Last chukar season we encountered only one rattlesnake the entire four months of hunting and that was on a late November day. This year, we’ve already seen three rattlers while out hunting. It seems to be a good year for all types of snakes. More of them slithering across the roads, more flattened road killed ones, and just the other day our neighbor told us she found two rattlesnakes hiding in the tall grass near the children’s sandbox. Yikes!
Before knowing it was going to be the year of the snake, we thought about sending our bird dog Angus to a rattlesnake avoidance class. Angus’s older sister Glenna took the class a few years ago and was the star pupil and passed with flying colors. Unfortunately, her glory was short lived when she went after a big gopher snake the very next day. We didn’t ask for a refund since what do you expect from a dog that was affectionately known as a.k.a. “the Honey Badger.”
Our dog Angus is a sensitive, cautious little fellow who hates bugs, flies, or anything creeping and crawling. We hope his lack of curiosity in the snake department will steer him clear of rattlesnakes since we didn’t send him to a snake avoidance class. This summer we decided to have our veterinarian give Angus the western diamondback rattlesnake vaccine for dogs, given in two parts: one shot, then a booster shot a couple of weeks later. The vaccine is designed to create an immunity, decrease the severity of a bite, and to buy you time until you can get your dog to the nearest veterinarian clinic to see if additional treatment is needed. Of course every bite is different depending on the size and age of your dog, size of the snake, where it was bitten or how many times, and how much venom is injected.
As you know, chukar hunting takes you far from roads and your vehicle. Luckily, most snakes try to avoid your dog and you but it helps to know the basic first-aid in case your dog accidentally gets bitten. We are no experts and you can do your own research but the following seems to be the most common ways to treat your dog.
First thing is to recognize the immediate symptoms if you think your dog is bitten:
- puncture wounds
- severe pain
- swelling and bruising
- restlessness, panting, or drooling
Depending on how much venom is injected these are the more severe symptoms:
- lethargy, weakness
- muscle tremors
- depressed respiration (normal is mid-20s)
What to do if your pet is bitten:
- Keep your pet calm and carry if possible.
- Limiting the dog’s activity will limit the venom moving around their body
- Immobilize the limb if bitten on the leg. Try to keep the area at or below the heart
- Do not cut the bite
- Do not try to suck out the venom
- Do not apply ice
- Drive your dog to the nearest vet clinic
Talk to your own vet about the vaccine and see if it’s right for your dog since some vaccines are not made for all types of venomous snakes. If you’re hunting out-of-state or far from your home territory familiarize yourself where the nearest vet clinic is located and put them on your speed dial. If you are hunting down in Hells Canyon near Brownlee or Oxbow Reservoir, Heartland Animal Hospital in Council, Idaho has an excellent vet. Weiser, Idaho, nearby, also has a vet clinic.