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The sun is shining and the trails are calling; in today’s veterinary blog we have a few tips on avoiding rattlesnakes, and how to respond if you encounter one, or if your dog is bitten.

Living in the Gem State means lots of trails for hiking, biking, and running. However, it may also put you and your dog in the path of a rattlesnake. Add to that the curious, energy bounding, nose-first behavior of dogs, and a rattlesnake strike is a possibility.

Avoiding rattlesnake encounters. When planning your outdoor adventures, check trip reports. Hikers often report snake activity along with trail conditions. Here are two area online resources: Boise Foothills Trail Conditions and Boise.Trails.Dog.

Utilize trekking poles if hiking. They not only add to your work out, they enable you to push back brush stretching over trails – a favorite, sunny spot for snakes taking a snooze. Stick to well-hiked trails during late spring/early summer. Snakes want to avoid humans (and dogs) and are more apt to stay away from busy areas.

Stay on cleared, open sections of trails. Thick brush, large rocks, fallen logs all serve as a perfect hiding spot.

Ensure that you and your dog stick together and keep him/her on a short leash.

Meeting a rattlesnake. Look ahead on the trail and observe your surroundings. Dogs and rattlesnakes -- avoiding a bite when hiking in the foothillsMany snakes in the west blend in seamlessly. Never reach into dark areas on the trail that you cannot see—and help your dog follow the same guidelines. Rattlesnakes are not typically aggressive and seeking a confrontation. The purpose of the rattle is a warning, to hopefully help you avoid a strike. If you hear it, freeze. Locate the source of the sound before you begin any movement. Then, slowly move away. Leave the area carefully, if there is one snake, there are likely more in the vicinity.

If your dog is bitten by a rattlesnake. Remain calm. If able to do so, carry your dog to your car; if not, walk slowly in an effort to inhibit the snake venom moving through your dog’s body. Seek emergency veterinary care immediately. The sooner a dog receives emergency care and, if possible, anti-venom, the greater the chance of survival.

Recognize the symptoms of a rattlesnake bite in your dog:

  • puncture wounds (possibly bleeding)
  • severe pain
  • swelling
  • restlessness, panting or drooling

The following symptoms may manifest quickly, or over the course of a few hours:

  • lethargy, weakness, sometimes collapse
  • muscle tremors
  • diarrhea
  • seizures
  • neurological signs including depressed respiration

A rattlesnake bite is a potentially life-threatening situation for your dog. Seek veterinary care as quickly as possible. Should your dog receive a rattlesnake strike, WestVet is open 24/7 to provide supportive care and provide anti-venom to treat dogs with a rattlesnake bite.

Pet insurance can be helpful with the expense of unexpected veterinary emergencies, something to consider if you live in or visit areas prone to rattlesnakes. Speak with your family veterinarian regarding snakebite vaccinations. This may reduce the severity of illness associated with a rattlesnake bite but does not alleviate the need for prompt veterinary care; it is still important for you to seek care should your dog suffer a rattlesnake strike.

If you are concerned that your pet is behaving acutely abnormally, whether or not you suspect a snakebite, it is always appropriate to consult your family veterinarian right away. If your veterinarian is unavailable, WestVet is open and able to address your concerns 24 hours a day. 


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