Five Tips to Prepare You for Potential Rattlesnake Encounters this Spring

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Five Tips to Prepare You for Potential Rattlesnake Encounters this Spring

When humans come across rattlesnakes in the wild, we have the knowledge to avoid them. Dogs, however, don’t have the same instincts and, due to their curiosity, are 25 times more likely to be attacked when they encounter the deadly snakes. Rattlesnakes are quite common in our region, especially during hot summer months, and are frequent intruders in local parks, hiking trails and even backyards.

Since spring is upon us, now is a great time to brush up on a few preventative tips. By taking proactive measures now, you may be able to save your pet’s life should he or she come in contact with a rattlesnake.

Attend a rattlesnake aversion class.

Many local organizations hold special classes to inform pet owners of the warning signs and teach pets to avoid the snakes - one such event includes the K9 Rattlesnake Avoidance Training to be held on April 27 in Chico. The instructors are trained to keep safety a top priority while preparing participants for potentially fatal situations.

Get your dog vaccinated early in the season.

While it will not exempt your dog from being bitten if an encounter should occur, the rattlesnake vaccine has been proven to reduce the reaction and delay fatal bodily reactions so that you can seek veterinary care. The vaccine is made from a very small dose of snake venom that helps familiarize your dog with the agent so their bodies are slower to develop serious symptoms.

Keep your dog on a leash.

The majority of snake bites we see happen when dogs are off their leashes and free to explore off the beaten trail paths. By maintaining a 6-foot leash or less, you can rein your dog in should you hear the familiar rattling.

Avoid dense landscaping.

We encourage pet owners to survey their surroundings before taking pets on walks in heavily landscaped areas that may be unfamiliar. If you want to stop for a hike on a trail or explore a new path, determine if there are cleared walking paths that would keep you and your pet from having to trek through heavy brush where rattlesnakes can hide. 

Know the rattlesnake bite symptoms.

The longer you wait to seek veterinary care, the more danger you are inflecting upon your dog. Therefore, it’s important for you to recognize the symptoms of rattlesnake bites as soon as possible and take immediate action to seek professional care.

The symptoms of a rattlesnake bite include:

  • Puncture wounds
  • Swelling
  • Sensitivity
  • Panting or drooling
  • Diarrhea
  • Weakness

If you believe that your dog has been bitten, carefully carry your dog to the car and seek immediate veterinary care. Limit your dog’s activity during the commute to reduce the spread of the venom. The faster you seek treatment, the better the odds of survival. Even if you think there is a chance of contact, it’s better to be safe since time is of the essence in these situations.

While the dangers of our local wildlife shouldn’t keep you from enjoying outdoor time with your pets, it’s important to be knowledgeable and prepared. If you’re interested in attending the K9 Rattlesnake Avoidance Training on April 27 in Chico, please email Karen Hayden at or call our office for more information.

Posted Wednesday, March 26, 2014