Client Education Articles
Rattlesnake bites occur mostly in rural areas and in the foothills and mountains. The western rattlesnake (crotalus viridis) and the massasauga (Sistruris catenatus) are both found in Colorado. When these bites occur in dogs, they are commonly seen on the face and on the front legs. The venom of these snakes cause severe swelling and are very painful. In addition to the problems at the site of the bite, the venom can also have effects on the blood, causing problems with blood clotting. Rattlesnake bites can also cause animals to go into shock and the bites can be fatal.
A rattlesnake bite is an emergency situation and you should seek veterinary care as soon as possible. Not every rattlesnake bite is the same. There are so-called dry bites, in which little or no venom is released, and there are severe bites in which a lot of venom has been injected. Your veterinarian can help to assess the situation and treat your pet appropriately.
Treatment can vary according to the severity of the bite and may include performing bloodwork, hospitalizing the patient and performing intravenous fluids. Antibiotics are often used to treat secondary infections from the bacteria in the snake's mouth, and pain medication is commonly given as well. Antivenin may also be used as well to counteract the effects of the venom depending on the signs that the patient is showing and the severity of the bite.
Prevention is really the key to avoid rattlesnake bites. You should always have your dogs on a short lead when hiking, and try to avoid crevices or areas under rocks where rattlesnakes like to be. There are also snake aversion programs out there that can help train dogs to avoid rattlesnakes.