The warmer weather of spring and summer increases snake activities and snake encounters. Rattlesnakes are often a concern of residents and visitors of Lyons and snakebites can occur as early as April and as late as October.
Most people would agree that Lyons has a higher prevalence of rattlesnakes than surrounding areas, but most don’t realize that these snakes are present even in the middle of town. Rattlesnakes have been sighted at Lyons Middle/Senior High, Bohn Park, 5th Ave, 2nd Ave and High Street in addition to the trails and outlying areas of town.
Weather plays a huge role in snake populations. More moisture in the spring and summer means more plants and seeds for mice and other small creatures to eat. More mice for snakes to eat means larger snake populations. Higher snake populations means more snake encounters. (Wow, everything really is interconnected!)
Any snake bite or possible snake bite should be treated as a medical emergency. Seek treatment immediately, DO NOT wait to see what happens. Most people and pets survive rattlesnake bites if treatment is started early. Delayed treatment increases the severity of symptoms and decreases survival rates.
Symptoms of rattlesnake bites in dogs and cats include rapid swelling of the face or leg, sudden, severe lameness, drooling, vomiting, loss of coordination and mental confusion. Puncture wounds from the bite are often difficult to see because the bite marks are needle-like and bleed very little.
Up to 20% of rattlesnake bites are reported to be “dry” bites where no venom is injected. Blood tests are done to confirm that venom was injected and help guide treatments. Treatment of pets that have been bitten by rattlesnakes often includes intravenous fluids, anti-inflammatories, pain killers, antibiotics and antivenin. Severe cases may even require blood transfusions.
The easiest way to protect your pets from rattlesnake bites is to keep cats indoors and keep dogs on-leash and on well traveled paths. These guidelines may not always be practical, in which case there are other options to consider.
A rattlesnake vaccine is available for dogs. The vaccine works by inducing the dog’s own immune system to create antibodies to the venom. These antibodies will then neutralize some of the venom if the dog gets bit. It is important to stress that if a dog is vaccinated against rattlesnakes and is bit by one, it is still a medical emergency and the dog should be seen by a veterinarian right away. The goal of vaccination is to decrease the severity of symptoms and give owners more time to get to a veterinarian. For example, pets that have been bit in remote areas, or pets that have been bit while home alone.
Another option to keep dogs safe is rattlesnake training. This training teaches dogs to associate a severe negative consequence with the sight , sound and smell of rattlesnakes and thus avoid them. Make sure to check references and protocols before enrolling your dog in one of these classes.
However you choose to keep your pets safe, always be aware of your surroundings and seek veterinary care immediately if you suspect you pet has been bitten by a rattlesnake.