531d7866-1e5c-4c40-8c62-4d4a8d041cd7Did you know we have rattlesnakes in our area? Every year, here at Alpine Veterinary Hospital, we see a handful of dogs who have been putting their nose or paws where they shouldn’t and it resulted in a strike from a rattlesnake and a very swollen leg or face. Rattlesnakes can be found in the eastern side of the Cascade Mountains and eastern parts of the Columbia River Gorge. Although dogs are the majority of the patients we see, horses and cats get bitten too.

If your dog is bitten by a rattlesnake it is important to keep the dog or the area of   attack immobilized and to get to the nearest veterinarian for treatment. Be aware that dogs are in a lot of pain and have the potential to act in ways that are completely out of character for them, sometimes biting. Always take precautions if possible. Horses and cats get bitten too. Horses are often bitten in the nose and felines have a higher fatality rate than dogs or horses. Attempting to suck out the venom, cutting the site of attack open or restricting the blood flow are all actions not recommended, that can lead to more harm than good.

Once arriving at your veterinarian, the treatment plan could include hospitalization, antivenin, intravenous fluids, lab tests, pain medications, antibiotics and doing wound maintenance. Hospitalization for several days can be needed. In some cases antivenin is used. Antivenin should be administered as soon as possible, as it lessens the clinical signs and increases the speed of recvery. An annual rattlesnake vaccine also lessens the clinical signs of a snake bite wound, however it does not offer complete protection or prevent the effects if your dog is bitten by a rattlesnake. Cats experience more severe sickness and greater fatality than dogs.

Keeping your dog leashed, staying on marked paths, not allowing investigation under rocks or in holes are all things you can do to lessen the likelihood of a bite. If you hear the sound of an upset rattlesnake shaking it’s rattle, the best approach is to just have you and your dog slowly back away. Sometimes it’s hard to know what your dog has gotten himself bitten by. In these cases it is best to proceed as though it were a poisonous snake and seek care from your veterinarian.