The Only Locally-Owned Emergency and Specialty Hospital in Minnesota

Rattlesnake Bites and Pets

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If your pet was bitten by a venomous snake, this is considered a “RED” – or true emergency – on our Fast Track Triage chart. We advise you to seek immediate veterinary care. Please call ahead of your arrival so the veterinary team knows to expect you!

  • Calmly and safely move pet away from snake. Back away slowly from the snake. 
  • Injured pets may be aggressive so proceed with caution while handling your pet to avoid being bitten by your pet.
  • If your pet was bitten in the face and has facial swelling, remove collar to make it easier for pet to breathe.
  • DO NOT attempt to remove venom with your mouth.
  • DO NOT apply ice or heat to bite mark. 

While venomous snake bites can be a serious problem in other areas of the United States, we are fortunate that they are not very common here in Minnesota. Of the seventeen snake species in the state, only two are venomous: the Timber Rattlesnake and the Eastern Massasauga. Both are found in southeastern Minnesota but are very rarely encountered. However, as the southeastern blufflands have become more developed, there has been an uptick of rattlesnake sightings – as many as 27 (possible) Timber Rattlesnakes in 2019. That said, in Minnesota, venomous snake bites remain rare. Here at Animal Emergency & Referral Center of Minnesota, we can count on one hand the number of venomous snake bite cases we have seen. However unlikely though, they can – and do – happen.  

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What to Do if Your Pet is Bitten by a Venomous Snake 

If you witnessed a venomous snake biting your pet, seek immediate veterinary care. Venomous bites are life-threatening, so do not delay – bring your pet in right away! Many veterinary clinics, including Animal Emergency & Referral Center of Minnesota, keep anti-venom in stock. Anti-venom is an injection given to the pet to help treat illness caused by the snake’s venom. Anti-venom should be given within four hours of the bite and is usually used with a combination of fluids to treat a bitten pet. 

If you saw your pet get bitten by a snake, but you are unsure if it was venomous, consult with your family veterinarian or an emergency veterinarian and have your pet evaluated, especially if they develop any swelling. Obviously, if you live in southeastern Minnesota over the rest of the state, or elsewhere in the world where venomous snakes are more common, there is an increased chance of the snake being venomous. 

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Tips to Prevent a Snake Bite 

  • While hiking, stay on the trail and keep your dog on a leash. 
  • If you spot a rattlesnake and you are at least 5-6 feet away, calmly back up and find a different route. DO NOT try to jump over it or go around it.  
  • Keep your ears open! Many people hear the rattle before seeing the snake. 
  • Be aware that if you live in a grassland that has prairie dogs, your risk of encountering a rattlesnake increases as they like to live in abandoned burrows. 
  • Do not let pets wander loose in areas with reported venomous snake sightings. If you live in the bluffs of southeastern Minnesota, this could include your own yard!
  • Rattlesnakes prefer tall grasses and debris, so either keep grass mown or consider a water-saving alternative like wood chips or pea gravel. 
  • Control rodent issues on your property to prevent inviting over a hungry rattlesnake for dinner! 

Although it may not seem like it, rattlesnakes want to get away from you as much as you want to get away from them. They won’t attack unless threatened, so leave them be. If needed, contact the Minnesota DNR to help remove a snake from your property. 

Content provided by Jeff Bush, DVM, Lindsay Berg, DVM, and Janine Hagen, Marketing Assistant. 

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