Dogs are curious and that can get them into trouble. They don't know it's better to stay away from rattlesnakes. If you live in an area with rattlesnakes, it's a good idea to be ready for the worst-case scenario ahead of time—once a bite occurs, you don't have much time to save your dog's life.
Rattlesnake poison disolves tissue and bones, and the longer it circulates in your dog's body, the more severe the damage—death can occur within one hour without treatment.
Rattlesnake vaccines are available, but they don't provide immunity—they just buy you a little bit more time to get your dog to the nearest vet. Rattlesnake vaccines have also been know to have serious side effects but if you want to administer that to your dog is certainly a personal decision. If it makes sense depends on your dogs living arrangements. I.e. if it takes you 1-2 hours to reach a vet; it could be an option. I have been told by snake handlers—and confirmed with additional research—that the same effect—of slowing down the poison—can be accomplished with Benadryl. I consider that a better option and always have some with me when I hike with my dogs. It is apparently also advisable in case of a bite to a person. You administer it per directions on the package. For a dog it would be the dosage of a person of the same weight.
Rattlesnake aversion classes for dogs are also available and a really good idea. As they teach your dog to stay away from rattlesnakes in the first place. It is recommended to refresh the training annually. I personally take my dogs to Karen Singelton's Rattelsnake Avoidance Training as I like their conditioning protocol the best and they offer free annual re-checks to strengthen my dogs awareness.
In any case, once a rattlesnake bite occurs, we need to get our dog to the closest vet, who always has rattlesnake anti-venom in stock—not all vets do, as it is expensive and expires quickly. In this post I am listing vets in Southern California who told me, that they always carry rattlesnake anti-venom; I will update this post occasionally as I find additional vets. These are only some of the vets in my area, but there are many more who carry the anti-venom—check with your local veterinarians. Readers are encouraged to add additional vets—they know for certain to carry the anti-venom—in the comment section. Please provide contact details (incl. phone numbers), so it is easy for others to reach them and verify.
Centennial Animal Hospital - 1935 Compton Avenue, Corona, CA 92881 | phone: (951) 371-7383
TLC Animal Clinic - 2575 Chino Hills Pkwy #B, Chino Hills, CA 91709 | phone: (909) 606-1588
East Valley Emergency Pet Clinic - 938 N. Diamond Bar Blvd, Diamond Bar, CA 91765 | phone: (909) 861-5737
If Your Dog Could Talk is a "straight-forward" guide to understanding your dog.
If you ever wonder what your dog is thinking, this book is for you. Dive inside your dog's mind and read in plain English how your dog sees the world and you—its pack.
Learn what it means to be a dog and how dogs relate to other animals and the people around them.
Understand how dogs learn, how their minds function and the foundation of all dog training and behavior modification.
If Your Dog Could Talk helps you understand your dog like never before!
Ralf Weber is a certified dog trainer (IACP CDT, CDTA) and behaviorist. A professional member of the International Association of Canine Professionals (IACP) and an AKC evaluator for Puppy S.T.A.R., Canine Good Citizen, and Community Canine certifications.