Every year, rattlesnakes bite hundreds of dogs and cats in the Big Country. Animals are naturally curious and get bitten while investigating the rattling or slithering snake. The venom injected by the snake causes immediate pain, swelling and tissue damage. The severity of bites varies greatly. The damage done to the animal can range from mild swelling, to large areas of skin and muscle dying, to even the death of the animal.
Avoiding snakes is best. Keep dogs away from areas where snakes are likely to be: tall grass and weeds, brush and junk piles, old houses and barns. Avoidance training is also valuable to teach dogs to stay away from snakes. If your dog encounters a snake, try to call your dog away and leave the area. Never approach the snake and risk being bitten!
There is a vaccine produced by Red Rock Biologics that will give your dog some measure of protection against rattlesnake bites. It causes the production of antibodies that act as a natural anti-venom. Animals that are properly vaccinated tend to have less swelling and tissue damage when bitten by a rattlesnake. They also recover more quickly. However, it is not absolute protection. Dogs that receive severe bites can still die even if properly vaccinated.
Any pet that is bitten by a rattlesnake needs veterinary care as quickly as possible, whether vaccinated or not. Your veterinarian is the best-trained individual to determine what and how much treatment your pet requires following being bitten. First aid for snakebites has proven to be of very little value. Getting prompt medical attention is best. Call your veterinarian for information regarding the proper care and treatment of your pets.
Dr. Russell N. Ueckert has been providing veterinary care for animals in the Big Country for over 19 years. This article was produced in part with contributions from Veterinary News Network. For all of your veterinary needs look to www.bigcountryvets.com.