Prevention of the Venomous Bite

Spring is here, allowing for lots of outdoor roaming time for both livestock and pets! As the weather warms, our beloved animals aren’t the only ones enjoying more consistent sunshine – rattlesnakes and other slithering species can be found amongst the rocks and grasses too. A rattlesnake bite can be fatal, as the venom injected is a mix of toxins that invade an animal’s body very quickly and effectively.  In this emergency situation, please call us immediately so that we can treat your animal, and monitor their comfort and recovery.

Rattlesnakes live in a variety of environments, including wetlands, deserts and forests.  They do not discriminate which altitude they live in and can be found at sea level, mountain elevation and everything in between. They are especially active from Spring to Fall.

Not all rattlesnake venom is the same. There are two different types of toxins found in venom – one is a neurotoxin which attacks an animal’s nervous system, and the other is a hemotoxin that affects blood cells. Both are just as deadly as the other.

Thankfully, modern scientific researches have discovered vaccines that slow the venom effects. There are two types of rattlesnake vaccines that can be administered: one for dogs and one for horses.

Dogs

Rattlesnake venom is deadly to dogs, resulting in thousands of deaths every year. When a dog is injected with the venom without the protection provided by the vaccine, it suffers excruciating pain, swelling of the wound site and reduced respiratory activity, among other things.  Even after treatment, the dog may have permanent or long-lasting effects, depending on the amount of venom that gets injected into the body.

After your dog spends time outdoors, be diligent about checking for snakebites. Check its face and limbs, as they are the most common sites for attack.  At the bite site, there could be some swelling, up to two puncture wounds and bleeding. Your pet could exhibit pain by limping or flinching when the area is touched. For more information about the bite and symptoms, click here. Of course, some of these symptoms can be indicative of other issues, but it is best to contact your vet and have them diagnose the issue.

Horses

Because of their size, it takes more venom to injure or  kill or a horse than it does a dog or smaller animal. But, that does not mean that horses are not at risk. There are more opportunities for a rattlesnake bite when you participate in equestrian shows. You need to be aware of the dangers of the area you’re in and the areas you bring your horse to.

Because horses are naturally curious, they receive the majority of bites on their neck and faces when they reach down to check something out. Make sure to check your horses and neck and face for swelling, as this is the biggest indicator of a bite. If a horse is bitten on the face or nose, its airways will close off, making it nearly impossible for it to breathe.

Treatment

Although there is treatment available, it can be expensive. Due to all the side effects that need to be addressed, costs could include hospitalization, intravenous solutions, surgery, antivenoms, and more. Although these are options your veterinarian will provide to treat your animals, prevention is a much better solution.

We recommend vaccinating in the spring. If a dog has never been vaccinated, the first year of shots would include two separate injections one month apart. Then, it becomes a yearly booster, which can be included in your pet’s annual exam.

Cloud Peak Veterinary Services is here to answer any questions you have regarding the snakebite vaccination, or anything else you’d like to discuss about your animal’s health. We’d love to see them – and you!

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