Texas Tips: Rattlesnake Safety for Pets
Most of us who have lived in Texas have encountered a snake or two. While many snakes are absolutely harmless, there are certainly a few that can cause trouble, especially for our curious pets.
It is important for Texans to know a little bit about which slithering surprises to steer clear of and to understand basic rattlesnake safety for pets.
Texas Snakes that Cause Trouble
For all the snakes that live in Texas, we only really need to worry about two types. These include:
- Coral snakes – These venomous snakes look similarly to some non-venomous snakes in the area. You can identify the Texas Coral Snake by its thick red, yellow, and black bands, with the red and yellow bands always touching. The venomous snakes will never have red on their head and may reach up to 2.5 feet in length.
- Pit vipers – Pit vipers include the copperhead snake, cottonmouth, and rattlesnakes. Several species of pit viper reside in Texas. You can identify them by their vertical pupils and characteristic pits on the side of the head.
Knowing a little bit about which snakes are venomous and which are not can save you a lot of worry. The South Texas Poison Center is a great resource to learn about how to identify snakes as well as some further information about snake safety.
Rattlesnake Safety for Pets
Careful planning and education go a long way in preventing snake encounters. Basic rattlesnake safety for pets is essential in protection your four-legged friend. Keep yourself and pets safe by:
- Knowing where snakes live – Snakes often hide in brush, under rocks, and in small crevices. During warm parts of the day you may find them sunning themselves in the open. Use caution when moving debris and try to stay on marked trails and paths to avoid meeting a snake. Keeping your pet on a leash will help Fido to stay on the beaten path as well.
- Deterring snakes from your private property – Try not to make your backyard too inviting. Keep weeds and brush under control and be sure avoid encouraging birds, small rodents, lizards, and other snake food from calling your yard home.
- Respecting wildlife – Snakes will normally not strike unless they feel threatened. Do not allow your pet to pester wildlife and keep him or her on a leash.
- Training your pet – Teaching your dog the “leave it” command can prove to be invaluable. You never know when this instruction might be just the thing to stop a snake encounter in its tracks.
- Vaccinating – Some pets may benefit from being vaccinated against rattlesnake venom. Ask us if your pet needs the vaccine.
The Snake Encounter
No matter how careful you are, there is a chance that your pet may encounter a snake at some point. If your pet is bitten by a snake, or if you suspect he or she has been, stay calm. Any unexplained swelling or bleeding, particularly on the nose or extremities, should be assumed to be a snake bite.
The most important thing to do is to seek veterinary attention immediately. While many myths exist regarding how to help, the truth is that most just delay medical attention. Do not apply tourniquets, ice, make any cuts, or try to suck out the venom.
It is essential to seek medical attention without delay. Many myths exist regarding snake bites. Sucking venom, applying tourniquets, applying ice, and making cuts can all waste valuable time. If your pet has been bitten:
- Call us right away or start driving to the nearest veterinary hospital
- Take a picture of the snake if possible to do so safely (don’t capture or try to kill it
- Encourage your pet to be still
- Try to keep the bite below heart level
When you arrive, your pet will be stabilized. Treatments must occur to treat shock and potential blood loss. You pet will also receive an infusion of antibodies against rattlesnake venom called antivenin. This works best when administered right away.
The sooner your pet can receive care, the better his or her chances are. Vaccinated pets still need to be treated for a rattlesnake bite, however have a much better prognosis.
Rattlesnakes and pets are really not the best of friends. Do your best to prevent encounters where possible. Snakes, however, are a part of Texan life, making it important to know what you need to do in the face of a rattlesnake bite.
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