If you read my blog or follow my YouTube Channel, you know I love hiking with my dogs. We live in Arizona and hiking in the Sonoran Desert means we could come across rattlesnakes anytime of the year, although summer encounters are more likely. Knowing basic rattlesnake bite safety could end up saving my pet’s life. In this article, I want to share with you what I learned about helping a dog after being bitten.
A rattlesnake bite is frightening and can be one of the most dangerous situations you may face with your pet. Not only do you need to know what to do in the moments after a bite, but you also need to act fast to save your pet’s life. Being prepared ahead of time, may ensure that you act in a way that helps your pet in this emergency.
The list contains the main things veterinarians suggest you do immediately after the bite occurred and also lists some DON'Ts - things that are widely believed to be useful, but that veterinarians do not recommend.
Things You SHOULD Do Immediately After Your Pet is Bitten
Call Emergency Vet Services Immediately - or As Soon As Possible!
According to veterinarian Dr Josh Sosnow, venom from the bite enters your pet's bloodstream quickly, which means your pet needs emergency treatment as soon as possible. The sooner you can get on the phone with veterinary emergency services, the better.
To be better prepared research emergency veterinary clinics in the area you are hiking and program the number into your cell phone! This will ensure you have a number ready immediately and won't have to google when time is of the essence.
Check for Symptoms of a Snake Bite
If you didn't see the bite happen, it may not be immediately obvious that there is an emergency. Especially if your pet is off leash, you may not know that a snake bite occurred. You may however notice a sudden change in your dog's behavior.
Here are symptoms to look for:
Keep the Wound Below Heart-Level
Veterinarians will tell you that the goal is to keep the infected blood away from the heart as long as possible. You want to keep the bite area lower than the heart! It may seem like common sense to elevate the wound; unfortunately, the exact opposite is true for snake bites.
Above all else, remain calm while you seek out emergency veterinary services. Venomous snake bites, especially rattlesnake bites, are treatable with the right antivenom, but only if you get to the animal hospital in time.
Avoid touching the wound as much as possible. The swelling that occurs is very painful, so you don't want to add to your dog's discomfort by messing with the bite area. Other than transporting the dog, there isn't much else you can do at this point.
Transport Your Pet to the Veterinarian Hospital
Get Your dog to the Veterinary Clinic as soon as possible. It would be best to carry your dog if at all possible. However, this can be difficult if your dog is large.
To be prepared, you may wish to carry an emergency carry harness with you when you go hiking.
Check out this link for our product review and additional information:
Emergency Dog Rescue - Pack-A-Paw Rescue Harness
DON'T do these:
Don't believe the stuff you see on TV or in the Movies! Do not try to suck the venom from the wound. Once it has entered the bloodstream, sucking on the wound won't help.
Don't use a Tourniquet! This would contribute to tissue death. By restricting blood flow near the bite, the venom is concentrated in one area and the blood there is not oxygenated, which can lead to necrosis. Because rattlesnake venom damages red blood cells, platelets, and blood proteins that allow normal blood clotting, it prevents the wound from clotting. Unfortunately, many pet owners mistakenly think a tourniquet will stop the bleeding.
Don't touch the area or try to cool or bandage it - remember that the bite site is swollen and very painful! Don't touch it or try to bandage it, because this only increases the pain for your pet.
Also don't try to kill the snake. In fact, don't approach it, because it can strike again, and you could be bitten as well! If you can, it's a good idea to snap a picture of the snake from a safe distance ( use your zoom).
Hopefully you will never need the advice and information from this article, but by being informed and prepared, you may certainly be better equipped to help your pet in case of a rattlesnake bite!
Ways to avoid/prevent bites
The best way to prevent a snake bite is to keep your dog leashed and on the trail near you! There is also a vaccine available to help get your dog's body to be better able to deal with a rattlesnake bite. However, the vaccine only makes Your dog's body less reactive, and you will still need to seek immediate medical attention for your pet in the event of a bite.
Another option is to have your dog go through Snake Avoidance Training. For more information on this type of training, see our video below. We talk to Cody with Rattlesnake Ready LLC about the training and what is involved.
And for for in depth information this and other subjects pet owners should know about here in the Sonoran Desert, see our interview with Dr Josh Sosnow of North Scottsdale Veterinary Hospital
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