From spring through fall, or whenever the weather is temperate, rattlesnake bites are a threat to your dog. Rattlesnakes are classified as pit vipers, so named for the recessed heat sensing organs between the eye and nostril on either side of the head. Rattlesnakes prefer to move under cover, making them common in forests, rocky areas, tall grasses, and along shorelines.
If your dog is anything like mine, he is very curious. During those times of year when rattlesnakes are not hibernating, one misstep can turn into a snakebite emergency. Let’s examine some of the risk factors for rattlesnake bites, what to do in the event of a snake biting your dog, and ways to protect your dog.
What makes a rattlesnake bite dangerous? Rattlesnake venom contains hemotoxins that break down red blood cells and inhibit clotting. The longer the venom circulates in the blood, the more damage it can do to organs and vital systems. Typical rattlesnake prey, small animals, and birds- are usually enough that a single bite is lethal. This means small dogs are at a high risk, although snakes bites in large dogs can still inflict significant pain and suffering.
While rattlesnakes are recognized by the sound of their rattles shaken in a defensive posture, don’t count on a snake to give you fair warning. Crossing a rattlesnakes path to closely will give it cause to strike. Time of day does not matter, as long as the weather is beautiful enough, you should beware and cautious.
The best case scenario for a snake biting your dog is that you are present and can identify the snake. Under no circumstances should you pursue, nor allow your dog to engage, any venomous snake. If your dog has been bitten by a snake, the most obvious symptoms will be bleeding and swelling at the site of the bite wound. In time, a dog bitten by a snake will become weak and have trouble breathing.
The severity of symptoms varies widely based on some factors, including the size of the dog and the severity of the bite. If you know your dog has suffered a rattlesnake bite, your best approach is to remain calm and seek immediate veterinary attention. Do not attempt to treat the dog yourself. Do not try and suck the venom or apply ice to the wound. Go directly to the closest veterinarian.
How can you prevent snakebites to your dog? Stick to marked and well-delineated trails and paths. Keep your dog on his leash and do not permit the dog to wander off where the ground is obscured, either by rocks, tall grasses, or thick brush. These are spots where snakes stalk prey and find cover from their predators. If you see a snake, go the other way.
And of course, you can take a rattlesnake aversion course with Hot Dog On a Leash May 13th and May 20th. Spots are filling up fast; more dates will be added due to the overwhelming response to the class.