Rattlesnake Bite Treatment and Prevention

Spring and summer in the Southwest brings many potential health and safety concerns for our pets. One in particular is rattlesnake bites. Rattlesnakes can induce serious, life-threatening injuries. But, the good news is there is a lot we can do to protect ourselves and our pets. As a result, you can minimize the risk of a potentially fatal incident.

My pet has a rattlesnake bite!

  • First, remain calm!
  • Note the snake’s size, color and whether or not you note a rattle. Bites from small juvenile snakes are usually more severe than bites by adult snakes.
  • Identify the bite location on your pet.
  • Keep your pet calm and immobilized as best as possible.
  • Also, do not apply ice or tourniquets to the affected area.
  • Do not attempt to suck venom from the wound. “Snake bite kits” have not been proven to be of any benefit to bite victims.
  • Finally, call your veterinarian, or Route 66 VECCC at (505) 266-7866. Proceed to a veterinary hospital as soon as possible! Quick care is essential to achieve the best possible outcome.

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Emergency Rattlesnake Bite Treatments:


Antivenin is the industry-standard treatment because it typically provides the best health outcomes. These solutions of antibodies to venom are able to neutralize the venom. We administer antivenin to your pet through IV. By using this treatment, your pet’s recovery time and severity of injuries are significantly decreased. However, the effectiveness of this treatment is reduced after 4 hours have elapsed since the bite. As a result, antivenin should be given to your pet as quickly as possible. Severe bites may require multiple doses.

Treatment with antivenin may be expensive. However, when compared to conservative therapy the total cost of treatment is often less thanks to less time in the hospital and less severe injuries.

Adverse Reactions

The most common adverse effect from antivenin can be a life-threatening allergic reaction called anaphylaxis. Serum sickness, an autoimmune disorder, has a delayed onset and is another concern. However, the newest antivenins have decreased both of these adverse reactions.

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Other Rattlesnake Bite Treatments

Diagnostic Tests

We may perform several laboratory tests when your pet is admitted. These tests include a complete blood cell count and measuring baseline coagulation values. These tests help your emergency veterinary team to decide the best treatment plan for your pet.

Additional Treatments and Medications

All snake bites are very painful. To minimize your pet’s suffering, a variety of pain medications may be given. Antibiotics may be used to prevent secondary infections. Antihistamines are often used to reduce the risk of allergic reaction. Additionally, your veterinarian may administer IV fluids to your pet. The IV fluids help flush toxins from your pet’s body, aid hydration, and treat shock.

Finally, your pet may require attention to the wound site after the initial pet health crisis has been addressed. Depending on the location and severity of the tissue damage, surgical reconstruction may be needed.

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Rattlesnake Bite Prevention

The best thing you can do as a pet parent, is to prevent or minimize encounters with rattlesnakes in the first place. Rattlesnakes inhabit most of the southwestern United States. New Mexico’s cities and towns have been built over their native habitat. As a result, they present a danger to both people and pets, even in urban environments.

Minimize the Risk of Bites At Home:

  • Keep all yards clean and tidy of tools, toys, yard waste and other debris.
  • Trim plants and shrubs several inches off of the ground. Do not allow them to overgrow onto paths. Snakes hiding under these plants are then easier to see.
  • Keep the areas around bird feeders free of seed and other debris. This helps to avoid attracting rodents that in turn attract snakes.
  • Read more information for homeowners from NMSU.
  • If you find a snake in your yard, do not attempt to capture or kill it yourselfCall 311 to have the snake safely removed.

When Hiking on Trails:

  • Keep dogs on leash and under control at all times.
  • Be aware of your surroundings. Often, you will be practically on top of a snake by the time it feels threatened and rattles.
  • Do not go off trail where the ground is not clearly visible. Especially in dense shrubs or high grasses where snakes frequently hide.
  • Always carry a flashlight if you are likely to be out at dusk or after dark. A large number of bites occur in the evening hours when snakes are not as visible.
  • Should you encounter a snake, do your best to keep your dog under control and slowly back away.
  • Always carry a cell phone and contact numbers for your veterinarian and the local emergency veterinary hospital. Call immediately for advice should the worst happen.

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