AUSTIN — With the official start of summer just days away, temperatures will only continue to climb, and with that more snakes slithering out to enjoy the heat.
While most humans know to avoid snakes, dogs may not always be so cautious -- and the consequences can at times be deadly. That's why local veterinarians advise that dog owners get the rattlesnake vaccine for their companions.
"I can't think of a single zip code in Austin where you can't encounter a rattlesnake. They're everywhere," said Dr. Barrett Donop, a veterinarian with the Austin Veterinary Diagnostic Hospital. "It's just like if you had your dog vaccinated for rabies and so far that we give, and then a booster a month later, and then it's an annual vaccine."
Donop shared he has seen in multiple cases the differences in severity of injuries in dogs who were vaccinated versus those who were not.
"Sometimes we have to go back and actually remove dead tissue from these areas, but I see a lot less of that when we talk about the rattlesnake vaccinated dogs than when I do with the dogs that are not vaccinated."
Donop explained that some major signs to look out for if you believe your dog might have come into contact with a rattlesnake are excessive swelling, drooling and being sluggish. He advises that if you and your dog are in this type of situation don't panic, and instead, seek help immediately.
"The number one thing is to stay calm. Stay calm, and don't get bit yourself."
Jana Demming and her dog, Taffy, know the scare all too well.
One night in March, she had let her dogs outside briefly. When she saw a rattlesnake slithering away from them, she thought they were in the clear. However, she knew something wasn't right when Taffy became very sick.
"The next morning, she did not want to eat and was trembling. She's pretty tough, and that rattler was a little one, but it got to her."
Fortunately, Taffy had received the rattlesnake vaccine which helped her in her recovery. Demming suggests any dog owners who have not yet gotten it to do so. Other tips Demming has for fellow pet owners, especially those who live out in the country like her and her family, including avoiding tall grasses, keeping a flashlight and snake grabber handy, and looking into snake avoidance training for dogs.
"Dogs have no natural fear of snakes, they're not like us. I think it's a really good idea. Anything you can do to help."