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By Liss Scott

What to do if your dog is bitten by a rattlesnake

Has your dog been bitten by a rattlesnake? Are you a pet owner trying to educate yourself on how to prevent this from ever happening? Then read on!

Know the symptoms of a rattlesnake bite

Immediate symptoms:

  • Puncture wounds or bleeding

  • Extreme pain

  • Restlessness

  • Panting

  • Drooling

  • Swelling

Symptoms that may appear later:

  • Lethargy

  • Weakness

  • Collapse

  • Muscle tremors

  • Diarrhea

  • Seizures

  • Depressed respiration (also known as hypoventilation)

If your dog is bitten by a rattlesnake

  • Try to note the snake's size, color, and patterns. This could help the vet identify it later.

  • Look for fang marks, and remember that there may be more than one bite.

  • DO NOT try to suck the venom out. Ever.

  • Get your dog to the car and on the way to the nearest animal hospital. To slow the spreading of venom, limit the dog's activity and keep it calm. If the dog was bitten on the leg, wrap a constricting band just above the bite wound. Make sure it is snug but not extremely tight.

To prevent rattlesnake bites

  • Keep your dog on a leash, preferably a six-foot leash. Many veterinarians say most snake bites happen to off-leash dogs or dogs on a retractable leash.

  • Do not let your dog explore areas where snakes are likely to reside, such as holes in the ground, under logs, or under flat rocks or planks of wood. Stick to trails, avoiding dense bushy or rocky areas. This will allow for greater visibility if a snake does cross your path.

  • Avoid walking at night. Rattlesnakes are typically nocturnal.

If you encounter a rattlesnake

Stay calm and move slowly. Get out of the striking range of the snake, which is about the length of the snake itself, and keep going until the rattling stops. Then leave the area, as there is a good chance that more snakes will be around.

One more preventative measure

Get your dog vaccinated against rattlesnake bites. The vaccine uses components of western diamondback venom to encourage the development of neutralizing antibody titers that work against the venom. Even though the vaccine is specifically for the western diamondback, most of the fifteen species of snakes in the United States have similar venom, meaning the vaccine can help defend against those bites as well. (However, the vaccine does not protect against the eastern diamondback rattlesnake, Mojave rattlesnake, cottonmouths, or coral snakes.)

A dog should receive the vaccination in two doses, about thirty days apart. If possible, give the vaccination about thirty days before potential exposure to rattlesnakes. The protection lasts about six months, as the antibodies are short-lived.

Keep in mind that this vaccine is not meant to cure the effects of snake bites. It is meant to reduce the severity of the wound. This means the onset of symptoms may be delayed or reduced, and the symptoms that do present themselves may be less severe. It has also been reported that dogs with the vaccination have a decrease in mortality rates and a faster recovery time.

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