“Dogs smell rattlesnakes before they see them,” said Rancho Coastal Human Society Spokesman John Van Zante. “Even though most dogs avoid rattlesnakes, there are still more than 150,000 dogs bitten each year in the United States – usually in remote areas.”

John says to avoid areas where you know there are snakes, particularly at sunset. John explained, “Sunset is when you and your dog are most likely to encounter snakes, especially on less traveled trails. Keep your dog on a leash while hiking. That way you can keep it from approaching a rattlesnake or pull it away from danger if necessary.”

Some basic rules to follow:
*           Don’t put your paws, hands or feet where you can’t see – like under a log.
*           Look before you leap. Step on a rock or log. Not over it.
*           If you stop to rest, look before you sit.
*           Be careful around water. Snakes can look like sticks in the water.
*           Carry a stick and use it to beat the bushes to scare snakes away.
*           If you see a snake, leave it alone.
*           If you see a snake that appears dead, leave it alone. It might just be resting.
*           If a snake is freshly dead, the bite-reflex can still be active. Leave it alone.

Van Zante warns that a rattlesnake’s strike distance can be one-third to one-half the length of its body. It moves faster than a human eye can see.

What should you do if your pet is bitten by a rattlesnake?
*           Try to remain calm. Panic or running spreads the venom faster.
*           Use your cell phone to call for help.
*           Get to the nearest vet, even if it’s not your vet.
*           Try to remember what the snake looks like so you can tell the vet.
*           Even if your dog has had a rattlesnake vaccine you still need to see the Vet.

That old myth about sucking the venom out of a snake bite is a myth.

For more information about keeping pets safe and humane education programs for children visit Rancho Coastal Humane Society, call 760-753-6413, or log on to sdpets.org.