Monday, September 14, 2015

Enjoy the Outdoors without Getting Snakes

Hearing the word Snake fills many people with fear and anxiety.  Even the brave and daring Indiana Jones hated snakes.  While snakes can be a pest, we should keep in mind how important they are to our ecosystem. As one of the Earth’s most efficient predators, snakes help keep the rodent population in check.  Without that, we would have a serious pest problem.
Rattlesnakes, while helpful maintaining balance in nature, can also be a big problem for humans and their pets – especially dogs.
According to the Animal Medical Center of Southern California, dogs are 20 times more likely to be bitten by a venomous snake than humans, and 25 times more likely to die as a result. Snake bites are life-threatening, painful, expensive to treat, and can cause permanent damage – even when the dog survives.
99% of snakes that bite are Pit Vipers – Copperheads, Cottonmouths (Water Moccasins), and Rattlesnakes (which have a dozen different species). The remaining 1% are Coral Snake bites in the American Southeast and Mexican border.  Pit Vipers are called Hemotoxic, which means their venom disrupts the integrity of blood vessels.  Dramatic swelling, blood loss, and uncontrolled bleeding can occur, which can quickly lead to shock and death.
Because snake bites can go from bad to worse in very little time, it is not recommended that one spends time on first aid.  Snake bites need immediate medical attention and treatment, whether your dog is showing signs of distress or not.
What to do if your dog has been bitten by a snake:
  1. Stay calm
  2. Wash the bite with clean water and soap
  3. Keep your dog quiet
  4. Immobilize the bitten area and keep it lower than the heart
  5. Seek immediate veterinary help, even if you are not certain that it is a Rattlesnake bite
  6. Call an emergency vet clinic ahead so (a.)You can see if they have necessary treatment available and (b.) They can prepare for your arrival
  1. Remove any restrictive collars, choke chains, etc. before swelling begins.
  2. Unless the bite is on the head or face, consider using a muzzle on your dog to protect anyone handling her, since extreme pain can cause any dog to bite.
There are antivenom solutions for snake bites that can saves a dog’s life, but they are very expensive ($300 - $1000 per vile, and multiple doses are needed for treatment), and not all veterinarians carry them.  
Antivenom, which has been created for dozens of poisonous snakes, spiders, and scorpions around the world, is considered the most effective if administered within 4 hours of the bite, and less effective if administered after 8 hours. The anitvenom is still recommended as a treatment within 24 hours of severe symptoms. However, a lot depends on the bite’s location, the dog’s size and overall health, and the snake bite’s toxicity.
Not all snake bites are equally toxic.  Baby rattlesnakes are more potent than adults because when they bite they release all of their venom.  Whereas, adults snakes release venom according to the size of their prey. 
An estimated 20-25% of rattlesnake bites to dogs don’t contain venom.  But still 30% cause mild symptoms of pain and swelling, 40% are severe, and about 5% are fatal.
To avoid the emotional and financial nightmare, do your best to avoid the whole situation. 
Things to know to help you avoid snakes:
  1. Rattlesnakes are most likely to be seen while hiking, camping, climbing, or walking on a trail. In Orange County there are several regional parks that are home to snakes.
  2. Rattlesnakes tend to be more active in the summer months, but with pretty mild weather in Southern California all year long, Rattlesnakes can be active here all year long. Their favorite temperatures are 70°F- 90°F.
  3. Encounters are most likely to happen around rocks, bushes, brush, woodpiles, and wherever snakes can hide. So when walking in potential snake zones, keep your dog on a short leash – avoiding any potential hiding place for a snake.
  4. Don’t let your dog explore holes, dig under rocks, or investigate a dead snake (as they can still be poisonous).
  5. If you notice a snake, back away quickly and quietly. A snake can strike at a distance of 2/3 its body length, and at a speed the human eye cannot follow. So keep a good distance if you can.
  6. Be careful around water because Rattlesnakes can swim. And anything that looks like a long stick could be a snake.
  7. Keep your property rodent free to avoid inviting snakes around. Block and plug any holes or cracks under doorways that a snake might use to find a hiding place. And store firewood away from your house.  
  8. It is not recommended that you use caustic Lye (or products such as gels, powders, and ropes) that advertise to deter snakes, since they are ineffective and potentially harmful to children and pets.
Don’t let snakes, bees, or other biting insects deter you from enjoying the outdoors.  Just be aware of your surroundings and you and your dog are sure to have a great time.

