Rattlesnakes are out in East Bay parks, learn to treat your dog in case of bite

In two weeks, two people have been bit by rattlesnakes. 

The first was on April 23 on Mount Tamalpais. A 79-year-old man was bit twice by a rattlesnake and had to be airlifted to the hospital. 

And then on Friday, a teenage girl was reportedly bitten by a baby rattlesnake in a Clayton neighborhood, near Mount Diablo State Park. 

This week, The East Bay Regional Park District put out an advisory on rattlesnakes seen on the park trails now that the weather is warm. 

Jeff McKenzie was out on the greenbelt near Mt. Diablo State Park with his granddaughters Saturday afternoon, not far from where the teenage girl was bit on Friday. 

"They're girl scouts, so they already know to have someone in the front and someone in the back to looking for snakes,” said McKenzie. “They're trained to watch for snakes when we go on the path."

McKenzie said he and his neighbors have already seen several rattlesnakes this spring. 

“Usually we see the snakes sunning themselves on the trail next to the creek,” said McKenzie. 

Sure enough, just a half mile from the trail entrance into Mount Diablo State Park there was a rattlesnake laying in the middle of the trail. 

At Sibley Volcanic Regional Preserve in Oakland, professional dog walker Molly Kenefick said in her 13 years in business, her company, Doggy Lama, only had one dog bit by a rattlesnake. 

"It happened in Tilden. It was a golden retriever and the walker picked him up and carried him on her shoulders to her vehicle,” said Kenefick. “She called our office and we called a couple of ER vets and found the closest ER vet that has the anti-venom."

Fortunately, Kenefick said the dog survived. Kenefick said, in her experience, most dogs don’t pursue rattlesnakes and bites happen when dogs accidentally step too close to the snake. 

"Usually there are two bite marks, the dog will yelp in pain, and the dog will often swell up,” said Kenefick, who urges pet owners to not carry the hurt dog to prevent the venom from spreading quickly in their blood stream.

“Don't run back to your car with the dog. If you think your dog can be calm while you pick your dog up and carry him over your shoulders, then carry your dog to your vehicle."

Kenefick said East Bay dog walking groups and businesses share information on rattlesnake sightings to help others avoid those areas. 

There’s a rattlesnake vaccine for dogs. Pet owners can consult with their veterinarian about getting it for the dog, but experts say dogs who get bit still need to receive emergency medical attention.