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What To Do If Your Dog Becomes a “Rattle-Snack”

Summer brings fun in the sun for two-legged and four-legged family members alike, but with summer and increased outdoor time comes increased risks to all in the family. In particular, summer time in New Mexico brings out the legless, specifically snakes. The increased heat allows their metabolism to work better, and it is their prime time to be out and about.

The best thing one can do to protect your dog from rattlesnakes is to keep them on a leash and avoid areas known to have rattlesnake activity. Prevention is the best medicine! But if you do end up encountering a rattlesnake and your animal is bitten, the sooner they can come to an emergency veterinarian hospital, the better.

Treatment for rattlesnake bites involves the administration of anti-venom. The sooner your dog gets the drug, the quicker they will start to recover. This drug is expensive, and is typically only carried by emergency or specialty hospitals because of its cost. Though expensive, the drug is life-saving in most cases. Additional treatment for your pet includes IV fluids and pain medications. Antibiotics are only indicated when tissue infection occurs at the site of the bite, which is luckily rare.

Rattlesnake venom causes tissue swelling, necrosis, and death at the site of the bite. The area can develop dead skin that needs to be managed with intermittent surgeries or bandages in some cases. The venom can also cause systemic changes to the blood, include predisposition to systemic bleeding and changes to the red blood cells. All of these changes will be lessened the sooner your pet receives anti-venom.

Photo courtesy of thebark.com

The moral of the story is be careful on those trails this summer, though the snakes will try to warn you with their rattle, many dogs will try to attack a snake as prey when they stumble upon them. If your dog does get bitten, keep track of your closest animal emergency center and bring them in for treatment sooner rather than later. Know that Veterinary Emergency Specialty Centers is open round the clock to help if your dog accidentally becomes a rattle-snack!

Lindsey Nielsen, DVM, DAVECC