Rattlesnake season is here, and the veterinarian of the 501(c)(3) non-profit D.E.L.T.A. Rescue, the world’s largest no-kill, care-for-life sanctuary, is offering critical advice on rattlesnake bite prevention — and what to do in the event a pet tangles with a rattlesnake.
“As the temperature warms and days get longer, accidental encounters with rattlesnakes increase in the Southwest,” explained D.E.L.T.A. Rescue veterinarian Gaylord Brown, D.V.M., who in his former private practice saw countless rattlesnake bites. “Dogs, due to their inquisitive nature, are more at risk of being bitten. However, people may not know that cats are also at risk.”
Typically, a dog will blunder into a rattlesnake, causing the snake to strike in self-defense. As a result, most rattlesnake bites in dogs occur on the nose. Cats, being naturally more cautious and prone to striking at a threat with their claws, are more likely to be bitten on the front paw or leg.
The prospect of a beloved pet getting in a dust-up with a rattler can be terrifying. The good news: People can protect cats and dogs from being bitten in the first place. According to Dr. Brown, who answers questions on the “Ask the Vet” section of DeltaRescue.org, avoidance is the best way to prevent a rattlesnake bite.
Dr. Brown cautions people to keep their dogs close when hiking, stay on well-marked trails and to make their presence known. If the snakes are closer to home, Dr. Brown advises homeowners to consider installing snake wire on the bottom two or three feet of fence around their yards — as D.E.L.T.A. Rescue does at its sanctuary — and to be particularly watchful at dusk and dawn, when rattlesnakes are most active.
But what if an encounter between a pet and a rattlesnake is unavoidable? Signs of a rattlesnake bite, says Dr. Brown, include acute swelling, pain, and dark, bloody drainage from the fang sites. A bite to the pet’s face will almost always cause excessive drooling; with any rattlesnake bite, the pet will likely be depressed and begin panting. Once bitten by a rattlesnake, a pet must be kept quiet and still. Dr. Brown discourages tourniquets and says lancing or suction at the fang marks should only be done with mechanical suction devices by those trained in the technique.
“A person whose pet shows signs of having been bitten by a rattlesnake should seek medical attention with a veterinarian immediately,” said Dr. Brown. “With treatment, survival rates are high, and most veterinarians in endemic snake areas have antivenin.”
Those with further questions about snake bites or any other questions about veterinary health can register for free and post their questions directly to Dr. Brown at http://www.deltarescue.org/ask-the-vet.
P.O. Box 9
Glendale, CA 91209
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