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My Dog was bite by a Rattlesnake! Symptoms, expectations and costs!

Rattlesnake Envenomation in Dogs (the fancy term for rattlesnake poisoning) is an area-specific condition, which means that this is probably something you only really need to worry about in some regions of the country/world. Unless you keep a Rattlesnake as a pet, you should expect this to happen at some point.

That being said…

The United States is one of the places in the world where Rattlesnake is a reasonably common occurrence and makes up most of all snake bites to pets there.  So if you are a US pet parent, you should familiarize yourself with this particular condition just in case.  Rattlesnake Envenomation kills around 5% of the dogs affected by it. This means that your dog has a good chance of survival – but not that you shouldn’t take it to the Vet.

You see…

There is a matter of time urgency here; the sooner you get there, the sooner your vet can intervene and potentially save your dog’s life. So, if you think your dog is suffering from Rattlesnake Envenomation, take them to the Vet and return to finish reading later.

What is Rattle Snake Envenomation?

Rather obviously, this condition is caused by the bite of a Rattlesnake. Sometimes the snake releases no toxins, called a “dry bite.”  Unfortunately, however, in most cases, the snake will inject a mix of Hemotoxin (a blood toxin) and Neurotoxin (a toxin that affects brain functioning). Neurotoxin is the most dangerous since it can lead to paralysis and even death. The hemotoxin spreads into all the neighboring blood cells and results in pain and swelling.

The venom from the Rattlesnake’s bite…

Will enter the system and immediately start to do damage. The area around the bite will suffer inflammation, potential bruising, and possible blackening. Hemotoxin venom might also cause internal bleeding, which you might be unable to detect. It is vitally essential that should you see any of these signs around two puncture wounds anywhere on your dog, you go to the vet immediately for Antivenom, which will stop any further damage.

One thing that you should know is that…

All snake poison is different, and each kind has an additional antivenom. Fortunately, because Rattlesnake Envenomation is such a common problem in the US, Veterinary surgeries usually have ample stock of Rattlesnake Antivenom. Antivenin also exists more frequently nowadays, which is a slightly different, adapted antivenom that works by combating the neurotoxins individually. This is particularly useful because it can be used on different levels to treat crotalid envenomation.


Suppose your dog has been unlucky enough to encounter the Western Diamondback Rattlesnake (the Crotalus Atrox). In that case, the venom is high in Hemotoxin, which causes Peptides to form and block the heart, leading to a heart attack.  In this instance, rushing your pet to the vet is highly recommended. It is important to remember not to try to catch or kill the snake yourself; simply describe it to your vet, who will have a working knowledge of local species. The Species of the snake will help determine what levels of antivenin to use.

Now while we don’t recommend…

Folks get too close, knowing what “type” of snake “bit” your dog is essential because that will provide your vet with valuable information about what “type” of venom they may have been poisoned with.  You see, the Rattlesnake is a member of the Elapidae Family of highly venomous snakes common in the Americas. While the Crotalus Scutulatus (or Mojave Green Rattlesnake) is more common in the south, those in the north can expect to encounter his pit-viper cousin, the Crotalus Atrox (or the Copperhead Snake). And unfortunately, the two venoms are very different and will cause different reactions.

That said, however…

If you’re not able to determine what kind of snake bit your dog or the snake isn’t immediately visible, going to the vet ASAP is a much better idea than searching for the culprit because, in most cases, a vet probably isn’t going to know what “kind” of rattlesnake was to blame and will know what to do regardless.

Clinical signs of Rattlesnake Envenomation…

Will typically include:

  • Swelling around the bite site,
  • Bite marks in your dog’s extremities,
  • Body or face accompanied by limping in that area,
  • Bleeding and pain are also common.

In extreme cases, heart attack or paralysis can ensue… so move fast and get them to the vet!

Most Commonly Affected Breeds

Any breed that comes into contact with a Rattlesnake is at risk. Keep your pet out of wooded areas between April and October for the best chance at avoiding these snakes, but sometimes they are unavoidable and get onto your property.

It is worth noting that…

Specific measures can be taken to protect snakes from your home and surroundings. In Europe, the Spanish lay gravel everywhere to discourage snakes. There is also a certain amount of leeway regarding the overpopulation of feral cats, which goes some way to keep the snake population under control.  It is important to remember that your dog will act to protect you or your territory. If they are terriers, they have been bred to keep vermin off your land, so there is a high chance their prey drive will see them attack.

Treatment Options

When you identify a bite, quickly clean the area to prevent further venom from being taken in – but do not suck it from the wound if you get the toxins in your system! Take your dog to the vet without further delay. Your vet will likely start treatment immediately with Crotalidae Polyvalent Immune Fab, an adaptive antivenin that will combat the venom in your dog’s system.

Your vet will…

Also, you usually want to keep your dog under observation, counteracting the poisons in its blood with fluids, often intravenously. They may need a whole blood transfusion in the worst cases. If your dog has suffered a dry bite, infection prevention will be critical in treatment. Either way, it will be expensive. The antivenin will work much like a vaccine, and soon your pet will start to recover.

This brings us to…

Were we like to remind folks that we here at IndulgeYourPet are not doctors, veterinarians, or medical professionals.  We are all a bunch of folks passionate about animals and only want what’s best for them.  This is why if you feel like your pet may have rattlesnake poisoning (or any other health issue), you’ll want to have them checked out by a vet ASAP!


An early diagnosis will often lead to the “best” medical outcome for your pet regardless of what is bothering them, but beyond that, diagnosing a medical condition early could save you a bundle in medical costs!  This is also why we here at IndulgeYourPet also recommend that any new pet owner take a moment and see what it might cost for you to purchase a pet insurance policy for your new animal.

Now will a pet insurance policy be suitable for everyone?

No, probably not.  But until you fully understand what these policies “will” and “won’t” cover and how much these pet insurance policies cost, how will you know if one might be right for you?

For more information on who we feel currently offers the “best” pet insurance policies out there, we would encourage you to check out our Best Pet Insurance Policies article.

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