Rattlesnakes: The Do's and Don'ts

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Rattlesnakes: The Do's and Don'ts

Unfortunately, along with the beautiful Sierra Mountains and gorgeous weather that Nevada has to offer, it is also home to potentially-dangerous rattlesnakes. It is now that time of year when we start to hear questions and concerns about these slithering creatures, so now is a good time to catch up on the do’s and don’ts of rattlesnakes.

Rattlesnakes are very common in the parks and on the trails that many dog-lovers use for hikes and walks with their dogs. More and more homes are being built in areas that were previously rural, making encounters with wildlife even more common. There are a few preventive steps, you can take to reduce the chances your dog will get bitten. Rattlesnakes can be a life-threatening danger to dogs of all sizes. Unlike humans who know the distinctive sound of a rattler means danger, dogs are naturally curious. The first thing dogs do is put their nose down to investigate. That is why most of the snake bites to dogs happen in the face or front legs.

The rattlesnake vaccine
At SWVH we do NOT use the rattlesnake vaccine. The American Animal Hospital Association (AAHA) vaccine guidelines do not recommend this vaccine be administered. There are multiple reasons: first is the lack of studies done on its actual effectiveness, secondly the fact that the animal bitten still needs to seek emergency care right away, and third it does not change the treatment protocol for the patient. The vaccine has also been documented to cause reactions in patients. Therefore, based on the lack of scientific evidence of its benefits, we do not recommend the vaccine, or administer it to our own pets.

Walk your dog on 6-foot leash
The vast majority of rattlesnake bites occur when a dog is off-leash. If you hear a rattle or see a snake on the ground ahead of you, you can usually avoid it if your dog is on a leash.

Avoid rocky or dense brush
On your walks with your dog, 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 and eliminate brush or piles of rocks where snakes like to sun themselves as well as hide.

Know a dog’s rattlesnake-bite symptoms
It is important to look for the signs. If you don’t recognize the symptoms of a rattlesnake bite in your dog, you might delay rushing them to the vet immediately – and that delay could be fatal.

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

  • Shock, pale mucous membranes

  • Muscle tremors

  • Diarrhea

  • Seizures

  • Neurological signs including depressed respiration

If you encounter a rattlesnake
Calmly and 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 turn and leave the area – if there is one snake, there are likely to be more in that same area. Inform others if you see them on the same trail.

If your dog is bitten by a rattlesnake
If you can, carry your dog to your car. If you can’t carry your dog without them (or you!) struggling, walk them to your car. Limiting the dog’s activity will limit the venom moving around in their body, which is better. THEN GET THEM TO A VETERINARIAN IMMEDIATELY! The faster your dog can get the support of emergency treatment, the greater their chance of a quick recovery and in some cases survival.

Rattlesnake Avoidance Classes
These classes are the best preventative in protecting your dog from the dangers of snake bites. The class is set up with real snakes that have had their venom glands removed for safety. Classes train dogs to associate a negative experience when encountering a rattlesnake. Dogs quickly correlate the sound, sight and smell of the snakes to an unpleasant stimulation. A remote controlled stimulation collar is used to create the unpleasant experience and while some may seem skeptical of using such a tool on their dog, the risks of a lethal snake bite far outweigh its use.

For more information on Rattlesnake Avoidance training, contact 'Get Rattled' for the upcoming class schedule.

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