Rattlesnake season (April – October) can be a scary time for pet owners. With our climate in the central coast, rattlesnakes can be seen nearly year round. Here at PBVC, we urge pet owners to always be vigilant and proactive. There are many steps owners can take to increase the safety of their pets.
Although a rattlesnake vaccine does exist, PBVC along with the School of Veterinary Medicine at the University of California, Davis does not advocate for its use because of the lack of independent verification to prove that it is effective and safe. There is no concrete scientific proof that this vaccine makes a difference for the affected pet. There are many different types of snakes (40+ in our area) that can pose a threat to your animal, and the vaccine only claims to produce antibodies for one. We also aren’t sure how long this “resistance” lasts, or if it works at all. In a study done with 272 cases of rattlesnake envenomation in dogs, there was no evidence that vaccination lessened morbidity or mortality in these dogs.
Rattlesnake aversion training is the most effective method to avoid rattlesnake bites and is highly recommended as a proactive measure for pets with a high risk of exposure. This training is performed by professionals who teach your pets that rattlesnakes are dangerous and can hurt them. Scent and sight are used to train your dog to recognize a snake and the risks that come with interacting with them. The training, recommended yearly, is a great tool to keep your pets safe.
Whether or not your pet has been vaccinated, it’s important to know the do’s and don’ts of a rattlesnake bite:
- DO try to find the wound. You may not immediately know it was a snake bite. Be aware of increased lethargy, small puncture wounds, swelling/bruising near the wound, slow breathing, and whining in pain.
- DO take your pet to the closest hospital immediately. Call PBVC (M-F 8am-10pm, and weekends 8am-5:30pm) or PETS Hospital (24/7).
- DO NOT give any medication like ibuprofen or aspirin. This can lead to clotting disorders that can be life threatening.
- DO keep the wound below heart level. This will help keep the venom from the heart for as long as possible before you can get your pet to the vet.
- DO NOT try to remove the venom by sucking on the wound or cutting it out.
“It is important for community members to be aware of how easy it can be for a snake bite to occur. It can happen in a backyard without you realizing it. If you notice that your pet’s face, leg or paw seems swollen, painful or bruised, seek medical attention immediately. Snake bites happen to cats as well as dogs.”Dr. Joel Conn, owner of PBVC and founder of PETS Hospital