Rattlesnakes are out and about right now and while many people know the precautions to take when walking in known snake areas, how to protect man’s best friend may be less clear.
Dogs, being the curious creatures that they are, can often get too close to snakes, leading to a lesson best not learnt.
“We do get over a dozen rattlesnake bites here every year — often times, [a] couple of dozen rattlesnake bites in the city,” Ryan Heavy Head, the City of Lethbridge’s ecological consultant, said on Tuesday. “And it’s largely because of having off-leash dogs in the coulees on the west side.”
So how can you keep your family pet from getting hurt?
“If you’re going to bring your dogs out here in the summer, it’s a good idea if the dog hasn’t had any aversion training to be on a leash,” Heavy Head said.
But there is another option to help address severe pain and discomfort if your dog does get bitten. A vaccine is available for your canine friends.
“The vaccine actually stimulates the body to produce antibodies against rattlesnake venom,” said Sue St. Croix, an animal health technologist at Park Pet Hospital. “If a dog is bitten, then there is less permanent damage, it’s less painful, it’s a faster recovery, there’s less swelling.”
With the prevalence of rattlesnakes in southern Alberta, the vaccine is becoming more readily available in Lethbridge.
“The vaccine schedule, if you have a small dog under 12 kilograms, they need three vaccines and a dog over 45 kilograms needs three vaccines,” St. Croix said. “Everyone else just needs two.”
But even with the vaccine, you still need to take your dog into the vet if a bite occurs.
“Often times, they’ll need antibiotics to combat secondary infections — sometimes they’ll need IV (intravenous) fluids,” St. Croix added. “Depending on the size of the dogs, they may need nursing care and supportive care.”
The vaccine is good for six months. For now, it is only being used on horses and dogs as more case studies are needed to assess the receptiveness in other animals.
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