What to do if your dog gets bit by a rattlesnake
A peaceful hike up Badger Mountain on Monday turned into a race against time for a Richland dog owner.
Aggie Mowry brought her two dogs on a walk with her friend. Normally she lets them off the leash for at least part of the trip because they’re well behaved.
Her border collie, Jett, jumped into the bushes along the side of the trail, and just as quickly hopped back. Then they heard the hissing of a rattlesnake.
Along with Badger Mountain’s miles of trails, the south Richland recreation area is also known to be the home of rattlesnakes.
And with the weather warming up, encounters between pets and the venomous creatures are likely to increase.
Luckily for Jett, Mowry prepared for a possible encounter a rattlesnake. He had received a rattlesnake vaccine and had regular boost shots.
Along with keeping an eye on your surroundings, the vaccine is one of the best ways to protect pets from the venom, said Veterinarian Brynne Lyle, the medical director of VCA Meadow Hills Animal Hospital.
Since many of the encounters happen in more rural areas, it can buy time for dogs.
Hank Oliver with Pasco’s Animal Hospital also has seen good results with the vaccine, saying they’ve already treated four dogs this year for rattlesnake bites.
The two treated with the vaccine had less severe symptoms, he said.
Even with the vaccine, treating a rattlesnake bite needs to be done quickly. If someone suspects a dog was bitten, Lyle suggests getting to a vet as quickly as possible.
She tells pet owners to call on the way to the hospital rather than just showing up.
Venom symptoms include vomiting, weakness, lots of salivation, stumbling around, drowsiness, difficulty breathing and twitching muscles.
While people might be tempted to use a tourniquet or ice, Lyle and Oliver recommend keeping the bitten limb as immobilized as possible.
If you spot the snake that bit the animal, being able to describe it can help the vet, but don’t waste time searching for it, Lyle said.
VCA Meadow Hills and other animal hospitals in the area stock the antivenin to treat bites. If it’s administered within the first two to four hours, then dogs do have good success.
The length of the animal’s stay can vary depending on the kind of snake and how much venom entered the dog’s system.
People can also train their dogs to avoid snakes.
Mowry reacted quickly when she noticed Jett’s cheek was swelling. She called a clinic and quickly brought her dog in. She described the tear-filled phone call in a Facebook post.
“I definitely cried. I am a RN and deal with emergencies on a regular basis,” she said. “But when I called the Horse Heaven clinic, I could not speak for 10 long seconds and all I could think was, ‘Please don’t hang up.’”
Jett got a dose of the antivenin and is recovering.
She expects the treatment will cost her more than $1,000, but she said it’s worth it for her.