Watch for Rattlesnakes!

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Spring is here and, with the change of the season, our snake population becomes more active. Here are some quick tips:

  • Spring is the breeding season for rattlesnakes. It is also their time of greatest activity. Their drive to reproduce and feed can cause aggressive behavior. Rattlesnake bites occur frequently during this time of year and well into the summer. In the warmer parts of California, bites can occur year round.
  • A dead rattlesnake can still inject venom for an hour or more by reflex action.
  • Rattlesnake bite wounds vary from dry (no venom injected) to full envenomation. The venom contains proteins that disrupt the pet’s blood clotting abilities and damages blood vessels.
  • Immediate veterinary attention is required with all bites, no matter how negligible they seem. The sooner treatment is started, the more effective it will be.
  • Treatment for rattlesnake bites consists of intravenous fluids to prevent circulatory collapse, antibiotics, pain medication and antivenin. Antivenin contains antibodies to multiple rattlesnake venoms. This helps the pet fight the effects of the venom. Antivenin is very expensive, often costing more than $700.00 per vial, but frequently decreases severity of symptoms and length of hospital stay. (Check with your veterinarian to see if they carry antivenin.)
  • So, what can you do to protect your pet? The best way to do this is to avoid encounters between the pet and the snake. Safe practices include:
  • Stick to cleared areas or open paths when hiking.
  • Keep your dog on a leash at all times.
  • Don’t let your dog explore holes, logs, or dig under rocks.
  • Hike during the day instead of early morning or evening.
  • Cats are just better left indoors at all times. If you let your cat outside, only do so during the day.
  • You may want to consider the rattlesnake vaccine. This vaccine is for dogs only and is made specifically for the venom of the Western Diamondback Rattlesnake, though it reportedly cross-protects against multiple species of other rattlesnakes.

The rattlesnake pictured was found in the middle of a sandy road outside of Palm Springs, CA. It had been run over by a car and was buried in the sand. The dog that found the snake started pawing in the sand trying to uncover the snake. Fortunately, (for us and the dog) the snake was already dead and not hiding.

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