• Cierra Voelkl

Keep Dogs Safe During Rattlesnake Season

Imagine...walking on your usual hiking trail with your pup by your side on a sunny, Sunday morning. All of a sudden, you're dog yelps in pain and collapses to the ground. What just happened?! Well, that would be a rattle snake. Spring is often the start of rattlesnake season as they hide out in the overgrown brush. Once the weather starts warming up, snakes come out of hibernating. For now, we are thankful that we've had colder weather than usual in California for spring so they aren't as active BUT they are still out there. In a press release from the California Department of Fish and Wildlife on April 3, 2019, it was started that:

"Rattlesnakes are widespread in California and are found in a variety of habitat throughout the state from coastal to desert. They may also turn up around homes and yards in brushy areas and under wood piles. Generally not aggressive, rattlesnakes will likely retreat if given room and not provoked or threatened. Most bites occur when a rattlesnake is handled or accidentally brushed against by someone walking or climbing."

Photo Credit: Erick Briggs

Now, it's time to go over some tips to stay safe during rattlesnake season! While the first tip is obvious to just avoid them, sometimes that's not possible if you don't actually know where they are or aren't expecting them.

1. Snakes are more active at dawn and dusk as to avoid overheating so try hiking with your pup in the middle of the day.

2. Considering snake evasion training with your dog. Some dogs might be curious if they come across this weird, wiggling creature and not see it as danger. Dog trainer, Jamie Robinson, founder of Seize the Leash in Tucson, says that it IS possible to teach evasion and avoidance training using only positive reinforcement. We don't want for the dog to necessarily associate snakes with pain and panic but to simply recognize it and stay away. Learn more about evasion training in this article from Whole Dog Journal.

Photo Credit: Whole Dog Journal

3. Use a long stick to clear away brush before walking through it but it's still recommended to stick to clear trails as much as possible when out in nature and make as much noise as possible to scare them away.

4. Keep dogs on a leash when hiking so he doesn't encounter a snake before you do. Try keeping them by your side as much as possible and don't let them go sniffing the brush on the side of the trail.

Photo Credit: Metro Paws Dog Walking®

5. If you live in an area where snakes are found in yard, keep all debris cleared from your yard so snakes don't have a hiding spot. Examples of snakes favoring hiding spots in yards include large wood piles, leafy built up, and discarded toys and appliances (Vetted Pet Care).

Photo Credit: Bryan D. Hughes ‏

6. Consider a rattlesnake vaccine from your vet if you life in area with a lot of rattlesnakes or you hike often in areas with them. It's a simple vaccine that comes in two doses and will lessen the severity of a rattlesnake bite (and also the bite of common venomous U.S snakes). It beats the $1,000 anti-venom! The vaccine lasts a year so consider making it an annual vaccine at their check up!

7. If you dog is bit by a rattlesnake, don't go near the rattlesnake and instead, get your dog to come to you. If you're bit, you're going to be useless. Call the closest emergency vet if possible, remove the collar if it might restrict swelling and keep the bite lower than their heart.

Photo credit: Paula Godwin

That's it! Remember to stay safe out there this rattlesnake season and keep your ears peeled for that little tail rattle.


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