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Vet Tips from Dr. Bob: Protect Your Pet From Rattle Snake Bites
In the spring and summer months to come, many experts are predicting that the warmer conditions will bring rattlesnakes closer to San Diego County homes, as these snakes seek water and food. The potential for rattlesnake bites is not only dangerous for humans but for pets as well.
The springtime can be the most dangerous time of the year for rattlesnake bites, as the baby rattlers are born in the spring and tend to inject more venom when they bite. When rattlesnakes are not burrowed in the ground, they prefer warm, sunny areas, such as rocks or, even driveways. Particularly dangerous times are in the late afternoon, when snakes are enjoying the warmth from the ground and preparing to hunt. Though rodents are their main food source, they will strike at anything that moves, particularly if they feel threatened. Because of their inquisitive nature, dogs are bitten far more frequently than cats.
Signs of a rattlesnake bite: Usually severe swelling and pain. Often, the bite occurs around the dog’s face or muzzle. The classic pair of draining puncture wounds may or may not be seen. If bitten on the limbs, severe lameness will usually result. The dog also becomes extremely listless.
What to do: A rattlesnake bite is an emergency! If left untreated, shock and death may occur. A pet, which is bitten by a rattlesnake, should be transported immediately to a veterinary hospital for treatment. The owner should not administer any medications nor apply a tourniquet. Even the friendliest of dogs will bite when painful. Therefore, owners should exercise great care when transporting their injured pet. At the hospital, the veterinarian will often administer IV fluids, analgesics for pain, medication for shock and, sometimes, antivenin to counteract the rattlesnake venom.
How to minimize the chances of your dog being bitten by a rattlesnake: both pet and owner should stay on trails when hiking. Fewer bites will occur during the morning hours. Making the house and yard less rodent friendly will reduce the rattlesnakes’ food source. Lastly, there are dog trainers who can quickly condition most dogs to avoid rattlesnakes.
For more information on pet health care, pet owners can call their veterinarian or visit the American Animal Hospital Association web site at www.healthypet.com or www.missionanimal.com/pethealth.html.