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It’s been a record year for dogs with rattlesnake bites at the emergency clinic, according to Fairfield Animal Hospital in Kelowna.
So far this summer, they’ve seen at least seven rattlesnake bites, so they’re making sure pet owners have all the information they need in case their furry friend is unlucky enough to get bitten.
“Dogs are curious and they follow their noses,” explains Dr. Jennifer Watt of Fairfield Animal Hospital. “This is a bad combination when they encounter a rattlesnake. Most dogs that meet a rattlesnake are bitten on the nose or front legs.”
She says that, thankfully, rattlesnakes in the Okanagan aren’t quite as dangerous as in other parts of the world.
Rattlesnakes found here, known as the North American Crotalidae, do not carry the venom that causes anaphylaxis, sepsis or death.
“The venom from the local rattlesnakes causes intense swelling that results in pain and tissue damage to the area around the bite,” Watt says. “The venom can also cause a condition that results in the dog not being able to clot their blood.”
Watt says that it is crucial to take your pet to a veterinarian immediately if they have been bitten. They can be treated with a serum that stops the swelling from progressing to tissue damage.
She explains that the dog is put on IV fluids and the serum is given through the fluids. The dog will have to stay in hospital and be monitored to make sure they don’t show side effects from the venom.
Clotting tests are also done when the dog is admitted and after the antivenin has been given to check that are not at risk for bleeding.
“The antivenin has changed the way rattlesnake bites are treated in the emergency clinic,” says Watt. “Previously dogs would have to stay in the hospital for several days on IV fluids, antibiotics, and heavy pain medication.”
“Even with that, there was often extensive damage that would result in tissue sloughing and prolonged recovery times. With the antivenin, dogs are kept comfortable and usually go home pain free within 12-24 hours of being admitted to the hospital,” she adds.
Both Fairfield and Rose Valley Pet Hospital offer rattlesnake antivenin.
Keep your pet safe while you’re exploring the great outdoors!