Rattlesnakes and dogs have been a long and uneasy relationship in the United States. This legacy has continued into modern times where rattlesnakes are often viewed with fear by both humans and their pets.
How Often Are Dogs Bitten by Rattlesnakes?
There is no central data source for statistics about the number of dogs bitten by rattlesnakes each year in the United States. However, according to one vet, the fatality rates can reach 20 percent in dogs bitten by the Eastern Diamondback or Eastern Coral snakes. Most dogs are bitten by rattlesnakes while “on vacation” with their owners during the months of April to October when the weather is warmer. Dogs are much more at risk of being bitten and dying from rattlesnake bites than humans.
Where Do Dogs Get Bitten By Rattlesnakes?
Dogs can be bitten by rattlesnakes just about anywhere outdoors where rattlesnakes live. As mentioned, most bites happen in the spring and summer months when the snakes are more active and people take their pets out in nature. This can happen in public parks, near beaches, in the forest, while hiking, camping, fishing, or just strolling through with your dog. The problem then becomes, the distance to the nearest veterinarian when your dog is bitten by a rattlesnake, especially if you are way out in the wilderness. However, most dogs are bitten close to home in their backyards where snakes like to hang around. Dogs will accidentally step on a hidden rattlesnake or even chase them because their curiosity and hunter instincts kick in.
Visible bite signs will be evident on your dog’s head, neck, or limbs. There may be redness or swelling as well as fang marks in the area. A dog may try to lick the bite wound because of the pain and blood.
How Dangerous is a Rattlesnake Bite To:
Puppy, Micro Dog (2-10 pounds)
Rattlesnakes can kill a puppy or micro dog in less than an hour if they do not recieve adequate treament with antivenom. They are simply too young and too small to handle such a load of venom from a rattlesnake without getting extremely sick.
Small Dog (10-20 pounds)
Small dogs, like puppies, stand a higher chance of getting extremely sick or dying from a rattlesnake bite. Its crucial to get them to the nearest vet for antivenom treatment as fast as possible.
Medium Dog (20-40 pounds)
Medium dogs handle rattlesnake bites better than small dogs and puppies but can suffer greatly if they are injected with a large amount of venom. Their age and overall health status also matter when it comes to their speed of recovery.
Large Dog (40-80 pounds)
Large dogs stand the greatest chance of surviving a rattlesnake bite and making a successful recovery. But this also depends on its overall health and age. A large older dog can be greatly harmed by a rattlesnake bite due to its advanced age.
Extra Large Dog (80-200 pounds)
Extra-large dogs should be able to make a full recovery from a rattlesnake bite if they receive quick treatment. Their large bodies will keep the venom from spreading too rapidly and also dilute its effects. But they will still likely feel pain and require rest and recovery.
How Long Will A Dog Live After A Rattlesnake Bite?
Dogs can survive a rattlesnake bite very well if they receive proper treatment with antivenom. If enough venom was injected during the attack, a dog’s organs and bodily functions could be greatly harmed. This could lead to a painful death of the dog over the next few hours or days.
A dog’s chance of survival from a rattlesnake depends on a number of factors:
- The snake bite to the legs or face will increase the chance of survival due to limited blood flow to these locations.
- Smaller dogs, as well as older dogs, will be at increased risks of injury or death from rattlesnake bites than younger or larger dogs.
- Venom strength and the amount injected into the dog during the bite.
- Length of time passed before the dog receives treatment by a vet.
- How calm the dog remains after being bitten will help to slow blood flow and keep the toxins from passing quickly through the body.
Getting your dog treatment is crucial to keeping organ damage to a minimum and keeping your dog from suffering too much. In general, the smaller and older the dog is, the worse the effects of a rattlesnake bite will be.
A dog can live a full healthy life after recovery from a rattlesnake bite. Getting back to normal usually takes 24-48 hours when treatment is received quickly and the dog did not receive too much venom. Survival rates for adequately treated dogs are around 80%. For the best chances of recovery and survival, a dog should be treated within 30 minutes, and to receive antivenom no longer than 4 hours after the bite.
Rattlesnake Bite Symptoms in Dogs
There are a wide array of symptoms associated with rattesnake bites in dogs. These include:
- Swelling or bruising in the bite area.
- Visible puncture wounds
- Bleeding and pain
- Shaking or tremors
- Rapid breathing
- Loss of your dog’s bodily movements (ataxia).
- Limb weakness (tetraparesis)
- Your dog collapses
- Paralysis or death
It may take up to 24 hours for the symptoms to appear from a rattlesnake bite, but the actual effects of the venom will begin harming your dog’s system immediately. Many owners may feel their dog is fine, but the symptoms are only delayed and the dog needs to be monitored by a vet. Follow-up visits will be needed to examine the dog’s bodily functioning and make sure it is in the normal range.
What To Do If Your Dog Is Bitten By a Rattlesnake?
Rattlesnake bites are very painful and life-threatening to your dog, as well as expensive to treat. It is best to keep an eye on your pet when you are out, but sometimes snake bites happen. It is important to take your dog to the veterinarian immediately so it can receive treatment. An antivenom injection (called antivenin) should be administered, along with possible anticonvulsants and pain medication. If there is any necrosis or abscess in the bite area, the veterinarian may give your dog antibiotics.
You will receive a vet’s bill for the services your dog needs, and your dog will need plenty or R&R (rest and relaxation) during recovery. For these reasons, it is best to always keep an eye on your dog to prevent a rattlesnake bite whenever possible and move your dog away from one if you spot it on the path.
Nick Klamecki is a certified Fire and Workplace Safety expert with 15 years experience in product research and testing. He has a degree in Economics from U.C. Davis, is an active outdoorsman and spent years ensuring the safety of special needs children. Nick researches and tests workplace, industrial and safety products and provides advice on their safe use.