Rattlesnake safety for your pets with Helen Woodward Animal Center

SAN DIEGO (KUSI) – Rattlesnake season has begun in San Diego and therefore it’s time to consider pet safety when it comes to outdoor activities.  

It is estimated that 150,000 dogs and cats are bitten each year by venomous snakes in the United States.  Here in San Diego with our dry desert like conditions and our open spaces rattlesnakes are common.

Dogs most commonly are bitten on the head or face as dogs stick their faces into bushes or sniff around. Cats, being quicker than dogs, often are bitten on the side of their body as they are jumping away or on their paws in trying to bat at the snake.  

Helen Woodward Animal Center’s Jessica Gercke joined Good Morning San Diego to discuss rattlesnake safety.

Rattlesnake safety and prevention:
• Rattlesnake season is considered March through October and pet owners should be vigilant during this time.  

• In order to prevent rattlesnakes from coming into your yard, areas should be made less friendly to the snakes.  This includes removing areas where they may nest such as wood or debris piles and removing rodents that they might eat from your property.  

• It’s also important to keep your pet nearby while hiking or walking through brush and canyon landscape.

• Keeping them on a leash is key to keeping them on the path and away from brush and large rocks where rattlesnakes can hide.

• There are rattlesnake-avoidance classes offered to teach dogs that they want to stay away from rattlesnakes, these work well for some dogs but some dogs will need refresher courses

Rattlesnake vaccine available and Helen Woodward Animal Center Companion Animal Hospital.
• One of the best preventative steps we can take for our pets is to get the rattlesnake vaccine.  

• The vaccine is made up of deactivated venom that can no longer cause negative effects but will allow the immune system to recognize the venom if it ever comes into contact with it again.  The immune system will form antibodies that bind up venom so it cannot cause harmful effects.

• It will not prevent the pet from needing veterinary care but it will give you more time to safely get your pet to a veterinary hospital and it will decrease the negative effects of the venom.  

• The initial vaccine requires a two vaccine series and then annual vaccination after that.

• The venom in the vaccine is against Western Diamondback Rattlesnakes but will also protect against snakes with similar venom (7 DIFFERENT KINDS!).  
Snake species vaccine protects against:
o Western Diamondback Rattlesnake
o Prairie, Great Basin, Northern, Southern Pacific Rattlesnakes
o Sidewinder Rattlesnake
o Timber Rattlesnake
o Massasauga Rattlesnake
o Copperhead Rattlesnake

Signs that are seen after a bite include hypotension or lowering of blood pressure resulting in wooziness or fainting.  Then extreme swelling starts at the site of the bite and spreads rapidly, with this swelling bruising and redness to the skin occurs.  

The most important thing if you think your dog or cat has been bit or if you come home to find your pet with swelling/bruising or lethargy is to take them to your veterinarian.  
Do not apply tourniquets, try cutting the area or attempting to suck out the bite, this only can put you at risk as venom can be absorbed through the tissue in your mouth or cause more damage to your pet.

Categories: Good Morning San Diego, Local San Diego News