Snakes!!!! How to protect your pet on the hiking trail from the natives

Posted By elaine on June 1, 2010

Veterinarians in the Denver metro area say they have seen an unusual number of pets bitten by snakes in May and one dog park in Aurora has had to close because of two recent incidents.

Dr. Jeff Mullen with the Seven Hills Veterinary Clinic says his office usually sees or two cases each season but they’ve handled five cases this month and have had to order additional antivenin.

Reportedly, rattlesnakes have bitten dozens of pets in the Denver area this month.

The Great Plains Dog Park in Aurora closed this month after rattlesnakes bit two dogs. The city of Aurora says officials are evaluating how to make the park safer and it’s unclear how long the closure will last.

Parks in the Colorado Springs area can also be a problem.  Snakes are often seen in places like Ute Valley Park and Garden of the Gods and even Bear Creek Park.  Snakes will usually slither out of the way of hikers, but dogs smell and hear them and often will seek the reptiles out and stick their noses right on them. 

A rattlesnake bite can be minor or catastrophic depending on the amount of venom released by the snake.  There is no way of knowing just how severe the bite is until it is too late. 

If your dog gets bit, he is probably in trouble.   Tips from Colorado State University veterinarians… First, remain calm it order to keep your pet calm. Restrict movement of the pet.  If you can carry your pet to the car, do so.   Loosely immobilize the limb in a functional position if bitten on an extremity.  Don’t apply a tourniquet or apply ice to the area. Go immediately to your vet or the nearest vet emergency clinic.  This is truly a vet emergency and the quicker you get medical attention, the better off your dog will be.    Remember even the sweetest pet will bite when in pain, take care when dealing with and injured animal.  You might even want to tie a bandana around his muzzle before moving him. 

Your vet will probably treat your dog with antivenin, intravenous fluids, and antibiotics, which if started quickly has great results.  That said the antivenin alone will cost  $500 dollars or more.  This doesn’t include treatment and if you end up in the dog e.r., you are looking at least 15-hundred bucks!

If you take your dog out on hikes you may want to consider getting the rattlesnake vaccine.   This should cost about $35 bucks.  You will need to get a shot, then a month later a booster, then a shot annually along with your pet’s routine vaccinations.  I have gotten the shots for my dogs with no side effects.  I started shortly after my sister’s German Shepard got nailed in the leg and it cost her arm and a leg to get treatment. 

I have not met anyone who has had there dog bitten after the shot, but I did talk to my vet and he recommends bringing your dog in right after a bite to make sure everything worked the way it should because sometimes the dose of venom is more than the vaccine protects them from, and most importantly, to get treatment for possible infections.  Snake bites tend to fester because snakes have a lot of bacteria in their mouths.  A good cleaning and some antibiotics are a good plan.  This treatment is usually under $50 and not nearly as stressful.

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