My Dog Was Bitten by a Rattlesnake!

Last month, Shania was out in the backyard playing with Sephy. All of a sudden, there were piercing Shiba warning cries. When Sephy alerts in this fashion, something is usually up, so we quickly went to investigate.

We found a rattlesnake under one of the bushes!

I quickly got Shania inside, and Sephy distracted the snake with his Shiba war-cries while my partner killed the snake with a shovel.

It was too late though, because Shania had already gotten bitten by the snake.

Signs of a snake bite -

  • She rubbed her muzzle in the grass a few times, which is usually an indication that there is discomfort on her face.
  • She occasionally tried to paw at her face.
  • She came inside, and went to hide in the corner. She does this when she is really not feeling well.
  • There was some slight swelling on her face. At this point, the bite site was not visible.

We put the dead rattler in a bag and rushed Shania to the emergency room.

When our dog gets bitten by a rattlesnake -

  • Do not panic. Stay calm and keep our dog calm. Stress and activity will cause the poison to move through her system more quickly.
  • Even if we just suspect that it is a rattlesnake bite, take our dog to the vet or emergency room as soon as possible. I made the mistake of calling the emergency room first, and the silly receptionist said, “It can’t be a rattlesnake. Dogs that get bitten by a rattlesnake immediately keel over and die.” This was of course nonsense (more later on the different poisons and what can cause death). Only listen to the vet.
  • If possible, it is a good idea to bring the snake to the vet because then, they will know exactly what type of bite they are dealing with. The vet tech at the reception desk refused to believe that Shania was bitten by a rattlesnake until she saw the snake in the bag. Then they admitted us in right away.

Dog Rattlesnake Bites

Some things I learned from the vet about rattlesnake bites-

  • The severity of the bite depends on how much poison the snake released, and on the size of the dog. Smaller dogs are at greater risk.
  • There are generally two types of rattlesnake venom. The vet said that the snakes in our area have the more wimpy venom. According to Wikipedia the wimpy poison is classified as Venom B, and the bad-ass poison is classified as Venom A.
  • Their potent venom is the result of a presynapticneurotoxin composed of two distinct peptide subunits. The basic subunit (a phospholipase A2) is mildly toxic and apparently rather common in North American rattlesnake venoms. The less common acidic subunit is not toxic by itself but, in combination with the basic subunit, produces the potent neurotoxin called “Mojave toxin.”. … Venom A bite from Mojave rattlesnakes is more than ten times as toxic as Venom B, which lacks Mojave toxin.[15]
    ~~[Wikipedia]

  • Mojave toxin is a powerful neurotoxin. As such, it can cause severe neurological degradation which can lead to …

    “vision abnormalities and difficulty swallowing and speaking.”
    ~~[Wikipedia]

    “Death, when it does occur, is the result of respiratory failure. … the highly dangerous venom containing Mojave toxin is present in C.s. scutulatus populations inhabiting southern California, southwestern Utah, southeastern Nevada, parts of western and southern Arizona, and the Big Ben region of Texas.”
    ~~[Texas Snakes:Identification,Distribution,and Natural History]

  • Heavy concentration of Venom B (wimpy poison) may inhibit blood from coagulating, which can cause an animal to bleed to death. The vet measured the percentage of blood cells affected by the poison to make sure that this was not a danger for Shania. She did this several times throughout the progression of the poison.
  • Venom B causes pronounced proteolytic and hemorrhagic effects.
    ~~[Wikipedia]

Treatment and Recovery

The vet at the emergency hospital decided not to give Shania anti-venom because she said that the anti-venom can sometimes cause complications and Shania, luckily, did not receive a large dose of poison.

Initially, they tested Shania’s blood to make sure that it was not overly affected by the poison. They also gave Shania a shot to dull the pain and discomfort.

Then, we stayed on for a couple of hours because the vet wanted to see if the bite site would show. She wanted to clean it properly so that there was no risk of infection. However, after two hours we still could not see the bite site, so the vet sent us home with some pain tablets. Our hope was that Shania could rest more comfortably at home.

