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What is Rattlesnake Poisoning?

Rattlesnakes are a common pit viper on the North American continent and possess a potent hemotoxic venom to dispatch their prey. They will also use this venom to defend themselves from anything that they may perceive as a threat. Once the venom is in the bloodstream it begins degrading the structure of the red blood cells. This can lead to blood clotting, cause degeneration of organs, and cause generalized tissue damage. If your pet is bitten by a rattlesnake it should be treated as an emergency.

Rattlesnakes are a type of pit viper with a potent hemotoxic venom. Bites from rattlesnakes can adversely affect the clotting behavior in the blood. This condition is potentially fatal if untreated and should be treated as an emergency.

Rattlesnake Poisoning Average Cost

From 45 quotes ranging from $3,000 - $10,000

Average Cost

$8,000

Symptoms of Rattlesnake Poisoning in Dogs

Many symptoms of a rattlesnake bite are immediately apparent, however, some may be somewhat delayed depending on the size of the dog, the amount of venom injected, and the placement of the bite. 

Immediate symptoms: 

  • Excessive drooling
  • Panting
  • Puncture wound (may or may not bleed, severely painful, swollen)
  • Restlessness

Symptoms that may be delayed:

  • Collapse
  • Depressed respiration
  • Diarrhea
  • Increased swelling
  • Lethargy
  • Muscle tremors
  • Seizures
  • Weakness

Types

 

To prevent rattlesnake bites from happening to your dog you should keep your pet on a four to eight foot leash when walking in rattlesnake territory, so they are close enough for you to spot potential threats and move them away. Avoid rocky areas, dense brush, and tall grasses where snakes may be obscured from view. Rattlesnakes are active anytime from March to December, and they prefer the warm weather. Their activity is more related to temperature than a particular time of day and they tend to be most energetic when temperatures are between about 70-90 degrees Fahrenheit. 

If you do encounter a rattlesnake back away as calmly, quietly, and quickly as you can manage. You will want to get at least a snake’s-length away to prevent being struck. Either leave the area or be extra alert after an encounter for other snakes. If your dog is bitten, calm quick action is vital. Keep your pet calm as calm as possible to slow the movement of the venom through the system and get your pet to the nearest veterinarian for emergency treatment. If attempting to retrieve a rattlesnake carcass use extreme caution. Not only is there the possibility that the snake is not dead, the reflex to bite in rattlesnakes can be triggered several hours after death. This behavior has been seen even in the heads of snakes that had been separated from the body for quite some time.

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Causes of Rattlesnake Poisoning in Dogs

Snake venom is a modified type of saliva that is injected by the snake into its victim through tubular fangs which connect to the modified parotid salivary gland below and behind the eye. The toxins in snake venom are usually classified as either neurotoxins or hemotoxins. Neurotoxins are usually found in proteroglyphous elapid snakes such as sea snakes, mambas, and death adders. These toxins act on the nervous system to disable prey and predator alike. Most pit vipers such as cottonmouth snakes, copperhead snakes, and rattlesnakes employ hemotoxins to dispatch their prey and defend against predators. These toxins cause the destruction of red blood cells or induce coagulation and clotting of the blood. The toxin disbursed from the bite of the Mojave rattlesnake is of particular concern as its venom contains a very powerful neurotoxin as well as a hemotoxin.

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Diagnosis of Rattlesnake Poisoning in Dogs

Your veterinarian will want to get a detailed history from you regarding the symptoms you have witnessed. Any information you might have regarding the biting incident itself will also be requested at this time as well as the progression of the wound thus far. Blood will also be drawn for standard tests such as complete blood count and chemistry profile. A physical examination of the wound is likely to prompt your veterinarian to examine the blood microscopically. If the red blood cells have been exposed to a hemotoxin, they will often have a spiked appearance. If you or your veterinarian have any reason to suspect that the bite was a rattlesnake, supportive treatment is likely to start right away in order to minimize the effects of the toxin, although further testing is often necessary.  Because of the nature of the venom, bleeding disorders can develop and your veterinarian will also want to run tests to ensure that the clotting times are within normal range.

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Treatment of Rattlesnake Poisoning in Dogs

If symptoms are showing from a snakebite, supportive treatment is often begun while laboratory testing is still occurring. This can include IV fluids, pain medication, antihistamines, antibiotics and even steroids. Depending on the amount of venom that is estimated to have been injected as compared to the size of the dog and on the severity of the initial reaction, antivenin may be recommended. It is not always recommended as a first course of action because of the possibility of an allergy developing, but cases in which clotting times are being affected would warrant its use. Unless the reaction is exceptionally mild, your canine will need to stay at the hospital for several days, until the toxin has cleared his system.

Some veterinarians recommend the use of a vaccine against the toxin for dogs who have a high probability of being around rattlesnakes. The vaccine offers limited protection against the rattlesnake toxin, and although it generally won’t render your pet immune to rattlesnake venom it may reduce the intensity and length of time required to heal from a bite.

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Recovery of Rattlesnake Poisoning in Dogs

The prognosis of a rattlesnake bite is dependent on several factors. The type of rattlesnake can make a difference. Bites from the Mojave rattlesnake are far more potent than other rattlesnake bites, and the size of the snake does not always correspond with the amount of poison injected. Smaller dogs are more likely to succumb to the toxins than larger dogs and bites on the trunk of the body have a much poorer prognosis than bites positioned in other locations. 

Keeping the convalescing patient in a calm and quiet environment once they have returned home, as well as ensuring that food and water are easily accessible will speed the healing process. Your dog should be closely monitored for reoccurrence of the symptoms. Your veterinarian will want to do some follow-up tests to ensure that any blood clotting abnormalities have returned to normal and to assess how well the wound or wounds are healing.

