Protecting your dog from rattlesnakes

    It’s that time of year again in Southern California: rattlesnake season! Dog owners are well aware of the dangers when hiking with their dogs, but it’s still very common to come across off-leash dogs on hiking trails regardless of leash laws and posted snake warnings. If you or someone you meet on a trail has experienced the unfortunate situation of a dog being bitten by a rattlesnake, there are important and crucial steps you can take to ensure the dog survives.

    Here are helpful tips via adoptapet.com that can save your pet’s life in the event of a rattlesnake bite:

    1. Get your dog the rattlesnake vaccine.
    There is a dog vaccine by Red Rock Biologics for rattlesnake bites. The vaccine is made from snake venom and works in a way so that if your dog is bitten, the reaction to the bite is REDUCED and may be delayed – it is not completely eliminated, so a vaccinated dog bitten by a rattlesnake will still need vet care as soon as possible.  “The rattlesnake vaccination costs about $25, and can greatly reduce the amount of anti-venom serum the dog needs and the severity of the reaction to the bite,” says Dr. Liz Koskenmaki, DVM. Since each vial of anti-venom costs between $500 to $1000 depending on where you live, you are not only potentially saving your dog’s life, but a lot of money!

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

    3. Avoid avoid rocky or dense brush or grassy areas.
    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, piles of rocks where snakes like to sun themselves as well as hide.

    4. Snake-proof your yard.
    Your yard may be fenced to keep Fido safely in, but it won’t keep most snakes out unless you fortify it. Snakes can get under fencing that does not have a solid cement base (like a block wall). On wood fences or solid iron fences, use hardware cloth all along the base of your fence, including across any gated areas. You’ll need to dig a trench to bury 22″ of it into the ground, with 18″ above ground attached to the base of your fence. Hardware cloth runs about $100 per 100 feet — expensive, but if you live in a rattlesnake-dense area and want your dog to be safe in your yard, the cost may be worth it.

    5. Know a dog’s rattlesnake-bite symptoms.
    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.

    Immediate 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
    • muscle tremors
    • diarrhea
    • seizures
    • neurological signs including depressed respiration

    6. If you & your dog encounter a rattlesnake…
    Calmly & 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 leave the area – if there is one snake, there are likely to be more in that same area.

    7. 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 VET IMMEDIATELY! The faster your dog can get the anti-venom and other emergency treatment from the vet, the greater their chance of survival.