Rattlesnakes and horses – what to do if your horse is bitten.


There are plenty of places in this country where you will find rattlesnakes. I can tell you from personal experience two things about them: They are more afraid of humans and horses and dogs than we are of them. And, have a plan.  Here’s what you need to know about rattlesnakes and horses.


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rattlesnake in a zoo



Discourage rattlesnakes around the barn


  • There are a few things that you can do around the barn and farm to limit rattlesnakes in your “space”.


  • First, we need to understand how rattlers live to live around them. And, we should know that over 30 species of rattlesnakes live on the planet, with habitats between Canada and as far south as Argentina. Count on about 70 subspecies, each subspecies with its own idiosyncrasies and habits.


  • That being said, rattlesnakes generally have some ways of life that we know about. They are temperature sensitive, and in many areas, are only active at dusk. Most rattlers prefer temps between 80 and 90 degrees. Many species hibernate in winter.

Get a barn cat!


  • The favorite meals of rattlesnakes are rodents, birds, and lizards. Wage war on rodents and mice at your barn and farm, and you are infinitely less likely to have rattlesnakes on your property. Limit holes and burrows on your farm, and you are also one step ahead.


Hit the books and study up


  • For the most part, you will need to research the specific species in your area to learn their habits to work around them. Some species like open areas with rock formations, some species like a specific type of brush or shrub. Some species live in holes and burrows. Learn what the species in your area like to eat and how they live, and you can stay ahead of the curve and create a farm that no rattlesnake wants to live on.


What to do if your horse is bitten by a rattlesnake


  • For horses, you need to know that rattlesnake venom can cause massive tissue damage, crazy amounts of swelling, cardiac damage, and even neurological damage.


  • Some of this damage may be permanent. This is not an injury to be taken lightly and can be terribly painful for your horse. The first thing you need to do is call your veterinarian as soon as possible.


  • You also need to immobilize your horse to limit the spread of toxins.


  • DO NOT apply ice, DO NOT apply a tourniquet, and DO NOT suck out the venom.


  • Your veterinarian will likely do blood work, administer fluids, and possibly antivenom.


  • Have your veterinarian show you how to insert a small (6 inches or so) piece of tubing or hose into your horse’s nose in case he is bitten on the nose or face and the swelling threatens his breathing. This is a distinct possibility with a rattlesnake bite, so get a lesson from your veterinarian before snake season hits! Keep this hose with you in your vet kit and on a trail ride if you are far from home.


horse with swollen nose that has been bitten by a rattlesnake

This poor dude has the classic swollen nose, complete with tubes sutured into his nostrils so he can breathe. Add fluids, meds, and rest. Photo courtesy of Rachael M.


IV fluid bag


A rattlesnake vaccine is available for horses


  • These are available for horses and dogs. Let me be clear about this – these vaccines do not “cure” a future rattlesnake bite, but they can help your horse or dog slow the process down. You still need to call the veterinarian and have further treatments.


To brush up on first aid for horses, read this article


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Whinny Wellies from Sox For Horses

Tough, weather-resistant covering for wraps and bandaging.


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