T-Bone was a bright Jack Russell Terrier. Throughout his 14 years, he had many adventures. He lived the perfect dog life. He protected his home and his family with every breath he had. Most of his days were filled with being captain of his family’s boat, riding four wheelers, chasing unwanted pests that came into his yard, barking at cars that came near the house, and snuggling on the couch.
T-Bone’s mission in life was to protect his home and family. He patrolled his property as if that was the reason God made him. There were many times he ran into creatures that threatened his domain. The deer, raccoons, cats, and rabbits knew to stay away from T-Bone’s territory. Garter snakes and Blue Racer snakes were his expertise. He could kill them with one bite and snap of his head. But bull snakes, he left alone. He would alert his family if a bull snake was on the property.
As time went on, he was as healthy as a 14-year-old terrier could be but was losing his sight and hearing. It never slowed him down though. He could keep up with the younger dogs as if he was one of them. He never left his family’s side.
One day there was something new at the house. T-Bone’s mom was in the garden and his dad was in the garage. While on his patrol coming around the house to make sure his family was ok, he ran into something new. This intruder was different. He wasn’t sure if he needed to bark, go in for the kill or to leave it alone. As his nose got closer to it to find out the story of this stranger, he was hit right on the nose! A rattlesnake had invaded his home! His family hadn’t seen a rattlesnake near their property in over 50 years! Confused and in pain, T-Bone yipped and everyone knew, something hurt T-Bone. It happened so fast. His mom called the veterinarian immediately while his dad killed the snake with a shovel. The veterinarian told her to come in immediately to try to save him. It was going to be a long drive; the vet lived 30 minutes away. When they got there, the vet started fluids immediately and said he’ll have to be hospitalized.
No one expected this would ever happen. It was hard for the veterinarian to tell T-Bone’s family that he lost his last battle.
Dealing with Rattlesnake Bites
As pet owners, we try to protect our pets as much as we can. We love them with our whole hearts, and they love us even more. Losing a family member is never easy. T-Bone has left a terrier-sized hole in his family’s hearts. And if you know how big terriers think they are, that hole is pretty big. T-Bone’s family never thought about rattlesnakes. They weren’t very common in their area at all. Sometimes there isn’t much we can do when the impossible happens. T-Bone’s family wants us to learn from his story.
If you live in an area where you think there’s a slight chance a rattlesnake can threaten your family, take steps to protect them.
What can you do around the house to prevent rattlesnakes?
- Keep your lawns and fields mowed. Remove shrubs, overhanging vegetation, and any other plants from around your fence. This can help snakes enter your yard easily and undetected.
- Keep woodpiles or any materials stored away from your house. Limit anything that can be a home or nesting site for snakes, such as rock piles, long grass, brush, animal burrows, etc. These are great hiding areas for rattlesnakes.
- Keep pests and rodents under control. These are food sources for snakes and can attract them to your property.
What can you do to protect your dog while on an outing?
- Keep your dog on a leash if at all possible. This will prevent him from investigating places where snakes can live.
- Make sure your dog is trained to come when called. If you see a snake or hear a snake, you can call your dog and move away from the snake.
- When hiking, stay on trails instead of walking through areas that snakes can hide.
- You can also snake-proof your dog. Hunters take their dogs to clinics where professionals expose dogs to snakes and use negative association methods to deter them from being curious about snakes.
What do you if your pet gets bite by a rattlesnake?
First, DO NOT take out your pocket knife and cut Xs over the fang marks! Do not attempt to suck venom through those X marks. Do not grab the snake in a fit of anger and attempt to choke it to death. You may be bitten yourself.
Identify the snake. Note its size, color, head shape and if it has a rattle or not.
Find out where your pet has been bitten. Try to calm your pet down and restrict excessive movement.
Call your vet IMMEDIATELY and start your journey to your veterinary clinic. Every second counts in these situations.
Does your pet need the rattlesnake vaccine?
Getting your dog vaccinated doesn’t prevent rattlesnake bites, and it doesn’t prevent your dog from dying from a rattlesnake bite, though it might buy you more time to get your pet to the veterinarian. It may also lessen the symptoms associated with a rattlesnake bite, but does not guarantee full recovery.
According to Colorado State University Veterinary Teaching hospital, “VTH does not…recommend the rattlesnake vaccine due to a lack of evidence of its efficacy in our region. Vaccinated dogs seen at the VTH have the same symptoms and need the same care as unvaccinated dogs. A possible danger of the vaccine is a sense of security that may delay care if owners assume their dog will be fine because it has been vaccinated. All animals bit by a rattlesnake should receive medical attention as soon as possible.”
Our recommendation here at the Animal Medical Center is in alignment with the statement above by CSU Veterinary Teaching Hospital. We do not recommend the rattlesnake vaccination because it is mostly ineffective and may give dog owners a false sense of security in an emergency situation, though vaccinated dogs are affected by venom the same way unvaccinated dogs are.
Rattlesnakes are very dangerous, and the risk should not be taken lightly. There are ways to help prevent a rattlesnake encounter, but you never know when it could happen. You could do everything right and still find a rattlesnake right at your door. The take-home message is; be prepared. Know what to look for and what to do if you or your pet encounters a rattlesnake.