Most snake bites are defensive in nature, depending on a variety of factors a rattlesnake bite can result in minimal signs or problems or be severe and cause the death of a dog.
Dogs are most often bit in the face or front legs, which results in swelling, pain, and bruising. Often times 1 or 2 blood drops can be found. Although it can happen, most of the dogs bitten in the face do not have trouble breathing unless they get bit in the mouth or tongue.
Any dog or cat that is suspected of being bit by a rattle snake should be evaluated by a veterinarian. Early treatment with pain medications and antivenom ensures the quickest recovery. General first aid should be to calm the dog down. DO NOT use any type of suction kits or tourniquets – these areas are painful and either can make things worse or result in the dog biting. Transport your dog to a veterinary facility for emergency care as soon as feasible.
Most dogs will recover after getting IV fluids for shock, pain medications and antivenom. Occasionally antibiotics are administered for potential secondary infections. Swelling will usually take 7-10 days to resolve. In severe cases, large areas of skin may die resulting in a wound that can take several weeks to heal. Some snake venom has a component that causes weakness and paralysis. Those dogs are at risk for developing trouble breathing and in rare cases require intensive care and assisted ventilation on a mechanical ventilator.
Best way to protect your dog from getting bit is to keep the dog on a leash at all times. Take walks early in the morning and in the late evening after it has cooled down. For further information see our website at www.animalurgentcare.com
Karen Seibold, DVM
Diplomate American College of Veterinary Emergency and Critical Care
Animal Urgent Care and Specialty Group
2430A. S. Escondido Blvd
Escondido, Ca 92025
Open 24/7 every day of the year.