The Bite that Burns: Rattlesnake Safety for Pets
Here in California, snakes are a part of life. Thankfully, many of our native species are harmless, albeit a little disconcerting to find unexpectedly. We do, however, host several species that we need to be on the lookout for in order to keep our families safe.
The Pets Place Animal Hospital knows that rattlesnakes and pets are not a good mix, and pet owners need to know how to prevent problems and handle the situation should an exposure occur. Rattlesnake safety for pets is an essential part of responsible animal ownership in this region.
Why a Bite Matters
Rattlesnake bites can have some very serious consequences. Many times, a bite is “dry”, meaning that no venom is injected into the bite recipient. If the snake injects its venom into the tissues during the strike, though, it begins a serious reaction in the local tissues. Rattlesnake venom disrupts the normal structure of blood vessels leading to severe swelling, blood loss, and shock.
In most cases with pets, we don’t witness the bite or even exposure to the snake. This means that it is up to us to recognize signs that a bite may have occurred and act quickly.
Possible signs that a bite may have occurred, especially on the face and paws, include:
- Signs of shock (weakness, pale gums)
If you think there is a possibility that your pet was bitten by a rattlesnake, it is an emergency. Quick action in these situations makes a huge difference in outcome.
Rattlesnake Safety for Pets
Of course, the best way to protect your pet is to avoid snakes altogether. A little rattlesnake safety for pets can go a long way. The key is often to know where snakes are likely to be and to take proper precautions.
Rattlesnakes are not isolated to the desert and may even be found in suburban areas. In Northern California, they will hibernate in the colder months. Here in the southern part of the state, however, our warm weather keeps them active year-round.
The basics of rattlesnake safety for pets include:
- Being cautious in areas where snakes are likely to be found, especially among tall grass, brush, and rocks
- Keeping your yard manicured and free of snake habitats and debris that might attract rodents (aka snake food)
- Keeping your dog on a leash in areas where snakes are likely to be found
- Teaching your pet to come on command and/or “leave it” so that you can stop a dangerous situation from a distance
Vaccination as a Strategy
Vaccination against rattlesnake venom can be an effective safety strategy for some pets. While pets who have been vaccinated still need urgent medical attention if bitten, it does improve your pet’s chances of a good outcome.
The rattlesnake vaccine stimulates the pet’s immune system to create antibodies to the proteins in the snake venom. This helps the the pet’s body better deal with the effects of a bite while medical treatment is being initiated.
We are able to vaccinate pets older than four months of age. This vaccine is boostered in three to four weeks, then administered every six months thereafter. Please ask us if you would like to assess if this vaccine is a good choice for your pet as part of his or her wellness care.
We hope that dealing with a rattlesnake bite is not something you ever have to encounter. Like it or not, though, snakes are a part of life here in southern California, and being prepared is the foundation of responsible pet ownership.