Recently, a member of our Kennel Staff found what appeared to be a rattlesnake on the Humane Society of Ventura County shelter property. We notified the Ventura County Fire Department to come to dispatch the snake. It was determined, however, that the snake was a common gopher snake and was harmless to animals and staff – it was captured and released in an open area.
This incident does remind us that snake avoidance should be on our minds when experiencing the outdoors, particularly with our furry friends. We are fortunate here in Southern California to have beautiful weather year-round, but our warmer weather also makes for the perfect climate for venomous snakes. Spring through Fall is rattlesnake season and a hike on a beautiful day can take a turn for the worst for your four-legged friend if they encounter a dangerous snake. Their curious nature can get them into trouble. According to the Animal Medical Center of Southern California, dogs are 20 times more likely to be bit by a snake and 25 times more likely to die then people are from snake bites.
One of the best ways to protect your dog is by keeping them on a leash. Sometimes it can be hard to do that, as we love to see them run, sniff the exciting smells of the season, and get in tune with their adventurous instincts. But keeping your dogs on their leashes could save their lives! Snakebites are not only life-threatening but also extremely painful, expensive to treat, and can cause permanent damage. Many variables determine the degree of damage from a snake bite including the age and species of the snake, the location of the bite, and the size and health of the dog. Smaller dogs will have a harder time fighting off the venom than larger dogs. The venom’s toxicity affects the integrity of the blood vessels, swelling can be dramatic, and the venom can disrupt the normal blood clotting mechanisms leading to uncontrolled bleeding. Treatment for rattlesnake bites can also be extensive.
Here are some tips from PETMD on keeping your dog safe:
- While out walking, controlling your dog with a leash may be your best safety device.
- Do not allow your dog to explore holes in the ground or dig under logs, flat rocks, or planks.
- Stay on open paths where there is an opportunity for snakes to be visible
- Keep nighttime walks to a minimum, rattlers are nocturnal most of the year
- If you hear a rattlesnake, keep your dog at your side until you locate the snake and then move away
If your dog does get bit, try to identify the snake by taking note of its size, color patterns, and whether or not there is a rattle at the end of the tail. Take your dog to a veterinarian immediately while keeping your dog as quiet as possible. If you have a small dog carry them if you can.
There are vaccines on the market for rattlesnake bites. These vaccines do not protect dogs from being bitten, but rather helps reduce the severity in the case where they are bitten. The Canine Rattlesnake Vaccines are intended for healthy dogs. If you and your dog are active and enjoy spending time off the beaten path, please talk to your vet about the Canine Rattlesnake Vaccine as a safety precaution and information regarding the effects.
Enjoy the summer and please keep your dog safe!