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Never Lose Your Cool, Even After a Snakebite

At British Gundogs, our clients’ dogs hunt literally all around the world from South Africa to Europe and all over North America. Closer to home, our own British Labradors work and train on a 7,000 acre Hunting Plantation near Vero Beach, Florida. Over such vast distances and different terrain, we run into many different hazards – some of which are worse than others.

If you are like me, you aren’t a big fan of snakes. Big ones, little ones, poisonous ones, it doesn’t really matter to me. They are all creepy. For the dogs, the biggest potential hazard from snakes is a bite from a poisonous viper. In most cases, that viper would likely be a rattlesnake. To protect against this hazard, we asked our favorite Veterinarian, Dr. Jay Stinson DVM to develop a protocol for dealing with rattlesnake bites.


Fortunately for us, we have never actually had to use the protocol, but it doesn’t hurt to be prepared – so with that in mind we thought we would share this with other dog lovers who like spending time with their canine companions in the great outdoors. [See below for the snakebite protocol].

You will notice that one of the points Dr. Stinson makes is to use ice. It’s really hard to do that if you are out on a hunt and miles away from the nearest refrigerator. That’s why we use Orion Coolers. Having ice available at all times isn’t just a luxury for us, we need to know with absolute confidence when that cooler lid opens we are still in business.


There is only one cooler company that we trust with our own dogs, Orion Coolers. So never lose your cool, no matter what the circumstances.
Robin Watson, Managing Director of British Gundogs


Rattlesnake Bite Protocol
1. Keep the dogs up to date are their rattlesnake vaccines. The vaccine on the market today was designed for the western diamondback. According to manufactures, it will provide partial protection for the eastern diamondback. Giving the vaccine does not mean the dog will not need antivenin if bitten, but the vaccine helps the dog by reducing the amount of swelling/pain/tissue damage and allowing you more time to get to a veterinarian. Just because the dog has received the rattlesnake vaccine doesn’t mean it’s in the clear if bitten.
2. The amount of swelling/pain/tissue damage associated with a rattlesnake bite is directly correlated with the amount of venom injected by the snake. There is no way to determine how much venom was injected. Lots of factors play a role in this i.e. Size of snake, age of snake, when the snake last ate, was the snake trying to kill the dog or was it just giving it a warning shot. There are lots of unknowns when it comes to snake bites.
3. The first thing to do when a dog is bitten by a rattlesnake is to quit hunting the dog. The dog needs to be calmed down immediately. The heart rate needs to remain as low as possible.
4. The most important thing to do is get to a veterinary hospital as quickly as possible. Let a veterinarian determine whether or not to give antivenin. Let the veterinarian determine the best treatment protocol.
5. Ice can be applied to the area that was bitten.
6. If you are in the field and have no way to get to a veterinarian, you can give Benadryl (1 mg per pound, 50 lb dog gets 50 mg of Benadryl). There is no scientific evidence that this will help but it could be better than nothing.
7. Do not use any topical applications that contain DMSO. DMSO accelerates venom absorption.
8. Long story short, the only proven treatment for Rattlesnake bites is antivenim. This needs to be given under the direct supervision of a veterinarian. So, see the veterinarian ASAP.
British Gundogs Pups

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