How To Protect Your Dog From Rattlesnakes And What To Do If Your Dog Is Bitten

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Just the thought of a snake bite is scary, but if your dog is bitten by a rattlesnake, it will be more than just frightening; it will be life-threatening. Find out how to keep your dog safe from rattlesnakes and what to do if your dog is ever bitten.

Many people assume that rattlesnakes live only in dry, arid terrains, like the deserts of the southwest United States. And while it’s true that rattlesnakes exist in the largest numbers in those areas, the reality is that that rattlesnakes are in almost every part of the continental U.S., and they are danger to dogs of all sizes. In fact, the Animal Medical Center of Southern California reports that dogs are about 20 times more likely to be bitten by venomous snakes than people, and about 25 times more likely to die as a result of a bite.

Rattlesnake bites are not only life-threatening, they are also extremely painful and costly to treat. So how can you protect your dog from rattlesnakes?

How to Keep Your Dog Safe From Rattlesnakes

  • Rattlesnake Vaccine

If you live in high risk area (most rattlesnakes live in the southwest U.S. and Mexico), consider the rattlesnake vaccine. The rattlesnake vaccine is designed to produce antibodies against the venom of the western diamondback rattlesnake, specifically. However it can also prove effective against snakes with similar venom.           
If your dog has the rattlesnake vaccine, it doesn’t mean they are home free. The vaccine helps to control pain and swelling and reduces the amount of antivenin your dog will need. This is important because antivenin can cost anywhere from $500 to $1000 and dogs without the vaccine may require several doses. Therefore, the rattlesnake vaccine can not only save your dog’s life, it can also save you money.

Ask your veterinarian if the rattlesnake vaccine is a good choice for your dog.

  • Avoid Certain Terrains

If you live in a high risk area, avoid walking or hiking in places with tall grass, dense bushes, or rock piles, especially when the weather is hot (rattlesnakes love to sunbathe!) In addition, choose wide paths over narrow ones, as it will be easier to avoid a snake that is suddenly crossing in front of you.

  • Use a Short Leash

The majority of snake bites occur when a dog is off leash or on a long lead, so when heading out into the wilderness, choose a 6-foot leash that won’t allow your dog to wander too far.

  • Take a Rattlesnake Avoidance Training Class

In many states -- especially those with large rattlesnake populations -- you can find rattlesnake avoidance (or aversion) training classes. Avoidance training teaches your dog to avoid the sight, sound, and smell of rattlesnakes.

  • Rattlesnake Bite Symptoms

Unfortunately, some dogs will still get bitten even if their owners do everything they can to avoid the situation. And in many cases, dogs are bitten when they are off leash or wandering away from their owners, and so you may not see the actual bite take place. This is why it is important to be aware of rattlesnake bite symptoms.

Immediate symptoms of a rattlesnake bite include:

  • Bite wounds, which are puncture wounds. You may see bleeding.
  • Swelling
  • Extreme pain
  • Drooling and panting
  • Restlessness

More severe symptoms may appear if your dog is small or injected with a large amount of venom for their weight.

These symptoms may appear right away or over the course of several hours:

  • Seizures
  • Diarrhea
  • Collapse
  • Muscle tremors
  • Weakness/lethargy
  • Labored breathing

If your dog exhibits any of these symptoms or you suspect that your dog was bitten by a rattlesnake, head to the veterinarian or an emergency vet clinic right away.

What to Do if Your Dog Is Bitten

If a rattlesnake bites your dog, do not attempt to suck the venom, cut the skin over the bite area, apply a tourniquet, give aspirin or any other medications, or ice the site. These treatments can actually exacerbate the tissue damage and hinder blood clotting. Instead, leave the area immediately (there may be other snakes around). If your dog is small, carry them. If you can’t carry them, walk them calmly back to the car. Then head to the nearest vet clinic.

Rattlesnake Bite Treatment

Rattlesnake bites are treated with a combination of pain-reducing drugs and antivenin. The faster your dog can receive the antivenin, the greater their chance of survival.

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