The Dangers That Slither During Summer
Updated: Sep 8
As summer is upon us, so is the emergence of scaly critters including
the infamous rattlesnake. In our area, there are multiple species of
snake that live here, but only one that is venomous - the Southern
Pacific Rattlesnake. Sometimes confused with their cousins the gopher
snake due to their similar coloring, rattlesnakes have a larger
triangular head, while gopher snakes tend to be slimmer and thinner.
If unsure though, err on the side of caution. Remember that
rattlesnakes may not always have an obvious rattle. These reptiles are
a part of life when living in the foothills of Southern California, so
here are some helpful hints for taking care of our furry friends
during Rattlesnake season.
What to do if your pet is bitten: The most important thing to do if
your dog is bitten, is to stay calm and keep your dog calm and quiet,
and immediately take your pet to the nearest veterinary emergency
hospital. It is advised to call ahead while you are on your way, so
that the staff know to expect you and can begin to prepare for your
pet’s arrival. It is also important to make sure that the hospital
carries rattlesnake antivenom. Most large emergency hospitals keep it
on hand, but because of its expense, many smaller non-emergency vet
clinics don’t. If you are unsure if your dog has been bitten by a
rattlesnake, here are some clues. Oftentimes you will see puncture
marks and swelling, but the difference between swelling from a snake
bite, and from another cause such as an insect bite, is that the snake
bite will usually be extremely painful. Depending on the severity of
the bite, the veterinary clinic may recommend hospitalization,
treatment with antivenom, pain medications, antibiotics, and other
To prevent a snakebite, consider rattlesnake avoidance training.
Often, this is a one day clinic at which your dog is trained to avoid
rattlesnakes with real, live snakes so your dog can learn the smell
and sounds to avoid. They may use an electronic collar to give your
dog a small shock when they get close to the rattlesnake. This helps
your dog to learn that the sight, smell, and sound of the rattlesnake
is associated with an adverse stimuli - the small shock that the
collar gives off. The goal is that your dog then learns to avoid the
snake completely when he encounters one in the real world.
Another option to consider is the rattlesnake vaccine. Anecdotally
veterinarians report that snake bite patients who have received the
vaccine fare better than their non-vaccinated counterparts. The idea
is that if bitten, the consequences of the bite will be less grave
than if your dog is not vaccinated. Please remember though, just
because your dog has had the rattlesnake vaccine, does NOT mean that
he does not need medical care immediately after a bite. It is still
vital that you take your dog to an emergency clinic to be evaluated
after a snake bite, whether or not he or she is vaccinated.
Rattlesnakes and other critters are a part of life here in the
foothills, but we can find ways to coexist and to protect our pets at
the same time.