At this time it was already close to midnight, so I stayed up with Shania to make sure things did not get worse. Sadly, her face continued to swell during the night, she could not sleep because of the pain, and she would not eat or drink. I called the vet several times during the night to check if we should bring Shania in again.

At around 2 in the morning, we brought Shania back. At the hospital, they can continue to monitor her blood cells, give her an IV drip, as well as morphine for the pain. She stayed at the hospital for over 2 days.

After about 1 day the bite site finally showed up, so they were able to shave the area and properly clean it.

After about 2 days, the swelling on her face started to recede and Shania was more alert and interested in food. We were so happy to hear this, and even happier to hear that we could bring her home!

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Comments

  1. Anonymous says

    I’m getting a puppy soon( I don’t know when) and I ‘m worried that my future dog will get bitten by a rattlesnake. I live in Northern CA so I don’t think the area has a lot of rattlesnakes but I worry anyway. I’m really, really, really scared my future best friend/pet will get severely injured or maybe even die. I can’t stand seeing animals die even in movies or videos and stuff like that.

  2. Hilary says

    Thank you for this. We faced down a rattlesnake this afternoon and luckily it did not strike, but next time I’ll know what to do if my lab gets bit. I don’t know what would have happened if she hadn’t seen if first on the trail.

  3. Chris C. says

    Two of our four small dogs were bitten by an 8″ long baby rattlesnake hiding under a bush in the backyard. We originally had no clue they had been bitten. They came inside through the doggy door, sat next to us and after a few minutes, I noticed the lip on our Pomeranian start to swell and it had a spot which looked slightly injured. We then checked the other dogs and our Chihuahua also had swelling on her nose.

    Not knowing if it was a snake bite or bee sting, we rushed them to the vet and brought our other two dogs with us for safety as well. After a quick blood test, the vet confirmed it was a Western Diamondback rattlesnake. Fortunately the vet was able to work with us on the enormous bill and they started treatment with antivenin immediately. Both of our dogs went home the next day and after three days were fully recovered.

    My Pom had rattlesnake antivenin injections several months ago and his symptoms were slight, his pain was obviously less severe and his recovery time was shorter. Unfortunately our Chihuahua had more severe swelling and pain, but we’re ecstatic that they survived and are fine.

    We did find the snake the next day and have worked hard to make the back yard as rattlesnake resistant as possible, including eliminating any gaps greater than 1/4″, removing plants and items where snakes might hide. We’ve also put commercially available snake repellant around the perimeter of the property.

    • shibashake says

      I am glad that they both came through ok.

      Also very glad to hear that the rattlesnake vaccine is helpful in terms of lessening the symptoms, pain, and recovery time. Both my Huskies got vaccinated at the beginning of the year, and we will probably keep up with it every year.

    • Anonymous says

      My female English Bulldog (60 lbs.) was bitten by a canebrake timber rattlesnake in the face. The snake did not rattle until after my girl was bitten. She received the anti-venom within an hour, but died two hours later. She bled a huge amount out her rectum and I think other internal bleeding. She was brave and never whimpered or cried. I massaged her ears as the vet treated her and I was loving her as she passed. My neighbor killed the five foot snake while I carried her to the vet. The snake had already killed a squirrel in my back yard when my girl approached. My neighbor carried off the snake and the squirrel. — Three hours and she was gone. Madison, Georgia

  4. hayley says

    hello my name is hayley. i had two dogs of mine die yesturday from a diamond back rattle snake in my back yard. my dogs were a pitt bull boxer mix and a bull mastiff mix. they both attacked the snake and as soon as we heard theyre whimpers and saw the snake i ran them inside to check them out. they both had blood all over them and werre both panting and acting wierd. i knew they got bit. i picked them up and put them in the car and rushed them to the vet. they asked me for 800$ each for them both to have a vile of anti venom. i had NO money. i called and begged but to no avail. the vet said it was useless anyways because theyre temps were almost peaking 105 and could cause a stroke. me and my family then decided they had to be put down. they were bit at around 1:30 and died at 2:07 in the afternoon. we hardly had a chance to say goodbye. so i dont want to see on here that it takes hours. no. it takes minutes. i lost my 2 best friends in the same day. i just got lucky that my lab was not out there because then i would be with no companion in this difficult time.

