Shifting Lameness

Retriver Field Trial News - November 2004

Cal Cadmus DVM

Ed Note: Cal Cadmus DVM has been involved in Field Trials for more than 20 years and won the '86 National Amateur Championship with NAFC-FC Winsom Cargo. His office is located in Oakdale, California where he specializes in TPLO repair (cruciate injury).

 

QUESTION

Recently, I received a call from a professional retriever trainer who noticed that one of his dogs was suddenly limping. He went on to say that the leg was starting to swell and thought it could be a rattlesnake bite. He got "Hummer" in to see us and we immediately started treatment. The dog did fine and will soon be back in training. Here are some facts to remember when working your retriever in rattlesnake country.

 

ANSWER

First, like foxtails, prevention is the best form of treatment. Remember, the spring and summer months are when the snakes are most likely to be active. Rattlesnakes inhabit dry rocky locations. They may also be found under old wooden structures, like cattle feeders. Small rodents, such as ground squirrels, are their main source of food; so naturally, places with high concentrations of rodents will also contain high numbers of snakes. Areas such as lush irrigated pastures are far safer to train your dog.

 

There are several factors that contribute to the severity of a bite. The toxicity and quantity of the venom are primarily responsible for the level of damage to the tissues. It is important to note that each of the nine

subspecies of rattlesnakes varies substantially in the amount of toxin each produces. Other factors include: size of the victim, location of the bite, the elapsed time from the initial bite to treatment and the excitement level and physical activity of the victims.

 

Immediate treatment should be centered upon keeping the victim calm and quiet while transporting them to the nearest veterinary facility. Additionally, first aid measures such as incision and suction of the wound are both ineffective and counterproductive. In our practice, we center therapy on high levels of intravenous fluids. This treatment counters hypovolemic shock, maintains perfusion of the affected tissue and markedly decreases post-bite tissue necrosis. Pain medication and broad-spectrum antibiotic therapy are also employed.Lastly, a word about the use of antivenin. A recent study has been conducted at Colorado State University, School of Veterinary Medicine. The results of this study indicate that in dogs that were bitten by Prairie Rattlesnakes no significant benefits were noted in those that received antivenin in addition to standard therapy. There was however a substantial increase in cost of treatment to the victims ownersThe good news is; like humans, the vast majority of dogs bitten by rattlesnakes survive, especially, when rapid and aggressive treatment is instituted.

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