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Stay Aware of Rattlesnakes This Season

Dr. McGuire with (from left to right) her two dogs Taylor and Lacy, and her 2 grand-dogs Charlie and Roo, out for a hike in the Sandias.

Dr. McGuire with (from left to right) her two dogs Taylor and Lacy, and her 2 grand-dogs Charlie and Roo, out for a hike in the Sandias.

Rattlesnake season is approaching! As the weather warms up and you start to spend more time outside, please remember that rattlesnakes are a threat to you and your dog. Like all cold-blooded animals, rattlesnakes are more active in the hotter seasons. Rattlesnakes like to bask in the sun most days, so you may encounter one when hiking, camping or while on a walk in the Sandias or many other areas in New Mexico. Rattlesnake venom is extremely dangerous to pets, leading to excessive swelling and necrosis (death) of the tissue surrounding the bite wound.

A rattlesnake bite should be treated immediately at an emergency facility. Treatment may include hospitalization, and your pet would receive intravenous fluids and close monitoring. Depending on the severity and location of the bite, antivenom medication may be necessary as well. Remember, not treating your pet could lead to death.

An effective rattlesnake vaccination is available at Aztec Animal Clinic. This vaccine helps reduce the severity of symptoms by activating protective antibodies in your pet’s immune system, and it provides up to six months of protection. However, even for vaccinated dogs, urgent veterinary care is required to counteract the venom and offer the best chance of recovery. Vaccination only buys you time to get to the nearest emergency facility before the more serious effects of the bite occur. Please contact your Aztec Animal Clinic veterinarian [link to: aztecanimalclinic.com/contact] to learn more about how the rattlesnake vaccine can benefit your pet.

The best way to keep your pet safe is by remaining on designated paths. Look carefully for rattlesnakes, as they blend in with most mountain terrain, listen for the distinctive tail-shaking that signifies you are getting close to a rattlesnake and keep your pet leashed and out of the brush.

For pet owners who hike often or live in areas with lots of rattlesnake activity, we recommend rattlesnake aversion training. Aversion training teaches your dog to avoid the sight, sound and smell of rattlesnakes, reducing the probability of accidental encounters.