What to do if your dog is bitten. Should I tourniquet it or not? Does icing it help? (Not that I typically have any ice with me but it is something good to know.) Should I suck the poison out like they do in the movies? Is there anything I can do to minimize the effect? To answer these questions we need to learn how venom works. Most species of rattle snakes have hemotoxic venom. This type of venom works by destroying red blood cells. Disrupting clotting and in severe cases can cause organ degeneration and generalized tissue damage (which can include the loss of a limb). This type venom creates a wide variety of issues that are usually fatal without treatment. Exposure to hemotoxic venom is also very painful. Part of the function of this venom is to help the snake digest its prey. Death from hemotoxic venom is much slower than death from a neurotoxin which affects the nervous system. The Mojave rattle snake found in Arizona also uses neurotoxins which can cause an animal bitten by one of these snakes to collapse from shock. If your dog does get bit donít put on a tourniquet because it may cause the dog to struggle. This will force the venom to travel quicker due to an elevated heart rate. Try to keep your dog calm and do not freak out. Do not try to suck the poison out, thatís just silly. Ice wonít help either. Keep your dog calm and seek veterinary attention. I have heard that some vets are giving out anti-venom shots but I am not sure how reliable or effective they are. I have heard mixed reviews. The best thing to do is prevent your dog from getting bit in the first place.
Due to the number of rattle snake and dog encounters in Arizona I offer rattle snake aversion training to give you a little peace of mind knowing your dog will have the tools to avoid the potentially deadly snakes. The training will be done in an open area adjacent your home and should be redone every year or two to ensure the memory is still fresh in the dogs mind. I will bring over a rattle snake and the necessary equipment. It only takes one session to complete training. You may also bring the dog to me for training.
Mr. Robinson wrote an article about rattle snake aversion training which was published in K-9 Cop Magazine and has spoken at multiple events about the threats to pets from rattle snakes in the Southwest.
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This training is based on the principal of one trail learning which states that if a stimuli is strong enough it will create a lasting impression on the animal and create a permanent change in behavior.
For scent recognition the rattle snake will be secured in a box with sufficient ventilation holes to allow air flow through and create a scent cone. You will walk the dog up to the box on leash and once the dog picks up the scent we will give it a stimulation, this will cover the scent aversion of the snake.
For the sight and sound aversion the snake comes out of the box. The trainer will be standing by with snake tongs to keep the snake from getting away. The owner and dog will approach on leash keeping the dog a minimum of 10ft away at all times and when the dog has spotted or heard the snake the dog will receive a stimulation.
The training is tested by trying to get the dog to approach the snake on leash. If the dog continues to approach during the test then it should be re-stimulated.
I recommend repeating this training once a year to make sure it is fresh in the dogs mind.
Once the training is accomplished, if the dog detects a snake it will either try to go around it or run the other way. If the dog exhibits this type of behavior try to find an alternate route if possible.
A rattle snake bite disrupts the integrity of the blood vessels. Combined with the change of normal blood clotting mechanisms, this can lead to dramatic swelling, with up to a third of the total blood circulation being lost into the tissues in a matter of hours. Sometimes, if the swelling persists despite anti-venom treatment, so much blood is lost from circulation that the dog dies of shock.Some people mistakenly believe that rattlers are active only during the hottest hours. Actually, they often rest during the heat of the day, sheltered from the sun. Like their predominantly rodent prey, these snakes are instead most active during the evening, night and morning hours.It's a good idea to keep your pet on a leash when hiking or exploring rattle snake habitat, so that if you hear a rattle, you can keep your pet away from the snake. If your dog is bitten by a rattle snake do not use ice or other cold applications and do not apply a tourniquet as these may increase the dog's anxiety and cause him to struggle, making the effects of the snake bite worse. Instead, keep your dog as calm and quiet as possible and drive immediately to the nearest veterinarian.