Rattlesnakes live in a variety of habitats, ranging from wetlands, deserts, and forests, and from sea level to mountain elevations. Rattlesnakes are most active in warmer seasons, from spring to autumn.

Avoiding Snake Bites with your Pet

The best way to deal with venomous snakes is to do your best to avoid them in the first place. The most important thing you can do is keep your dog on a leash and monitor them while you are out on a walk. That way, you can prevent your pet from sticking their face into heavy brush and rock crevices where snakes may be lurking. It is best to stay on well-worn trails so you can see what’s ahead. If you plan to have your dog off leash in an area where venomous snakes are found, consider signing up for a local snake bite avoidance training. You should keep your cat indoors, especially if you live in an area where venomous snakes are common.

Currently, there is a rattlesnake vaccine available for dogs that produces neutralizing antibodies against Western Diamondback venom. While there is no evidence that it works for other venomous snake bites, some believe it could decrease the severity of clinical signs. It appears to be safe to use to protect your dog against other venomous snake bites. Consider talking to your veterinarian about getting your dog vaccinated if you live in an area where Western Diamondbacks are common. Some areas include Southern Nevada, Southeastern California, Arizona, New Mexico, Texas, and Oklahoma.

What to do if Your Pet is Bit by a Snake

The most important thing you can do if your pet is bitten by a venomous snake is to get him to a veterinarian as soon as possible. Carry your dog if possible and do not waste time performing first aid—sucking out the venom does not work, please do not attempt this!

Once you are at the vet’s office, they will start IV fluids and give pain medication to treat shock. Antivenom should be given if it is available and financially feasible. Sometimes multiple doses are needed to neutralize the venom. Tissue damage will develop and progress over a few days and sometimes extended wound care is needed as tissue dies off and new tissue grows.

Most pets will recover with prompt and appropriate treatment, but snake bites can be fatal. There are higher fatality rates for dogs who are bitten on the tongue or the chest and for pets who have a long delay between the time of the bite and treatment by a veterinarian.


Written by Holly Miley.

If you experience a snake encounter with your pet, make sure to get to the emergency veterinarian and call the ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center at (888) 426-4435 right away. Stay safe out there!