snake venom and works in a way so that if your dog is bitten, the reaction to the bite is reduced and may be delayed. While it is still extremely important to get veterinary care as soon as possible after a bite, the vaccine can buy your pet valuable time and may even reduce the cost and amount of treatment. Every spring we see a few vaccinated patients on the wrong end of a bite and we are impressed with how much less severe the reaction can be.

Consider “Rattlesnake Aversion Training” with a professional

Of course the best solution to avoiding bites would be convincing our dogs not to mess with the snakes in the first place. Most dogs need help overcoming their natural instincts to confront or attack a dangerous snake and they can be successfully conditioned to avoid them all together. There are several services in our county that offer 1-on-1 training and occasionally we will host a group training meeting at Goldorado. Next month, on June 25, we will be hosting Will from Will’s Skillz Rattlesnake Aversion in the afternoon for a group training session. Typically these classes fill up fast so be sure to reserve your dog’s space today! Cost per dog is $80 and you can sign up for the class by calling our office or sending us an email to contactgoldorado@gmail.comwillsskillz

Walk your dog on 6-foot leash.
If you hear a rattle or see a snake on the ground ahead of you with a dog on a 6 foot leash, you can avoid it. The vast majority of rattlesnake bites occur when a dog is off-leash or on a “flexi-lead.” Make sure you know where your dog is at all times when out in potential rattlesnake habitat.

Avoid rocky or dense brush or grassy areas.
Speaking of rattlesnake habitat, stay on the trail, and choose wide trails or roads over narrow brush-bordered trails if possible. That way you are more likely to see a snake sunning itself across your path, and be able to stop and avoid it in time. Also, keep your yard grass cut short while eliminating brush or piles of rocks where snakes like to hide.

Snake-proof your yard if possible
Your yard may be fenced to keep Fido safely in, but it won’t keep most snakes out unless you fortify it. Snakes can get under fencing that does not have a solid cement base (like a block wall). On wood fences or solid iron fences, use hardware cloth all along the base of your fence, including across any gated areas. You’ll need to dig a trench to bury 22″ of it into the ground, with 18″ above ground attached to the base of your fence. Hardware cloth runs about $100 per 100 feet — expensive, but if you live in a rattlesnake-dense area and want your dog to be safe in your yard, the cost may be worth it.

Know a dog’s rattlesnake-bite symptoms
It is extremely important to recognize the signs of a bite so that your pet can get the emergency care they need. Immediate symptoms almost always include:

  • puncture wounds (can be bleeding)
  • severe pain
  • swelling
  • restlessness, panting, or drooling

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

  • lethargy, weakness, sometimes collapse
  • muscle tremors
  • diarrhea
  • seizures
  • neurological signs including depressed respiration

If you & your do20160520_150927g encounter a rattlesnake…
Calmly & slowly back away from the snake until you are no longer within striking distance (about the snake’s length) and until the snake stops rattling at you. Then carefully leave the area – if there is one snake, there are likely to be more in that
same area.

Finally, if your pet has been bitten…
GET THEM TO A VET IMMEDIATELY! If you can, carry your dog to your car. Limiting the dog’s activity will limit the venom moving around in their body which can slow down the effects in the short term. The faster your dog can get the anti-venom and other emergency treatment from a veterinarian, the greater their chance of survival. To the left is Doc 1 week post-bite. Aside from a small healing wound on his nose, you wouldn’t know anything had happened at all – mostly thanks to the quick actions of his owners.

With a little prevention and planning, everyone can have a safe and fun spring season. Please let us know if you have any questions or comments about rattlesnakes in our area, and we look forward to seeing you all out enjoying the sunshine!