Tag Archive: rattlesnakes

Hiking Hazards

Hiking Hazards, How to Keep You and You’re Pet Safe.

By: Dr. Ben Davidson

If you are anything like me, you love exploring this wonderful wilderness that surrounds us.  If you’reBen and Tater reading this, you must love taking your faithful four-legged companion with you.  There are a few things you can do to make the hiking experience much safer and more enjoyable for everyone.  Most importantly is controlling the severe elements that we experience on our treks.  In our area, these include the heat and the dry climate.  Our pets tend to walk at least 50% further than we do, running ahead, circling back, and chasing that chipmunk off the trail.  Between the extra exercise and their hair coat, they get a whole lot hotter than we do.  Try to hike in shaded areas, with water around to cool off in. Try to leave early enough to avoid the hottest part of our day, the afternoon.  Make sure you bring plenty of water and a good drinking bowl for them.  Even if it’s a cool day, they hike-with-dog-1need plenty of water.

Hopefully accidents and injuries won’t be a problem, and a few careful steps can prevent a lot of them, but just in case, a few simple additions to your first aid kit are a good idea.  The most common injury we see is pad wear, or blisters on the bottom of their feet.  Just like us, if their little feet aren’t accustomed to long walks, they can get very sore, or crack and blister.  Try to get your pet back into good shape before you take off on that long walk.  Also, wet feet are more prone to injury, so if you are hiking up to some beautiful alpine lake, make sure you plan on letting your pup dry out before heading back down.   It’s hard to prevent little nicks and cuts from them running through the bushes and jumping rocks, but if it is possible to avoid those situations, it’s probably a good idea.  Exercising a little caution and moderation, especially early in the season can also prevent injuries such as muscular and ligament strains, sprains and tears.  Like I said, some basic first aid may be necessary for some of the unavoidable problems.  A pair of tweezers for cactus, foxtails, or other thorns is useful.  Superglue or Pet_First_Aid_Kitany commercially available tissue adhesive can quickly repair a small cut on the fly. Saline eye flush (not a medicated Visine type product) is helpful in case they get something in their eye.  There are some really nice pet first aid kits available at the pet stores or at the large sporting good and outdoor stores.

Finally, just know where you are hiking. Do a little research into what toxins and wildlife you might encounter. If you’re headed off to the east, or just locally, you need to be aware of 45796878.GreatBasinRattlesnake07_05_05rattlesnakes. Up in the mountains it’s not as much of a threat, but still, if you hear that suspicious rattle, get Fido back to you and walk on bye carefully. Flea, tick, and absolutely heartworm prevention is important when out in the elements.  There are certainly other predators out there, and although these incidents are incredibly rare, it’s important to keep an eye out. If you are a horticulturalist and without question know the difference between toxic and safe plants, you are in a great place to go hiking. For the rest of us, don’t let your pets eat plants out there. They may be unsafe both in toxins and also by causing GI upset or obstructions.

Everybody have a great hiking season!



 By : Bob Baker

It is rattlesnake season here in Northern Nevada.  Rattlesnake bites are painful, and can be deadly.  There are a few factors that influence the severity of the bite.

1)  Snake Factors

  1. a.   Younger snakes will generally inject more venom.
  2. b.   Single defensive bites are often dry, meaning very little venom injected.
  3. c.    Second and multiple bites will often infuse venom.

2)  Patient Factors

  1. a.   Small dogs and cats are relatively more affected, venom dose per pound.
  2. b.   Location, facial strikes are most common, bites over the chest can be very dangerous.
  3. c.    Curious, rambunctious dog is at higher risk.



1)  Avoid locations where snakes are more likely to be found…rocky areas, water, prey…if there is prey around there are likely snakes.

2)  Avoindance training…probably the BEST preventative option you can take.  Most bites occur with a curious dog investigating the snake.  Accidental stepped on defensive bites still occur.

3)  Vaccine.  There is a vaccine for the rattlesnake toxin, unfortunately there have been NONE (0), NO clinical studies supporting it’s use or substantiating if is of benefit to use in any particular patient.  There are however, a relatively high number of side effects from the rattlesnake vaccine…mostly skin inflammation, necrosis, abscess formation at the site of the injection.


All rattlesnake bite victims need to be seen by a veterinarian, regardless of previous vaccination or state of illness.  Do not apply a tourniquet, cut into the bite, try to suck the venom out…(yes it has been recommended), or give any medication unless directed to do so by a veterinarian.

Once in the hospital, patients are evaluated for severe reactions to the venom.  Treatment includes intravenous fluid therapy to support blood pressure, pain medications, and usually antibiotics.  Antivenin is controversial, there is some research that demonstrated that antivenin did nothing to improve outcome, while others support it use in lessening swelling and pain associated with the bite.  Antivenin is VERY expensive, so it’s use may be dictated by financial constraints as well as medical indications.


Most snake bite victims do quite well, it is rare to see snake bite victims die…but it does happen.  There is generally no long term issues associated with rattlesnake bites.  Once a patient survives the initial wound, the long term prognosis is excellent.

This year we have already seen 2 dogs that have had run ins with rattlesnakes. Below is some information from the Nevada Wildlife Federation regarding classes and training.

Dogs who hike, hunt, camp, or live in rural areas may be at risk of rattlesnake bites, especially in the summertime. Rattlesnakes are prolific throughout the Great Basin, and without emergency treatment, dogs can die from a rattlesnake bite. The benefits of training are obvious for dogs, but they are significant for dog owners too. The dog’s reaction to detecting a rattlesnake can signal owners to avoid the snake, and training may also save pet owners a hefty vet bill; bitten dogs must be treated right away with several days in the hospital, and a vet bill that can be unexpected.

Classes for 2012 are offered June 16 and 17, and July 7 and 8 at Davis Creek Park. Training appointments can be scheduled throughout the day beginning at 8am. For more information on prices and registration please go to http://www.NVWF.org.