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“You must be vewy, vewy quiet…”

… It’s wattlesnake (1), season! :-)

Animal advocates and veterinarians have warned pet owners to take extra precautions because of the number of dogs bitten by rattlesnakes, particularly in Sacramento, Placer, El Dorado and Amador counties recently! The Sacramento Bee reports:

The Loomis Basin Veterinary Clinic saw about 30 snakebite cases last month. Although several dogs have died since rattlesnake season began in March, officials say they don’t believe rattlesnakes are any more prevalent this year than previous seasons.

“From what I’ve seen in the hospital, the number of cases have seemed pretty static,” said veterinarian Olivia Petrunich. “We have a high incidence rate anyway.”

The snakes are coming out of hibernation and looking for food, according to Brooke Coe, an education specialist at the Sacramento Zoo. She said that BABY rattlesnakes can be lethal, since they cannot control how much venom they inject! According to Coe, the two main reasons that a rattlesnake would bite is that 1) it is looking for food, or 2) it feels scared or threatened.

Animal clinics offer anti-venom, which costs about $800/vial. Sometimes a pet requires two vials or more. The Bee article detailed the case of Bowser, whose owners could not afford anti-venom. In Bowser’s case, the clinic used “supportive care” – administering fluids, pain medications, antibiotics, and monitoring heart rates and clotting. Bowser’s bill was only $300 when his owners took him home.

Not all dogs can be saved, even WITH anti-venom.

Two dogs, one that had been bitten THREE times and one that had been bitten TWICE both died, according to Leilani Fratis, CEO of Placer’s Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals.

Cats and horses are also at risk.

Some pet owners have their pets vaccinated against snakebite, although vaccination does not equal survival.

“We do not have hard-core evidence behind it (vaccine) like we do a rabies vaccine,” she said. “The best we can say is we think it helps.”

A pet’s reaction to vaccination is usually minimal. Animals get one shot and a booster shot around a month later. Then, animals get yearly booster shots. Pet owners can also take their dogs to “avoidance training,” which is meant to develop senses in dogs that recognize the sounds, smells and looks of rattlesnakes.

Coe recommends making homes and lawns rattlesnake-inhospitable, by keeping lawns short (rattlesnakes like tall grass) and keeping away rodents, which are prey for rattlesnakes.

-Bill at

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