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Cottonwood Heights Journal

Rattlesnake aversion training can protect dogs from bites

Jun 03, 2024 02:26PM ● By Peri Kinder

During the warmer months, rattlesnake sightings increase. Dogs are susceptible to rattlesnake bites, which can be deadly, but furry friends can be trained to sense and steer clear before a potentially fatal accident. (Stock photo)

As the weather warms up, outdoor adventures with your dog become more appealing. However, it’s crucial to be aware of the potential dangers posed by rattlesnakes. These venomous snakes are common in many areas of the state and pose a serious threat to dogs.

Rattlesnake sightings increase in the summer and Utah is home to more than 30 species and subspecies of snakes, including venomous rattlers. Top Dog Snake Finders recently announced a partnership with the Asclepius Snakebite Foundation to promote rattlesnake safety awareness and save human and animal lives. ASF is committed to tackling issues associated with snakebites.

“Through our partnership with ASF, we aim to not only promote rattlesnake safety but also contribute to the broader mission of reversing the tragic cycle of snakebites and saving lives and limbs,” said Kim Beck, founder of Top Dog Snake Finders. 

K9 rattlesnake aversion training, offered by places like Top Dog Snake Finders, help dogs learn to keep away from the snakes, allowing them to avoid a potentially deadly bite. Even if treated quickly, dog can easily die and treatment costs run into thousands of dollars. 

Beck said teaching a dog to “leave it” is not sufficient when it comes to snake encounters. Dogs are trained using contained, live rattlesnakes with the venom sacs intact, so the dog can learn how a venomous snake smells. In the interest of humane treatment, the snake’s fangs are not removed. Teaching a dog to be safe around a rattler includes detecting danger using sight, sound and smell. 

ASF provides affordable antivenoms, ensuring families can access care. It also offers medical training to protect high-risk regions and engages in community outreach to prevent snakebites.  

“Our mission aligns closely with ASF’s goal of preventing unnecessary suffering and death from snakebites,” Beck said. “Together, we can make a meaningful impact in safeguarding both humans and animals from rattlesnake encounters.”

Other ways to protect your dog and family members from snakebites include staying on designated trails and avoiding tall grass and rocky areas where rattlesnakes may hide. Additionally, clean out woodpiles and debris around the home, stay vigilant of surroundings, listen for the distinctive rattle sound and steer clear if a snake is nearby. 

It’s also crucial to recognize the signs of a rattlesnake bite that includes swelling and two small puncture wounds. A dog might also show signs of pain, whining, limping and becoming weak or unresponsive. If owners believe their dog has been bitten, do not apply ice to the wound, try to keep the bitten area lower than the heart and seek immediate veterinary care.

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“Snakebites are a serious concern,” Beck said, “not only for humans but also for our beloved canine companions.” λ