    • Gina says

      I feel for you..the samre thing happened to my dog…2 hours and she was gone…bitten by a Mojave snake.

  5. says

    I work at the Rafu Shimpo, an English & Japanese newspaper, born 1903, in Los Angeles. We publish an Animal Bytes monthly column by vet, Dr Stephanie Oba of San Diego and this month she talks about pets and rattlesnake bites.

    Wondering if we could include a photo of Shania with her column. Credit will be to your website or other?

    What an ordeal for you and Shania! So happy to hear and see that the outcome is positive. She’s adorable!

    Thanks for your consideration! xoxo Gail

    • shibashake says

      Yeah, I was so glad when the vet told us that Shania was feeling better and that we could bring her home. We are taking added precautions so that hopefully, it won’t happen again. Our vet also gave her the rattlesnake vaccine just in case.

      Wondering if we could include a photo of Shania with her column.

      Sure. Please post us a link to the article when it comes out.

  6. Lee says

    Sorry, please skip reading the second entry below this one as I was just adding something, and now I have to add something else. We did take Max to a rattlesnake aversion training and it does work. A month after his training he came upon another rattler during the daytime in an open area under our back deck. I was sitting nearby with my back to this snake when Max barked and ran out of range of the snake. He saved himself and me. The aversion training really works. I’m not sure for how long but Max seems to remember other things quite well.

    • shibashake says

      Yeah, I was also really surprised when the vet did not give Shania the anti-venom. I thought it had to be applied ASAP, which was why we rushed to the emergency room.

      Thanks for telling us Max’s rattlesnake experience. If you have the time, I would really like to hear more about the setup of the snake aversion training -
      1. Did they let you be in the training area with Max? Were the snakes far away in a cage? Did they apply the shock when the snaked rattled, when Max first saw the snake, or when Max approached the snakes?
      2. How did Max respond?
      3. Were there any other changes in behavior afterwards?
      4. Does Max now stay away from all snakes or just rattlesnakes?
      5. How many times did they have to apply the shock?
      6. How long was the training session?
      7. Did they train other dogs together with Max or is it one dog at a time?
       
      We are planning to give Shania the rattlesnake vaccine on her next vet visit. The doctor at the emergency room said good things about it, and according to what I have read it will lessen the effect of the poison. However, I am considering all options, so I want to learn more about snake aversion training.

  7. Lee says

    The first hot day of summer 2012, after ten years living here in Rescue never seeing any sign of rattlesnakes, Max, our JRTerrier (about 16 months old) was bitten on the snout by a rattlesnake. It was 9:30 at night. He nor Carole saw the snake, a baby snake, and when Max sniffed it, it bit him. It was only then that it rattled its warning sound but too late. Max jumped and Carole turned the light on him and the snake and ran in with him to alert me. I did the worst thing! I panicked! Fortunately Carole found an emergency clinic on Durock Road in Shingle Springs. They said, “Bring him in.” I didn’t know anything about rattlesnake bites. I’m glad they didn’t tell us what you were told by that incompetent vet assistant. The emergency people told us if his blood test was okay we could just leave him with them and they could give him a tranquilizer shot with some antibiotics and he should be okay in the morning. Max survived but he was swollen for 5 or 6 days. It was shocking and AWFUL but we learned, whenever you OR your pet is bitten by a rattlesnake stay calm. Get help as soon as possible but DO NOT PANIC ESPECIALLY THE BITTEN ONE. Google rattlesnake bites on line to learn more. I too thought a rattlesnake bite was soon fatal in not instantaneous, but you have hours to act not minutes.

