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Ontario Regional Poison Information Centre
Children’s Hospital of Eastern Ontario

401 Smyth Road
Ottawa, ON K1H 8L1

Toll-free Ontario: 1-800-267-1373
Emergency inquiries: (613) 737-1100
General inquiries: (613) 737-2320
Fax: (613) 738-4862

Ontario Regional Poison Information Centre
The Hospital for Sick Children

555 University Avenue
Toronto, ON M5G 1X8

Toll-free: 1-800-268-9017
Local: (416) 813-5900
Fax: (416) 813-7489


Encounters with rattlesnakes are infrequent. Rattlesnakes are shy and so well camouflaged that passersby rarely notice them. Rattlesnakes often lie motionless when they sense danger and may rattle a warning when approached. When the snakes are given some space, conflicts are easily avoided. However, dogs often wander into areas not well traveled by people, and they tend to investigate unfamiliar sights and sounds. When some dogs discover a snake, they stand their ground at a safe distance and bark. Other breeds run in to challenge, grab, or kill the snake.

Bites occur to the legs, but more frequently to the face, since dogs use their nose to investigate their surroundings. If the dog is bitten on the head, the situation is serious due to the speed with which the venom can impair the dog’s respiratory functions. Dr. Hilary Turnbull, of the Georgian Animal Hospital in Parry Sound, confirms that small dogs (especially terriers) are particularly at risk if bitten on the face, since the swelling can encompass a good part of their head.


What to do if you know or suspect your dog has been bitten:

  • If your dog surprises a rattlesnake and is bitten, he/she may exhibit swelling, pain, or signs of discomfort. Watch for these signs;

  • It is important to keep your pet calm and restrict his/her movement;

  • If possible, splint the bitten extremity, and keep the limb below heart level. DO NOT let the dog walk;

  • DO NOT apply tourniquets, ice or suction to the limb;

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