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Your Pet & Venomous Snakes: Part I

Posted June 17, 2013 in Dog Toxins & Poisons

Dog sniffing a snake

Dr. Ruth MacPete's message to you this summer? Watch out for snakes when you're out and about with your pet! For more from Dr. MacPete, find her on Facebook or at a href="">!

Longer days and warmer temperatures mean summer is finally here! Before you and your pets rush out to enjoy the warm weather, make sure you are familiar with the summer danger of poisonous snakebites. Venomous snakes bite around 150,000 dogs and cats in the United States each year. Do you know what you can you do to protect your pets?

Where do you find venomous snakes?
Think these slithery dangers don’t exist in your neck of the woods? Think again! There are 20 species of venomous snakes in North America and they are found in every state except Alaska, Hawaii and Maine. There are two families of venomous snakes in the US: the Crotalidae family (pit vipers such as rattlesnakes, copperhead, and water moccasins) and the Elapidae family (coral snakes). Since the majority of bites are due to rattlesnakes, I will focus primarily on them in this blog.

Rattlesnakes Facts
There are 32 species of rattlesnakes that range from southern Canada to Argentina and 16 species live in the US (Eastern Diamondback, Western Diamondback, Sidewinder, Lower California, Timber, Rock, Speckled, Blacktail, Twin-spotted, Red Diamond, Mojave, Tiger, Western, Ridgenose, Massasauga and Pigmy rattlesnake). Rattlesnakes come in a variety of colors such as tan, brown, gray, black, red, green and even white. While found in most US states, they are most concentrated in the southwestern United States. They can be found in many different habitats such as deserts, mountain ranges, forests, prairies and along the coast. Rattlesnakes can be around all year but are most commonly encountered during the warmer months and usually hibernate in the fall and winter.

Snakes bite when they feel threatened. A common scenario occurs when your dog encounters and startles a snake on a trail. A rattlesnake can bite your dog even if the meeting is not face-to-face. Rattlesnakes can strike as far as half of their own body length. Although they usually warn before striking by rattling their tail, rattlesnakes do not always rattle before they strike. Rattlesnakes can also control how much venom they release. They release more venom when threatened than when they strike offensively to warn. The severity of the bite depends on the

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Ruth has more than 15 years of experience in the veterinary industry as a companion animal veterinarian in private practice. Along with being a writer and media personality, she is also a founding member of IDEXX’s Pet Health Network team.

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The opinions and views expressed in this post are those of the author's and do not necessarily represent the beliefs, policies or positions of all veterinarians, Pet Health Network, IDEXX Laboratories, Inc. or its affiliates and partner companies.