Enjoy the Outdoors without Getting Bit...By Bees

Fall is here, and with that tends to come more camping and outdoor adventures. Spending more time outdoors this fall will expose you and your dog to more natural elements, some of which can pose a serious threat that your dog might be completely oblivious to. 

If your dog is like mine, they like to chase flying objects. There is no regard for the difference between a harmless flying object and one that bites. Even when we had a hive in our backyard (that we were told was not removable) our dog, Maui, got stung pretty regularly because she wouldn’t stop chasing and biting at bees. Unfortunately, dogs don’t seem to know any better.

When walking dogs, I’ve walked by many shrubs that were dancing with pollinating bees.  I have come across hives, in trees and on the ground.  I’ve even been in the park when a hive was swarming.  In each instance, I steer clear and pay attention to any possibly angry bees that might happen upon us.  Why? Because bee stings can cause serious damage if your dog has an allergic reaction. 

Even if your dog only has a minor reaction to 1 bee sting, any dog can have a severe reaction to multiple stings. So what should you do when bees attack?

What to do when bees or wasps attack:
  1. Avoid making loud noises, such as shouting.
  2. Do not disturb the hive/nest, or get close to it.
  3. Take warning if a few bees or wasps come out and dive bomb you. This means leave immediately.
  4. Don’t swat or attempt to kill the bees or wasps, as that will only aggravate them.
  5. Run if bees or wasps come after you (if possible, run into the wind, which will slow the insect down). Make your dog run with you or carry her.  It is possible to outrun bees and wasps, but they are very determined, so you will probably have to run again.
  6. Protect your face. If your dog is in your arms, cuddle him as you run.
  7. Do not attempt to hide from bees and wasps in water. Swarms can hover over and wait for you.  (You can get into water after you are sure the bees or wasps are no longer chasing you. Getting in water would help ensure the insects are off of you and not hiding in your dog’s coat or somewhere on you).
  8. Do not stop running until you are certain the bees or wasps have retreated.

How to know if your dog has been stung:
  1. Your dog may leap up, cry out, run in circles, rub his face, and/or scratch at the sting site.
  2. You will notice swelling at the sting site, which may spread and become more severe depending on the reaction.
If your dog has been stung, the severity of the situation will depend on how many stings, the degree of swelling, and whether your dog has any reactions that might indicate anaphylactic shock (an allergic reaction).
If severe, the symptoms will usually appear right away, in the first 5 minutes, or 30 minutes at the most.

Signs of a severe reaction include:
  1. Excessive salivation (drooling)
  2. Vomiting
  3. Diarrhea
  4. Difficulty breathing
  5. Trembling
  6. Fainting or Collapsing (reactions can sometimes mimic seizures)
  7. Pale gums
  8. Hives
  9. Mental change, such as unresponsiveness, confusion, or abnormal behavior
In severe cases such as these, you should seek immediate veterinary care. If you learn your dog is allergic to bee or wasp stings, you may consider carrying an EpiPen (injectable epinephrine) to counteract anaphylactic shock.  Consult your veterinarian first.

What to do if your dog has been stung (or bitten by another insect):
  1. If there is still a stinger in your dog’s skin, scrape it off (using a credit card or the like). Using tweezers can cause you to squeeze more venom into the skin, so best not to use them.
  2. Use a cold pack to help reduce swelling. Hold the cold pack on for 20 minutes at a time. In a pinch, a cold wash cloth or towel can be soothing enough.
  3. And/or you can make a baking soda paste to help soothe and reduce swelling in the area. Simply add enough water to baking soda to get a paste-like consistency, and apply the paste to the bite or sting site.
  4. Monitor your dog for severe swelling (especially on the head and neck area, as that can be dangerous). Most likely the swelling will stay localized at the bite or sting site, with redness and pain.
  5. Administer Benadryl (diphenhydramine HCI) – as long as you are confident your dog won’t have a reaction to that.
Benadryl/antihistamine:   1 mg per pound of your pet’s body weight
  1. Stings in the mouth may make it difficult and uncomfortable for your dog to eat. In these cases, giving your dog ice water and soft food would be best.(Either wet food or soften her dry food with water.)
Symptoms may be visible for several days.  If they worsen, take your dog to the vet.

Don’t let bees, or other biting insects deter you from enjoying the outdoors.  Just be aware of your surroundings and you and your dog are sure to have a great time.