Vets Say Heat Partly to Blame for Recent Spike in Dogs Bitten by Rattlesnakes - NBC Right Now/KNDO/KNDU Tri-Cities, Yakima, WA |

Vets Say Heat Partly to Blame for Recent Spike in Dogs Bitten by Rattlesnakes

YAKIMA, Wa -  Local vets say dog owners should try to keep their pets closer to the house in this extreme heat.  Several veterinary clinics in the Yakima area have reported that rattlesnakes have bitten some pet dogs.

Animal Medical Service in Yakima says two dogs have been brought in for rattlesnake bites in the last three days.  One dog died this morning.  The Summittview-Cowiche Veterinary Clinic had two cases in the last three weeks.  One dog is still there recovering from bites.  Selah-Veterinary Hospital reports two incidents in the last month.  Tieton Animal Hospital reports one in the last month.

Most vets in the area say rattlesnake bites are pretty rare.  They may see one over the entire summer.  KNDO spoke to the vet at Animal Medical Service.  He says the spike can be attributed in part to the recent heat wave here in the valley.

"I think we've seen more snake bites in Yakima than any year that I have been here," says Dr. Lutz Harfst of Animal Medical Service and a vet of about 20 years here in Yakima.

He thinks the reason for the recent spike in rattlesnake bites is the heat.  The snakes are leaving the dry sagebrush and moving into backyards with shade and rocks.

"And then of course, people have dogs," he says, "They are rummaging around.  They come across snakes and they are curious.  They try to fight snakes and get bit in the process."

If your dog is bitten by a rattlesnake, Dr. Harfst says you should take it to a vet right away. Every second counts.

One problem is that the anti-venom is expensive and rarely used, so most clinics don't carry it.  They have to get it from a local hospital, which takes time, and in many cases it doesn't work.  Dr. Harfst says you should do whatever you can to avoid that situation. "I try to keep my dogs close to home."