Rattlesnakes and Dogs

Here in Southern California, we are known for our abundance of hiking trails and outdoor activities, especially during spring and summer. While wildlife is always a risk factor when venturing outdoors with your dog, rattlesnakes are particularly dangerous for your pup.

Rattlesnakes are found widely throughout North America and reside in various environments. Rattlesnakes can be found in: wetlands, deserts, forests, and sea level mountains and cliffs. They typically hide in bushes or tall grass making your dog an easy target when roaming trails or wooded areas.

Rattlesnake Vaccines

There are vaccines to help reduce the effect of rattlesnake venom on your dog. It aids in boosting the immunity against the venom, potentially reducing the need for antivenom in the event that a rattlesnake bites your dog. Always consult your vet before making medical decisions for your pet!

Signs of a Rattlesnake Bite

Puncture wounds are the clearest indicator that your dog has been bitten by a rattlesnake. You will see two small puncture wounds that are equally spaced. If you were not aware of the bite as it happened, local swelling may reduce the visibility of the puncture wound. 

Excessive bleeding is another result of a rattlesnake bites. The venom that is released has an anticoagulant property that prevents the clotting process to take place. If left uncontrolled, the bleeding can lead to shock and possible death.

Excessive swelling occurs around the bite site. This is due to the venom being hemotoxic. This toxin causes a disruption of blood vessels. As the swelling progresses when left untreated, the tissue is at risk of necrosis. Swelling typically happens rapidly but it can continue for up to 36 hours.

Rattlesnake bites can also cause weakness or neurological issues that often present as ataxia, paresis, weakness, and paralysis.

What to do When a Rattlesnake Bites Your Dog


Do not make any interaction or effort to move the snake after your dog has been bitten. This puts not only your dog, but yourself at risk to be bitten again by the snake. r

Move your dog away from the snake

While staying as calm as possible, discern the best way to move your dog away from the snake without furthering their pain and injury. 

Call an emergency vet as soon as possible

Once you and your dog are safely away from the snake, get your dog in the most comfortable position possible with an effort to keep the bite below their heart. When calling the closest emergency vet, be sure to describe what happened, when it happened, and clarify if they have antivenom at their practice. Rattlesnake bites are not able to be treated without it. 

Once you get your pet to an emergency vet, they will treat the bite and reverse the adverse effects of the venom. Depending on multiple factors, other treatments may be administered including antibiotics, pain medication, fluid therapy, and blood products. 

When your pet returns home, rest is pertinent to a successful recovery. Trips outside for the bathroom and short, leashed walks are okay, but don’t allow your dog to over do it in terms of activity. Be sure to follow the after care instructions given to you by your vet and always reach out to them if there are abnormalities in your pet’s behavior.