Early Season Rattlers Take A Bite Out Of Curious Canine
Some celebrities will do anything to get their name and picture out in front of the public. Sometimes on purpose – and some times quite by accident.
It was an unexpected visitor to her owner’s backyard that thrust Kara – a copper-colored 50-pound solid pit bull who is the subject of Michelle Sathe’s book “Pit Stops II” - into the spotlight.
Don't miss a thing. Get breaking news alerts delivered right to your inbox
For the book, Kara traveled across the country with Sathe, who wrote about the response the friendly pittie received from people - focusing on breed discrimination and education. But the little chunk had one of her scariest experiences right in her own Canyon Country backyard.
“I was home and she and my other dogs were outside and I heard barking,” said Kyle Harris, Kara’s owner. “I went out there and thought they’d gotten my cat or something, but it was a rattlesnake. It was up against the side of my house; it had gotten through the gardener gate and was coiled and hissing and rattling with all of them surrounding it.”
Harris called the dogs into the house and thought they’d dodged a big bullet
“It was so fast, about 15 or 20 minutes later, Kara’s head swelled up like a helium balloon and her collar was choking her,” she said. “It was huge. I got her collar off and threw her in the car and drove to the emergency vet.”
When she got to the vet, she could tell it was serious by the flurry of paperwork and attention Kara got.
“They said she needed treatment right now, so $2,000 later, we got her stabilized and she went to our personal vet for two days.”
While she was in the hospital, Kara had visitors and her fans on Facebook overwhelmed Harris with concerned messages. The support was nice, but the surprise was huge.
“The thing that scares me is that it was too early this year,” Harris, who runs a pet care service, explained. “Because we had a warm winter, they (rattlesnakes) came out. I was caught completely off guard, I hadn’t gotten vaccines, nothing.”
Vets told KHTS that they have seen a steady increase in rattlesnake incidents in the past few years and the unseasonable weather does play into the danger. The number of cases have doubled, even tripled in the last two years. One theory is construction has shaken up the snakes’ regular habitat, but the weather is the most likely culprit.
The SCV Quail and Upland Wildlife Federation sponsors “Snake Break” rattlesnake avoidance clinics for dogs, with classes starting this weekend and continuing through June.
The clinics offer owners the opportunity to train dogs to warn owners of a snake’s presence and stay away from danger. Training sessions are done by appointment and the cost is $65 per dog. For information, call (661) 297-0876 or visit their website at www.snakebreak.com.
Harris is an advocate for rattlesnake vaccines for animals because they can minimize the discomfort and damage a snake bite can cause.
“The vaccine makes it less severe, but it won’t cure it,” she explained. “If your dog is bit, they will still have to go to the vet, but you might get by with less of a treatment, but there’s no guarantees.”
Vials of rattlesnake anti-venom cost between $750 and $800; Kara needed two vials to fight off the poison injected into her face.
“Kara put her big fat face in there (toward the snake) and it bit her right on the snout. You can still see the fang marks on there,” she said. “The vet said ‘thank God it was in the face,’ the face is a good place to be bit, apparently. It’s far away from the organs and the appendages, if they get bit there, sometimes they have to amputate.”
Harris warned that you can’t let down your guard – her dog was bitten when she was home and they were in their own backyard, which faces a hillside, like many Canyon.Country homes do. Aside from the danger to the dog, the expense can be overwhelming.
“Even if you have pet insurance, it’s still going to be huge. And even if you have the vaccine, you may need one vial of anti-venom. Kara needed two,” she said. “That’s just the anti-venom, then there’s the steroids, the morphine for pain and all the other junk, antibiotics, fees for hospitalization.”
A low-cost vaccine clinic is scheduled Saturday, March 17, at Kriser’s, sponsored by Angel Dogs Foundation. Rattlesnake vaccines will be $15; other vaccinations will be offered and free microchipping will be done. Hours are 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.; Kriser’s is located at 24272 Valencia Boulevard, in the Kohl’s center.
“They say to get one vaccine if it’s a regular house dog and if you go hiking with your dog, they should get two different vaccines on a schedule,” Harris said.
In the meantime, Kara the Celebridog is healing nicely and is back to her usual playtime, being the affectionate chunk that Harris has grown to love.
“I’m just her person, that’s all, but I’m so proud,” she said.