6 Simple and Effective Tips to Protect Your Dog from Snakes

Unsure as to what to do if you encounter a snake when you’re with your best friend? Don’t worry we have you covered.

The winds of winter have come and gone which means warmer temperatures all across the deserts. This is a perfect opportunity for you to fully enjoy the outdoors with your pets, most notably with your four-legged companions. Whether it’s a light stroll around the neighborhood or a rugged hike on a trail, dogs very much enjoy getting exercise when temperatures are warmer.

Unfortunately, warmer temperatures also means that snakes will end their hibernation period. This is the time they become an active part of the wildlife community.

1. Venomous vs Non-Venomous Snakes

One of the best ways you can protect your dog is to know what type of snakes you may come across. The easiest way to spot the difference between a venomous snake and a non-venomous one is to look at the head. The former ones have triangular shaped heads whereas the latter ones are much more rounded with a flat top. In addition, venomous ones will display their two fangs when threatened.

If you’re ever in a situation where you or your dog is face to face with a snake, the first thing you should do is to give the reptile some space. More often than not, the snake will leave both of you alone. Remember, snakes don’t want anything to do with you. They will only attack if you get too near or if it feels threatened. Some useful warning signs that a snake is ready to attack is if they coil up in an S shape, rattle or twist and squirm on the ground. If you see this, give it respect and back away immediately.

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2. Vaccinate your dog

Rattlesnakes are the most common forms of snake bites for dogs. If you live in an area where rattlers are common, or maybe you walk your dog near areas with snakes, it might be a wise choice to get your pup vaccinated for snake bites. The vaccination is made from snake venom itself and it will help mitigate the effects of a bite.

If your dog does get bitten, you should still seek immediate medical attention, regardless if they have the vaccination. A professional veterinarian will be able to properly diagnose your pet in an animal hospital. Never take any chances with snakes! 

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About Rattlesnake Vaccine

Less than 25 lbs require a total of 3 rattlesnake vaccines given 3-4 weeks apart (then yearly thereafter).

Between 26-99 lbs require only 2 rattlesnake vaccines given 3-4 weeks apart (then yearly thereafter).

100 + lbs require a total of 3 rattlesnake vaccines given 3-4 weeks apart (then yearly thereafter).

Rattlesnake Season April-October

If you hike with your pet on our local trails, or let your pet run in desert regions for exercise, you may want to have them vaccinated. Rattlesnake bites can be fatal and a rattlesnake bite is always an emergency.

Purpose of a Rattlesnake Vaccine

The purpose of a rattlesnake vaccine is to lessen the severity of the pet’s symptoms to a rattlesnake bite. The vaccine does this by building immunity to the snake’s venom. Any pet bitten by a rattlesnake will still need to be seen as soon as possible by a Veterinarian to determine the proper treatment. A pet bitten by a rattlesnake can get skin infections, have severe tissue swelling, and tissue damage that needs to be managed medically.

Vaccine Details

If a pet has NOT had the rattlesnake series before, OR the pet has missed more than a year, he or she will need the recommended 2-3 vaccine series depending on weight. Small and large dogs require a series of 3 vaccines. Dogs between 26-99 lbs require only 2 vaccines. The rattlesnake series can be started as early as 4 months old.

Vaccine Side effects: The most common side effect is an injection site swelling (Only reported in less than 0.25% of cases) This is non painful and typically self resolving. Otherwise a lesser side effect would be vomiting or diarrhea.

3. Know your surroundings

More often than not, snake bites occur when a dog comes across a snake unknowingly, usually when nosing in bushes while picking up scents. To a dog, a snake is just like any other animal, which means they generally won’t fear them as much as they should. As a result, when you’re out and about, it’s always wise to be wary of your surroundings at all times. 

Some general tips include:

  • Make sure your dog is on a short leash when walking so that you can reign them in if the situation calls for it.
  • Try to avoid hiking or walking near tall vegetation or bushes.
  • If you’re out hiking, make sure you’re on clear open paths. Visibility is key!
  • Snakes generally keep to themselves and don’t venture out, so do not take you or your dog off trail.
  • When walking at night, carry a flashlight with you.

