Mojave Rattlesnake - Crotalus scutulatusSpring is just around the corner, and with the rise in temperatures and the sunny days ahead, rattlesnake and other venomous snake sightings are set to become more common. A few years ago, we blogged about the types of venomous snakes in the area and what happens – physiologically speaking – if your dog is bitten. However, an encounter between pets and rattlesnakes (or other venomous reptile) can be prevented with some simple precautions and a focus on avoiding these scenarios in which most bites occur.

Avoiding Venomous Snakes – The Basics

Most snakes (and other wildlife, for that matter) simply want to be left alone. Because of this, they are typically prone to attack when they perceive a threat to their safety. To avoid a face-to-face with a venomous reptile, practice these snake-savvy outdoor tips.

  • Movement factor – Many reptiles will pick up on movement, such as the swinging of a walking stick or jingle of your dog’s ID tags – so, it’s a good idea to make your presence known as much as possible by creating noise along the trail. (Fun fact: while snakes do not have ears as we do, they can hear by picking up sound vibrations through the jawbones that are then interpreted by the brain.)
  • In the safety zone – Keep your dog on a 4-6 ft. leash, where he or she can be observed and close to your side.
  • Hiding spots – If you can’t see what’s underneath rock outcroppings, tall grasses or overgrown areas, avoid those places and stick to well-maintained trails with good visibility and clearance.
  • Rocks and water – Before scrambling over those boulders or lounging by the creek, keep in mind that snakes love to be near water and warm themselves on rocks and boulders.
  • Keep your focus – Avoid staring at your smartphone or using ear buds when outside – keeping your focus on what’s ahead and around you and your dog.
  • Bring them inside – For those with wide-roaming or rural cats, we recommend bringing them indoors to avoid an encounter with a venomous snake (and other dangers that outdoor cats face).
  • Hike during the day – Warm nights are often high activity times for rattlesnakes and other venomous reptiles – avoid hiking at night when visibility is minimal.
  • Weed whack –If you reside in a rural area or your property abuts public land, supervise your pet while outside and keep tall grasses and weeds trimmed to avoid creating hiding spots for snakes.
  • If you do encounter a snake with your pet, do not make fast or sudden movement, but rather back up slowly. Give the snake a wide berth while you and your pet to safety.

    Pet and Rattlesnake Encounters: Other Safety Precautions

    If you spend a great deal of time outdoors, it is likely wise to get to know some of the local venomous snakes and their characteristics. You may even consider purchasing a pocket-sized field guide and consulting the Center for Disease Control’s Venomous Snakes page.

    If you love hitting the trails with your dog, we encourage you to consider the rattlesnake vaccine, as well. This vaccine was produced to help protect dogs against the potency of the diamondback rattlesnake, should he or she be bitten. The venom of the diamondback rattler is similar to the western rattlesnake and several other varieties, so the vaccine can also help to alleviate some of the potency of other snake bites. However, even if your dog is vaccinated, he or she will still require emergency veterinary care.

    If your pet is bitten by a snake, do your best to remember the identifying characteristics of the snake (color, stripes or patterns, size) and seek veterinary care immediately.

    Please contact us if you would like to learn more about ways to protect your pet from rattlesnakes or to inquire about the rattlesnake vaccine.