    • Anonymous says

      Lee
      Thank You for sharing your story. I have 3 JRT’s & I had tears in my eyes and a lump in my throat thinking if Shania had such terrible reaction at that weight then my jacks had no chance. This comes on the heels of TODAY my husband finding/ killing a 5′ Rattlesnake under our porch steps & watching as another 5′ or 6′ Snake Retreated further past the stairs deep in the underpinning of our house. ** hence my reading an investigation of rattlesnake bites on animals. I feel assured that they have many babies yet to be saying And Even though I will keep a very close watch on my dogs they can get away if they want. Thank You for giving me hope.

    • shibashake says

      I just added two very useful links (from UCDavis) to the article above. One is on the canine rattlesnake vaccine, and the other has prevention information as well as what to do after a bite.

    • Anonymous says

      I apologize I did not fill out the rest of my form … I’m anonymous ha ha
      Amy..Culloden, Georgia

    • shibashake says

      Yeah, Shania gets along pretty well. She hops when she walks, and when she is running, one hardly notices that she is missing a leg. Here is more on how dogs move.

  8. Anna says

    Hi shibashake! I feel so bad your dog was bitten by a rattlesnake. I am only 9. Also I have a question: i’ve noticed that one of your beautiful dogs only has 3 legs. What happened to the 4th leg? I don’t mean to be rude. :3

    • shibashake says

      Hello Anna,

      That is a very good question and it is not rude at all. Shania (my 3 legged Siberian Husky) was born with a slightly bent leg. It turned out that the bones in one of her front legs was disconnected, so she could not use it properly. We tried to fix it with surgery, but unfortunately, the doctor was not able to straighten the leg. As a result, the doctor recommended amputation.

      Today, Shania is a very happy and bouncy dog. She plays, digs, jumps, runs around, and we have a lot of fun together. I love her a lot! :D

  9. Paul says

    I’ve read that there’s a method of snake-proofing dog used by ranchers with dogs whose curiosity or instincts override his training. The dog is allowed to investigate a snake that has had the venom sacs removed. Seems cruel (to both the snake and dog), but it supposedly works first time every time. The “up” side is that you still might need to see a vet, but it wouldn’t be a life-threatening surprise visit.

    It does seem odd that the pre-strike behavior of a rattlesnake wouldn’t deter a pet dog as well as it does wolves. I’m wondering if the use of dog rope toys conditions dogs to regard snakes as harmless fun.

    • shibashake says

      It does seem odd that the pre-strike behavior of a rattlesnake wouldn’t deter a pet dog as well as it does wolves.

      Yeah. I think that today, dogs are socialized and trained to meet new experiences with confidence and not fear. Most of the time, that is a very good thing. Unfortunately, meeting a rattlesnake is not one of those times.

  10. says

    Yikes! How scary! Im glad that she is feeling better…! We went to rattlesnake aversion training, but my biggest fear is that we will run into one and Winnie will get bit. Where we go hiking, it could be hours before I get her back to the car and to a vet, so you are lucky that it was at home and you can get to the vet right away! :)

    • shibashake says

      I was also thinking of aversion training. How was your experience with it? Does it train the dog to avoid all snakes or just rattlesnakes? Did they have to apply many corrections before the behavior changed? Do you have to go back every year? Did Winnie act differently with lizards, mice, etc., after the aversion training? Did her behavior change in any other way?

      The interesting thing is that Sephy was out there with Shania, but he did not get close to the snake. He stayed a safe distance away the whole time, and just alerted us to the danger. Sephy doesn’t get close to lizards or mice either. He chases after them to flush them out but he doesn’t go in for the kill.

      Another thing to consider is that the snake does not want a confrontation either. In open space, the snake will likely be able to run away. In our backyard, the snake got cornered in a bush, so he struck when Shania went in too close.