According to the US Forest Service, most snake bites occur between the months of April and October, as these are the times when both snakes and dogs are active outdoors. All dogs are curious creatures. This is why it’s so important for you to make sure that their curiosity doesn’t get the best of them. Dogs love to sniff and explore wherever their nose points. It’s your job to make sure they don’t go poking in holes or dig under rocks. Good leash control is vital. It doesn’t matter if you upset your dog by forcing them on trail or to leave their curiosity behind. Their safety should always be your number one concern.

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4. Look for snake bite symptoms

After a hike or walk with your dog, check to see that your dog is behaving normally. If your four legged companion is acting strange for any reason at all, examine them carefully. If you don’t know whether your dog has been bitten or not, look for snake bite symptoms. These include:

  • Whimpering
  • Lethargy,
  • Unusual drooling and salivation
  • Heavy panting
  • Limping
  • Dead tissue surrounding wound
  • Swelling
  • Bleeding
  • Shortness of breath
  • Signs of pain
  • Vomiting
  • Shaking and tremors

If you’re still unsure about what your dog is dealing with, the best thing you can do is to take them to a vet. Let the professionals handle your dog because they know what’s best for your buddy’s health.

5. What happens if my dog gets a snake bite?

Snake bites are very painful for your pet. If your pup has suffered from a bite, it may be unintentionally aggressive towards you. If the snake bite is on the face, avoid touching this part of your pet all together. Don’t let your furry friends use any unnecessary physical energy. Try to keep your pet calm and in a stable position by carrying them. This may give them peace of mind during a very difficult time and help relieve the stress temporarily. DO NOT try to suck the venom out yourself.

You should always seek medical attention ASAP after a bite, regardless if they have been vaccinated or not. Vaccinations help mitigate the venom but they do not immobilize it completely. Unless you are a professional veterinarian, do not try to treat the venom bite yourself. You may make things much worse for your best friend and also waste valuable time by not taking them to an animal hospital immediately.

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6. The Vet is your dog’s best friend!

The symptoms of a snake bite can sometimes take several hours to show up. As a result, it’s important to check your dog after every walk or hike to make sure there are no physical alterations to your companion. In addition, you should check for any of the unusual symptoms listed above. Remember, remember, remember! Always take your dog to the vet if they have been bitten by a snake. Professional veterinarians will give your pup the best chance for survival if they can treat it within 24 hours.

A Rattlesnake Story…

Rattlesnake vs Dog

Having grown up in Anaheim, the danger of venomous snakes wasn’t something I ever had to worry about. After 20 years of living in the Coachella Valley and camping in our local desert that has changed. I’ve seen them under bushes and sunning themselves on rocks but it’s our dogs that are most vulnerable. Usually they are preoccupied with all the desert scents and can be caught off guard by a rattlesnake that is simply protecting itself.

This is what happened a few years back to a good friend’s dog while hiking in our local desert. He had  grown up hunting and camping throughout the Arizona and California desert so he knew the dangers but when your dog is off leash, it’s next to impossible to protect them. His springer spaniel had been sniffing around bushes and loving the freedom of the open desert but before long became very tired. My friend knew something wasn’t right. She was normally very energetic but his springer spaniel could no longer walk on her own. He quickly picked her up, laid her in the back seat of the truck and headed to the closest animal hospital. Unfortunately it was 40 minutes from where they were hiking, he knew it would be close and called me to meet him there. I pulled in the parking lot and saw my friend still sitting in the front seat, she didn’t make it. He got out of the truck, opened the back door and looked her over. That’s when he discovered what he already suspected, a bite wound on her back leg.

We shed some tears and said our remembrances. It was a very sad moment and one that I won’t soon forget. It has also caused me to keep a leash on my dog much more than I otherwise would.

– Desert Dunes Client