Every year between the months of April and October all veterinarians see an influx of rattlesnake bites here in Southern California. The Western Diamondback is the most common rattlesnake seen locally. It thrives during the heat of our spring and summer months. As pet owners spend more time walking dogs on trails and allowing for more outdoor time, a dog’s natural curiosity for these snakes can land them a bite with potentially life threatening consequences. It is often recommended to avoid rattlesnakes by staying off the trails in the late afternoon hours or at dusk when the snakes become more active. During the warm early afternoons, most snakes are basking and more visible on the trails. Keep backyard brush cut back and maintained regularly to keep snakes from frequenting these areas of your yard. When a dog is bitten by a snake, the most commonly affected areas are the nose, muzzle and paws. Signs of extreme swelling, bruising, pain and puncture wounds may indicate that a snake bite has envenomated your pet. It is important to seek veterinary care as soon as possible. Veterinary care required may include treatment for shock, neutralizing the venom, addressing blood clotting problems and treating secondary infections. Many veterinary hospitals also recommend the rattlesnake vaccine which can help to develop antibodies to neutralize the venom. It is thought that dogs given the rattlesnake vaccine experience less skin swelling and tissue damage from the bite wounds. The vaccine may potentially decrease the amount of antivenom needed and allow more time to get your dog to the hospital. Even with the rattlesnake vaccine on board, immediate veterinary care and treatment are essential for surviving the bite. Enjoy some quality outdoor time with your pet and stay away from those rattlers!
Stacy Rothman, DVM
Westlake Village Animal Hospital