Friday night, we had an evening woods walk with few puppy families. Saturday was go home day for Bliss and Sailor’s 8-week-old puppies. The rattlesnake didn’t alert with a rattle. The puppy didn’t cry. No one knew anything had happened until symptoms set in. Edited to add: I found out the next week where and when the strike happened.
Our first thought upon discovering a pup with a swollen face was that the puppy bit a bee or was stung perhaps multiple times. Yellow jackets have been plentiful this year. We gave him Benadryl, but it didn’t help, the swelling continued. He was agitated and in a LOT of pain. Rattlesnake bite was also on our radar. One of our vets met us at the hospital in Redding, so we didn’t have to use the ER with a puppy during the at-risk period for parvovirus.
The vet also leaned toward rattlesnake bite due to the intense pain the puppy was suffering. But without the conclusive bite marks, we would be treating symptoms with powerful drugs. We shaved part of his head but couldn’t find fang marks, only a single scrape on the head with a dry scab. It’s hot and dry this time of year, a wound will scab over quickly. This puppy wasn’t presenting like a classic bee sting so we wondered if that spot could be the envenomation point since it was very tender to the touch. We started meds and blood work. If the blood work showed nothing, it would be of no help. But if the red blood cells were changing, we’d have our proof.
While we waited on blood work, the pain didn’t ease, even on pain med. As Tim and I decided we would go ahead and treat for snake bite, the vet came in with the results of the blood work. That with microscopy analysis confirmed the telltale signs of rattlesnake envenomation.
The puppy was hospitalized and started on antivenin, more pain meds, and supportive care. We returned home and went rattlesnake hunting.
By 11:00 pm that night, round two of antivenin was started and we had the culprit skinned and ready for the freezer.
By 8:00 am the next morning, the puppy was feeling better. He came home last night.
Of course, the puppy had been paired with a family. We candidly discussed their options and they chose to pass on this puppy and wait for a pup from another litter.
Fast forward to this morning, the puppy now known as Fang looks much better. He feels and acts like a normal puppy. It will take a few more days for the swelling to subside. He will stay with us until healed and then be paired with a new family. He’s one tough puppy.
The Northern Pacific rattlesnake delivered a glancing blow with a single fang. Had it succeeded in a full-on strike, I don’t know if the 8-week-old puppy would’ve survived.
Counting our blessings.
For those who are touting the highly advertised rattlesnake vaccine, take note. That vaccine is specifically designed around the western diamondback and isn’t supported by peer-reviewed research. Our rattlesnakes are the Northern Pacific rattlesnake. Different snake, different venom. A dog still requires veterinary attention even if “vaccinated”. Antivenin treatment is necessary if heavily envenomated, period. There is no conclusive research to support those vaccines for the rattlesnakes in our area. UC Davis Veterinary Hospital doesn’t stock the vaccine. In an NIH study of the Western Diamondback rattlesnake vaccine, within 48 hours 60% of the vaccinated subjects injected with Western diamondback venom died, 80% death rate for Northern Pacific and 100% death rate for Southern Pacific. Furthermore, an 8-week-old puppy isn’t old enough for this non-core vaccine.