For most pet owners, spring is all about outdoor recreation and trail time with Fido – and where there are wild or natural places, there are snakes. Rattlesnakes are becoming more active now that we’re experiencing warmer temperatures and longer days. However, pets and rattlesnakes is one combo you’ll want to avoid.

Avoiding a Clash Between Pets and Rattlesnakes

In Southern California and many places throughout the West, snakes are a common sight. From Gopher Snakes to Whipsnakes to Western Racers, many species are nonvenomous and mostly harmless to cats to dogs, preferring rodents and other small mammals.

However, we also share our terrain with a few different species of venomous rattlesnakes, all of whom have the idiosyncratic “rattle” at the end of the tail.

Although snakes prefer grassy areas and rock outcrops, snake encounters can occur in cities and suburbs as well. While snakes are typically shy and docile, when they feel threatened, they will send out a warning signal—for rattlesnakes, it’s the telltale shake of the rattle.

What to Look For

Unfortunately, because these snakes are so adept at camouflage, many people and pets can tread a little too close for comfort. When a strike (or bite) occurs, venom is delivered through “pits” or ducts within the snake’s mouth.

Signs of a rattlesnake bite can include:

  • Visible puncture wound
  • Swelling
  • Bleeding and/or bruising
  • Noticeable pain
  • Drooling
  • Restlessness
  • Stumbling
  • Vomiting

Any bite from a snake should be considered a serious veterinary emergency. If possible (and from a safe distance), try to take a picture of the snake to help in expediting treatment.

Do not attempt to treat your pet at home or apply any tourniquets, as this can make matters worse and waste needed time. Instead, it’s important to get your pet in for an examination as soon as possible.

Pet Safety and Prevention

Fortunately, there are ways to help prevent a deadly encounter with a rattlesnake, including aversion training, annual vaccination, and increased awareness.

When outdoors, use rattlesnake awareness by keeping your dog on a leash, steering clear of rocky, grassy, or overgrown areas, and maintaining supervision over your pet at all times.

At Huntington Veterinary Hospital, we’re happy to announce our upcoming Rattlesnake Aversion Training seminar in early March, hosted by Natural Solutions. Using muzzled rattlesnakes, we’ll take your dog through a series of exercises with sight, sound, and scent awareness, leading to avoidance.

To learn more about this effective form of training to keep your four-legged safe outdoors, please contact us. Along with aversion training, we also recommend the annual rattlesnake vaccine for dogs.

By taking these precautions, you can safely enjoy the great outdoors and prevent a deadly situation for your best fur friend.