  11. Alexandria says

    That is so sad that she was bitten by a rattle snake. I am in love with shiba inus and know so much about them! But i am only 10-ten years old. witch is why alot of kids make fun of me and i have barely any friends. :(

    • shibashake says

      Hello Alexandria,

      It can be difficult to fit-in at school. I always wanted to go my own way, so the Queen Bees of my class would sometimes pick on me. The thing with Queen Bees and bullies is that they need everyone to conform under their power, not unlike online bullies.

      After struggling for a few years, I learned that trying to fit-in with the bullies did not make me happy either. In fact, it made me even more unhappy. Also, they were not really my friends – they were just using me for their own selfish purposes.

      I was more happy when I stayed true to myself, and stuck to my own principles. I made some good friends after that. I never had many friends and never truly fit-in with the popular group, but the friends I made are true friends.

      Most of all though, I learned to think for myself, decide what was important for me, and work towards that – irrespective of what the popular kids said.

  12. MB says

    I just got a new puppy which is a lab, so I wandered on your website for puppy tips. So sad about your doggy! I’m glad the rattlesnake is dead! Wow, what an ordeal. Poor thing. Glad he has lots of love though! your dogs are so pretty :)

    • shibashake says

      Thank you very much MB.

      Congratulations on your new pup and big hugs to him! Labs are super awesome dogs. There is a lab (called Flower) who is a guide dog in my neighborhood, and she is extremely sweet and very focused on her person.

      Share some puppy pictures with us when you get the time. :D

  13. Shelly says

    Hi..I’m am a k9 handler in search and rescue. I am putting together a slide presentation to show the hazards we and our dogs face in then field. I would like to feature an rattlesnake bite and I was wondering if I could use Shanias? Tku. Shelly Burton. 

    • shibashake says

      Hi Shelly,

      Would love to hear more about your search and rescue organization. Such dogs are always amazing to watch, so please post us a link when you get the chance.

      Feel free to use Shania’s picture in your slides.

  14. Tom says

    I am so glad to hear that Shania is recovering quickly. One of my major concerns about owning a dog is the wildlife around me. I live in the South (Originally from Louisiana) and having pets encounter gators, copperheads, or water moccasins are real concerns. Back home you would hear about family pets being snagged by gators. It happens.

    I had to laugh when you wrote about Sephy’s war-cries. The Shiba scream is not to be ignored! And it sounds like the whole pack came to the rescue after he sounded the alarm. Well done pack!

    • shibashake says

      Thank you very much Tom.

      Yeah, the thing that kills me is that we took many precautions -
      1. We blocked up the bottom of our fence line with concrete blocks,
      2. Kept the grass cut, bushes cut,
      3. Kept the area free of sticks, etc.

      We are considering giving both our Sibes the rattlesnake vaccine. The vet at the emergency room said good things about it, and that it would mute the effects of a bite.

      The Shiba scream is not to be ignored!

      LOL! Sephy has a lot of quirks but his guarding instincts and how he deals with snakes etc, are quite awesome. He has several different levels of alerts, and saves the loudest one for when he thinks the Sibes are in danger. It is very admirable to see how protective he is of Lara and especially Shania.

  15. says

    Oh man… my heart was pumping just reading this. Yay for wimpiness! And so glad that Shania is better. Glad that everyone lived to tell the tale, with some impressive pictures to boot…

    Also, grr on the receptionist and vet tech. I hope their poor handling of the situation was addressed.

    • shibashake says

      Yay for wimpiness!

      LOL! Yeah, I am so glad that I live in a wimpy snake area. I never knew there were differences in rattlesnake poison before this. It is actually quite interesting, now that the crisis is over. :D

      As for the receptionist, it has been difficult to find a good emergency vet. There are not too many of them close-by, so the choices are very limited. Wish they had a better, less bureaucratic procedure for getting to the vet.

      As it was, they wouldn’t let us carry Shania into the examination area where she could see the vet. We had to insist on it, and go through an unpleasant episode because of all the red tape. Still, the vet was very good and very efficient, and that is what matters most.

      Big hugs to your pack! Love the Formosa-pa-looza pictures. Sounds like a really fun event!

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