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The Colorado Rattlesnake

Colorado is a beautiful place to live, with a large amount of outdoor activities.  All up and down the Front Range on hiking and biking trails, golf courses, roadways, back yards, etc. the rattlesnake is very active.  Each year there are, an estimated, 8,000 people that are bitten by venomous snakes.  Fatalities are rare, but snake bites can be incredibly frightening, painful, and can permanently damage tissue.

Important facts for you to know about the rattlesnake in Colorado:

  1. They are more active in the spring after hibernation when the temperature is increasing, and during their breeding season from August through September.
  2. They are nocturnal and will be most active during dusk and dawn.  However, on very warm days they may be out sun bathing.
  3. They can bite without warning and can strike up to 3 feet.
  4. They will not always use their rattle before striking if they are surprised.

Always keep your pets leashed so you are aware of what they are doing.  Always stay on marked paths.  Be cautious around shrubs, bushes, rocks, logs, holes, etc.  If you see a snake, the important thing to do is be calm and back away slowly.

What you should you do if your pet is bitten:

  1. Remain calm, and do not attempt to capture or hurt the snake as you can be bit.  Try to note the color, size, and any important markings.
  2. Keep the bite neutral or below the heart, and immobilize the area when able.  Keep your pet as calm as possible to keep his/her heart rate down.
  3. Seek medical attention!!!  Do not attempt any procedures on the bite wound other than simple cleaning.  Other procedures may not be helpful, and can take vital time away from medical help.  You may go to your family veterinarian or us at Peak Veterinary Specialist and Emergency (PVSE).  970-674-1775 and, we are open 24 hours a day!

Snake venom contains multiple mechanisms that immobilize and digest prey.  The snake uses mandibular muscle contractions to transport the venom into the fangs.  Venom is injected into the tissues and gets rapidly distributed into the blood stream via the lymphatic system.  The rate of adsorption depends on many factors and this means the severity of the bite cannot be determined until clinical signs are present.   Once at your veterinary office, your pet will be treated and may receive antivenin.  Antivenin is very expensive.  It works by neutralizing the venom, halting further damage, but does not reverse the damage that has already been done.  Supportive care is vital to your pet’s recovery and hospitalization for multiple days may be required.  We at PVSE, are open 24 hours and are ready to help you or your pet in case of a snake envenomation.  Please call us with any questions.

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