Protecting your Dog from Rattlesnakes

As temperatures warm and the days lengthen, the reptiles come out to play. This includes the infamous Rattlesnake. While the distinctive sound strikes fear and caution into the hearts of even the bravest of souls, our dogs do not always respond the same. Here are a few ways that we can help protect our curious canines against snake bites.

The best treatment is prevention, and the best way to help reduce exposure is control of our pets. When heading out on to the trail, use a 6 ft static leash. Retractable leashes, leashes over 6 feet or having your dog off-leash limit your ability to guide your dog away from a potential threat. Your pet’s natural curiosity is the biggest risk, as most snakes are not naturally aggressive and if left alone will not bother us or our pets. If you must have your dog off leash in high-risk areas, consider snake aversion training. Look for a dog trainer in your area that offers this, it will train your dog to leave snakes alone.

In the event that your dog is confronted or is bitten by a snake, there are a few things you should do. Most important is to not attempt to handle or harm the snake. This will greatly increase your own risk of being bitten, rendering you less capable of helping your pet. Taking a photo of the snake may be helpful for later identification but should only be attempted from a safe distance and if your pet appears stable. Attempt to safely remove yourself and your pet from the area and then seek immediate veterinary care for your animal. Do not attempt to remove venom from the wound in any fashion.

If you frequent high-risk areas such as Toro Park, Garland Park, Jack’s Peak or other wildlife areas, you may want to have your dog vaccinated for Rattlesnake bites. This is an optional vaccine designed to create antibodies in your pet that may help counteract some of the injected toxins. Even with the vaccine, a snake bite is a medical emergency. It should be noted that the vaccine is specific to the Western Diamondback Rattlesnake and does not appear to have any effect on other bites from other venomous snakes. In the case of a Rattlesnake bite, your veterinarian may recommend injections of antivenin to counteract the venom. These can be very costly at $600–1,000 per injection and some dogs may need multiple injections and the expense of hospitalization and supportive care. The vaccine may reduce the amount of antivenin required, the severity of reaction to the bite and overall treatment time. Please consult with your veterinarian to see if this vaccine is right for your pet.

With these tips, head out there and enjoy our beautiful peninsula!