Of course I want to go look at the snake! I’m a dog!

August 5, 2010 · Posted in Doggie Healthcare, Service Dogs 

NOTE: This is Whistle’s first blog post. Who knew he could write? Look for more posts from Whistle in the future. – Marcie Davis

My mom freaked out when she saw the big snake in the backyard this summer. I wasn’t even allowed to go outside to check it out! Bummer. I think it was just a bull snake, and they’re good guys who eat pests in the garden.

Just because she’s afraid of snakes, I’m not allowed to investigate! But I did hear her talking to my vet, Dr. Murt, at Eldorado Animal Clinic, and I guess it’s for my own good. Around the country, thousands of dogs get bitten by snakes every year. Out here in New Mexico, like many western states, we have rattlesnakes, plus other kinds of snakes around.

And well, yeah, I’ll admit it; even we working dogs aren’t always the smartest in our dealings with the slithery creatures. We just can’t help it! We’re curious, and just end up sticking our snout right into them sometimes, or poking at them with a paw. So I guess we can’t blame the snakes for being surprised and biting us.

The problem is, if you get bitten by a rattler or other poisonous snake, it is definitely an emergency situation. No ifs, ands or buts about it. You’ve got to get in to the vet, pronto. Even a non-venomous snake bite requires a vet visit, and fast!

So if you and your human partner might want to look into getting you the rattlesnake vaccine. Yeah, they have that now. It’s not on the main list like the distemper shot or anything, but you can get one. It doesn’t even cost that much. Just of fraction of the cost of the antivenom you’ll need if a rattler gets you. Man, that stuff is expensive!

Of course like any vaccination, there are some risks involved, but you have to weigh that against the risk of getting bitten without having been vaccinated. You need to look at your lifestyle. Are you often out in places where snakes live? Like hiking or camping in the desert or mountains, or brushy areas? Even golf courses (think roughs) are full of snakes.

Once you’re bitten, it’s hard to know how much venom was injected. And OK, this is gross, but snake venom can make it so your blood can’t coagulate. And then you can go into shock, and even die!

The rattlesnake vaccine was developed for the Western Diamondback Rattlesnake. What we have here in Santa Fe is the Prairie rattler, similar enough that it seems to work. The vaccine stimulates your immune system so even if you’re bitten, the reaction won’t be as severe. You’ll still need to go to the vet right away, but your condition shouldn’t be nearly as bad.

At my vet’s office they said they’ve seen a lot of dogs get bitten and even seen a few die. They say that healing can be a long arduous process, depending on where you’re bitten and how much venom was injected. And, that rattlesnake bites can be very painful. Yikes!

You can get more info at Red Rock Biologics. I’m not the spokesdog for this company or anything, but just saying there’s some good info here, so check it out.

Big takeaway points here for you and your human partner: Try not to get bitten by a rattlesnake, but if you’re at risk, consider the rattler vaccine. Talk to your vet to help decide what you should do. If you do get bitten by any snake, get to the vet as fast as you can. Even if you think the snake was non-venomous, it’s an emergency. Well, I’d better get off the computer before my mom calls me. OK, bueno bye.


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