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Rattlesnake facts and fallacies

Facts about rattlesnakes, treatment and prevention
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Fact: One of the most threatening and feared dangers in the desert is the rattlesnake.

Fact: Bites, commonly inflicted on the tongue, causes severe swelling and potential suffocation but generally are not fatal if treated quickly and appropriately.

Fact: When a pet is bitten by a snake it should be taken immediately to a veterinarian for treatment.

Fact: Antivenin is the most important aspect of treatment – it will neutralize the toxin preventing further damage to the tissues and minimizing blood loss.

Fact: Animal Health Services 24/7 Pet Urgent Care Center keeps a supply of antivenin for rattlesnake bite emergencies.

Fact: Having your dog snake-trained can keep a potentially dangerous situation from happening.

Fact: While there is a rattlesnake vaccine on the market for dogs, there was no research documentation provided by the manufac-turer to prove its effective-ness. Their own literature recommends antivenin if the dog is bitten.

Fallacy: Rattlesnake bites are always fatal. In the U.S. only about 10-12 people per year die of snake bites and Arizona alone averages about 100 snake bites per year.

Fallacy: Baby rattlesnakes are more toxic than adults. This fallacy came about from the fact that baby snakes tend to inject their venom every time they strike because they have not learned what they can and can’t eat.

Fallacy: Dogs and cats will do fine without any treatment. Of the 80% that get venom, there are 3 basic scenarios. A small percentage will die. Some of the animals (~40%) will get better but they will be severely sick. In some of our pets the tissue around the bite will die and slough (fall off), often requiring surgery and/or a month of rehab.

Fallacy: The only treatment needed is cortisone. The truth is 40% will get better no matter what you do. Anti-venom, which is very expensive, and intravenous fluids are the best treatment choice.

Fallacy: Rattlesnakes will chase you and can jump 10 feet. When threatened, rattlesnakes coil up so they can get more distance when they strike. This distance is NO more than a third to one half their body length.

Fallacy: You should cut the rattlesnake fang mark in an X and suck out the venom. This does not work and may potentially make the person sucking the venom very sick. Icing the area or tourniquets are not effective and may be detrimental.

Fallacy: Rattlesnakes are only a threat during the day. Rattlesnakes can be a threat day or night, whenever the temperature is between 75-90ºF.

If your pet gets bitten by a rattlesnake, please contact Animal Health Services 24/7 Pet Urgent and Critical Care Center at 480-488-6181.