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Rattlesnakes are most active between the months of April and October. These snakes eat rodents, including gophers and squirrels. Rattlesnakes hunt at any time of day or night, as long as it is not too cold. Rattlers will seek shade in the heat.

There are seven different species of rattlesnakes in California. These venomous snakes bite more than 800 people and thousands of other animals each year. Fortunately, about 25 percent of these bites are “dry,” meaning the snake did not inject poison, but all rattlesnake bites require immediate medical attention.

Rattlesnakes are generally not aggressive by nature but a rattler will defend himself when he feels threatened.

Dead rattlesnakes, even badly mangled ones, can still inject venom because of their bite reflex. Rattlesnakes most commonly bite dogs and cats on the face and on the lower front limbs. Pain usually begins immediately. Other signs, such as bleeding, swelling and bruising develop within 30 minutes and continue for at least 24 hours.

Rattlesnake Bite Treatment for Pets

Rattlesnake bites require immediate medical treatment. The veterinarians at Thurman Veterinary Center will begin by performing an examination and laboratory tests to determine whether a venomous bite has occurred and the severity of that bite. Your pet will probably have to stay overnight for observation, treatment and further testing. Any dog or cat showing signs of shock or blood clotting problems associated with rattlesnake bite requires close observation and aggressive medical treatment.

The standard treatment for rattlesnake bites in pets is intravenous fluids, pain relievers, anti-inflammatory drugs and sometimes antibiotics. In some cases, the veterinarians at Thurman Veterinary Center will administer antivenin to counteract the effects of the venom. While it would be best for your pet to receive antivenin immediately after the snakebite occurs, your dog or cat can benefit from a dose of antivenin administered 24 or even 48 hours after the bite. Antivenin can reduce symptoms and shorten the time your cat or dog spends in the hospital.

Rattlesnake Bite Prevention for Pets

Rattlesnake bite prevention requires constant vigilance, even in your own back yard. You can reduce your pets’ risk for dangerous snakebites during rattlesnake season by following a few simple rules during the months of April through October.

  • Fence in the pet area of your yard with galvanized ¼” mesh hardware cloth; insert this fence at least 6” into the ground
  • Fill in gopher and squirrel holes around the yard to prevent snakes from using these as passageways
  • Use a long stick to poke heavily concealed areas, such as ivy and untrimmed shrubbery, to check the pet area of your yard
  • Keep pet areas clear of rodents and their hiding places, especially woodpiles, littered areas and in lawn clippings
  • Keep your dog on a leash when hiking outdoors
  • Stick to established trails
  • Never let your pets play with a dead rattlesnake

Vaccine for rattlesnake bites are available. Contact Thurman Veterinary Center for more information about these vaccinations and about keeping your pets safe during rattlesnake season.

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