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It’s Rattlesnake Sssss-season Protect Your Dog!

With the arrival of spring, we are getting outdoors more. Naturally, dog lovers will be bringing their favorite pet along for those adventures. Being outside means more encounters with wildlife, including Montana’s Prairie Rattlesnake, the only venomous snake we have. Rattlesnakes are most active in warmer months, usually between April through October in our neck of the woods.

This time of year, you’re most likely to encounter a rattlesnake at dawn, dusk, and at night, as they avoid the warmest parts of the day. In fall and winter, rattlesnakes enter a dormant state with periods of inactivity that can last for months (their hibernation).

Rattlesnakes do get around when the temperature is above freezing. Although it is rare to see them when temperatures are below 65 F. It’s even more rare for them to be active below 55 F. Yet, if they are hungry or thirsty, they will be out. Generally, rattlesnakes prefer to be underground when the temperature is below 70 F.

According to anecdotal reports from dog owners and data from veterinary studies, domestic dogs often fail to avoid, and indeed will approach, venomous snakes. Any time your dog treads into a rattlesnake habitat, they are at risk of being bitten. Whether you and your dog live near rattlesnakes, venture into the woods while hiking or camping, or travel through rattlesnake turf, caution should always be taken and dogs should be kept on a leash.

Though rattlesnakes are often found where dogs roam, you’ll want to keep your dog away from these venomous reptiles particularly because dogs often follow their protective instinct or become curious. Dogs, having an increased sense of smell, can sniff out a snake easily.

Because rattlesnake venom contains a mixture of toxins that can spread throughout a dog’s body after a bite, rattlesnake bites are always considered a veterinary emergency. When released, these toxins cause serious symptoms, severe pain, and even death if injected into an unvaccinated dog. If your dog survives the immediate effects of a bite, venom can cause permanent damage. Snakebites lead to death for thousands of dogs annually.

Rattlesnake vaccines help your dog’s body develop immunity to rattlesnake venom. Vaccination reduces or eliminates the need for anti-venom, in addition to decreasing other treatment costs. It is important to have your dog vaccinated, especially if your dog is adventure seeking and curious.

Rattlesnakes are vulnerable to being killed by those who view them as dangerous pests rather than important predators. Before you rush to kill a snake, let’s not forget that they eat rodents, rabbits, squirrels, birds, lizards, and frogs. Without snakes, these populations can grow to nuisance levels. Nature needs balance.

It’s wise to contact your veterinarian about getting your canine vaccinated against rattlesnakes. So, enjoy the outdoors with your furry friend (on a leash), keep your eyes peeled, and get your dog vaccinated!

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