The first rattlesnakes of the season already have been spotted on the Hill. There are eight species of rattlers found in Southern California. A combination of preventive measures and cautious behavior can help keep your pets safe from their deadly venom.

Rattlesnake aversion training can save your dog’s life if reputible, trained professionals do it correctly.

Natural Solutions provides such training and meets important criteria for humane treatment of both dogs and snakes. In different scenarios, they use juvenile and adult snakes specific to our area. Training takes 10-15 minutes and costs $75. It is appropriate for all breeds and sizes of dogs that have reached 6 months of age.

Training is most effective when repeated once a year for three to four years in a row. Their website,, gives more information, including scheduled locations. ARF Director Maria Lehman is trying to set up a class for Idyllwild residents.

Rattlesnake vaccine can reduce the amount of expensive antivenom needed if your dog is bitten. It works by forming antibodies which neutralize the venom, and reduces pain, swelling and tissue damage. Although it does not make your dog immune, it can buy precious time to get to the vet. A series of two vaccinations are required, cost about $25 each and must be repeated each year.

Walk your dog on a leash no longer than six feet, and never walk off-trail.

Clear your yard of brush and rock piles. Fences can be fortified with hardware cloth.

If you and your dog see a rattlesnake, back away slowly and calmly, until you’re out of striking range, which is the length of the snake. Then leave the area.

If your dog is bitten, carry or slowly walk him to the car and get to the vet as soon as possible. You don’t have much more than 30 minutes. Limit movement to slow the venom’s progression through the body.

Initial symptoms to look for include a puncture wound, severe pain, swelling, restlessness, panting and drooling. Others which might follow within an hour or so are lethargy, weakness, muscle tremors, diarrhea, seizures and depressed respiration.

If you’ve made it to a vet who has antivenom on hand, you’ll have to make a decision. Depending on where you live, it can cost from $500-$1,000 per vial. It will be administered along with IV fluids, antibiotics and pain medication, so the total expense can run over $2,000.

I have found only three vets within 30 minutes of Idyllwild who carry it.

Pets Vet is located off the southwest corner of Meridian Street and Florida Avenue in Hemet, (951) 929-6688. Small Animal Care Center is at 438 South State St. in San Jacinto, (951) 654-7396. They have extended hours, from 6 a.m. to 8 p.m. during the week and Saturdays from 7:30 a.m. to 6 p.m.

In Anza, Dr. Frazier is at 39100 Contreras Road, (951) 763-2345. Outside of regular business hours, there are emergency clinics in Murrieta and Temecula. Please save this information.

Most large dogs bitten on the face survive with standard vet care. However, antivenom is recommended if the snake is especially large, if the dog is less than 20 pounds, bitten on the tongue or torso, or received multiple wounds.

While none of these methods can guarantee your dog will survive a rattlesnake bite, best practice recommendations generally concur that a combination of both professional aversion training and vaccinations are the best bet for saving a life.

Thanks to all who so kindly responded to last month’s column.