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Rattlesnake Poisoning Average Cost

From 45 quotes ranging from $3,000 - $10,000

Average Cost

$8,000

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Rattlesnake Poisoning Questions and Advice from Veterinary Professionals

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Ask a Vet

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Juneau

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Malamute

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3 Years

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Serious severity

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0 found helpful

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Serious severity

Has Symptoms

Foaming At Mouth, Disoriented

Our Malamute was bitten on her snout when she was 1 1/2 years old. She was very swollen when we got home that day and stayed the day at the vet and had IV fluids, etc. We are now experiencing seizures in our her and she is 3 years old. She has a seizure almost daily. Could this be from the rattlesnake bite she experienced a year and a half ago? Not sure why she is having these grand mall seizures??

Sept. 12, 2018

Juneau's Owner

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Lola

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Beagle

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7 Years

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Critical severity

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0 found helpful

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Critical severity

Has Symptoms

Death

I live on a farm and my beagle, Lola, loves to hunt rabbits and keep her nose to the ground. This morning I found her lifeless under a tree in the yard. The only exterior wound was blood around her mouth and nose. She continued to retain fluid even at this time; very sponge-like especially around abdomen and lower body. Do you think it could have been a snake bite? If so, would she be capable of moving or crawling after the episode? She was fine the night before.

July 14, 2018

Lola's Owner

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Dr. Michele K. DVM

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1611 Recommendations

Any number of things may have happened to Lola if she had free access to property. Without seeing her, I can't comment on what might have happened, but I am very sorry for your loss.

July 14, 2018

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Zeus

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Pit bull

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5 Months

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Fair severity

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2 found helpful

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Fair severity

Has Symptoms

Increased Panting

We had killed and skinned a rattlesnake and its poop was on the ground and we are not sure if our put pit bull puppy are it or not, would it make him sick enough to die?

May 31, 2018

Zeus' Owner


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Dr. Michele K. DVM

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1611 Recommendations

That may cause some GI upset, but should not be a toxic problem.

May 31, 2018

Thank you. He is better today!

May 31, 2018

Zeus's Owner

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Sofia

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Shih Tzu

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3 Years

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Critical severity

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0 found helpful

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Critical severity

Has Symptoms

Paralysis

I live in apple valley ca. My 6lb dog got bitten by a rattle snake in the eye. We were in the ER within 30 MIN this was at 6pm. At 12 am the doctor told us that is breathing and she suspected that the dog does not have neurological activity. She didnt do any MRI scan. I just wonder if tge dog is just paralyzed with the venom as tgey already gave her the antivenom and still giving her IV fluids.

April 1, 2018

Sofia's Owner

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Dr. Michele K. DVM

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1611 Recommendations

I'm sorry that this happened to Sofia. Rattlesnake bights can be very toxic to dogs, especially smaller dogs, and especially bite wounds to the face or head. Without seeing her or knowing more about her condition, I can't really comment on what is happening with her, but the best treatment for her is the antivenin, IV fluids and continuous care. Time will tell if she recovers from this tragedy. They will be able to continuously monitor her neurologic activity. I hope that she is okay.

April 1, 2018

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Watch

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Australian Cattle Dog

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9 Years

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Serious severity

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0 found helpful

pill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filled

Serious severity

Has Symptoms

My dog was bit by a rattlesnake on the side of her face today, but unfortunately I was not home. I was gone for 2 hours. When I arrived home, her face was obviously swollen, and she was somewhat lethargic. She was not panting, drooling, or showing any obvious signs of distress though. Even though I live in the rural desert, with lots of snakes, I was surprised when the vet told me it was a rattlesnake. I actually thought the symptoms would be more obvious. I was lucky that I took her in quickly. They are calling her case severe. Be careful in the desert!

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Gunner

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Labrador Retriever

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5 Weeks

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Moderate severity

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0 found helpful

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Moderate severity

Has Symptoms

Allergies

Our Gunner was bit on the foot three years ago by a rattle snake. Each year since he has experienced more and more allergies. They are also lasting longer and more severe. His wound site also swells up when allergies show up. I’ve noticed when the bite site is looking healed the allergies are much milder or non existent. Chicken or egg but is th e bite causing allergies?

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Rosco

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German Shepherd

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12 Years

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Moderate severity

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0 found helpful

pill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filled

Moderate severity

Has Symptoms

Blood In Urine

I think my shepard may have been bitten by a baby rattlesnake. There is no sign of a bite but I am wondering if it could have bit him and released venom in his fur and then he licked it and got poisoned from licking off the venom. His blood is clotting bad and he is urinating blood. The vet does not know what is wrong with him even after running several blood tests and urine tests. She said it could be anything from snake bite to pancreatic cancer or liver /kidney cancer. He was hunting around an area we have seen baby rattlers in the last few weeks and he was fine and playing all day. All of a sudden he was walking slow like his feet were sore. I did not worry at the time because I thought he was just sensitive to the rocks but this morning he went to the bathroom and it was yellow then dark brown then red. The vet checked everything and cannot make a diagnosis. Has anyone heard of a possible bit that did not pierce the skin but left venom to be licked off and the outcome. She basically told me to bring him home and keep him comfortable until he dies. She did give me prednisone and said it may help or may not. I am very worried and upset, I live in a very rural area and do not have another vet to go to.She did a test with his blood and it is clotting in an anticoagulant solution.

Rattlesnake Poisoning Average Cost

From 45 quotes ranging from $3,000 - $10,000

Average Cost

$8,000

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