Rattlesnake Safety for Pets
Pet deaths due to rattlesnake bites are fortunately very uncommon. However, this is not because rattlesnakes are not dangerous or rarely encountered. On the contrary, their bites are very dangerous for both dogs and cats (and their human masters too!) Rattlesnake-pet encounters are getting increasingly common as a result of increased residential development shrinking the wildlife habitat. It isn’t always possible to prevent rattlesnake encounters and bites but there are several measures you can take to protect your pet(s) and reduce the risk of a potentially fatal bite to the minimum.
The available rattlesnake vaccine reduces and delays reaction to the venom but it doesn’t provide immunity. So if you pet is bitten by a rattlesnake, he must be taken to a vet immediately even if being vaccinated. The vaccine has been approved only for dogs. Please discuss the benefits and drawbacks of rattlesnake vaccine with your vet.
Rattlesnake Avoidance Training
There are special courses to train dogs to avoid rattlesnakes. The goal is to discourage dogs from approaching a rattlesnake when encountering one by inducing negative association with the sight, smell and sound of this venomous snake.
Rattlesnake Safety at Home
Many rattlesnake bites occur where they are least expected – in home and yard. To keep rattlesnakes out of your home and yard, keep the lawn short and remove all potential hiding places such as bushes, rock and woodpiles. You are also recommended to consider snake fencing, especially if you are living near or adjacent wilderness. If you notice a snake in your home or yard, call animal control or the police to have it removed by professionals.
Rattlesnakes are most often hiding in dense brushy areas, tall grass and rocks. When walking your dog, avoid going off the trail, especially if bordering the snake’s habitat. Also, avoid narrow trails if possible to be able to see the snake on time. It is also recommended to keep your dog on a 6-foot leash in order to be able to react before your four-legged friend gets too close. The last but not the least important, be sure to take your cell phone to be able to call for help in case you need it.
What to Do if You Encounter a Rattlesnake?
If you encounter a rattlesnake, stop and gently pull your dog away from the snake if he is on a leash. If not, calmly but assertively command your dog to stay away and demand from him to follow you while slowly moving away.
If the Worst Happens…
If your pet gets bitten by a rattlesnake, don’t panic. Take your pet and get him to your vet immediately. The survival rate for pets receiving anti-venom promptly is over 90%. Don’t cut or suck the bite wound and don’t apply ice, heat or tourniquet. Also, don’t give your pet any medications. Go straight to your vet and if possible, call ahead to announce an emergency visit.