Rattlesnake Bite


This snake accounts for more serious and fatal bites than
any other reptile in the United States because of its wide distribution.


Many llamas have been lost to Rattlesnake bite!!

Because of the curious nature of the llama, snakebites are a frequent occurrence in areas where snakes are common.  Llamas will approach the snake and lower their head to investigate which often results in a serious bite to the mouth or muzzle.  Without quick action and treatment, this could mean death.

This photo is of a llama who has been bitten  on the muzzle and the severe swelling that results
soon after the bite.  It is important to keep the air passages open with this severe swelling.



Suggested Treatments:

From Bobra Goldsmith:

"Sandy Mubarack of Southern California has saved 13 (!) llamas from rattlesnake bite successfully. She recently recommended to me to get flexible tubing with 3/8 in. interior dimension and 5/8 in. exterior size.
I found 3/8 in. x 1/2 in tubing and got that. It should be 2 ft. long.  This is to insert in the nostrils to keep the air passages open.

The tubing I got is clear, like what a vet uses.  Also, it needs to be rounded at the end where it was cut at the store so that the edge isn't sharp. And one of the things Sandy told me was that all her animals did eat and drink. All but two were on their feet all the time. the other two she propped up in sternal position with bales and put another bale under their heads while they were kushed. The important thing was to keep them eating and drinking to dilute the toxins and flush the system, plus the the IV, of course.

After the tube is inserted in the nostril the excess should be passed up between the ears and fastened on with duct tape. Her vet puts the llama on IV and the animal is kept calm, etc."

Another Hint from a Breeder .................
If you live in an area with rattlesnakes, keep the round hair curlers on hand.  If a bite occurs on the nose area, take the tube, the part you wrap your hair around, and insert it into the llama's nostrils as soon as possible.  You may have to tape in place.  These will keep their air supply open as the swelling continues.

Treatment from Dr. Norm Evans Vet Manual:

  • Blood tests to monitor CBC, platlet count, clotting factor, BUN, creatinine, CP, glucose.

  • Benadryl at 75mg per 100lbs body weight to counteract allergic reactions to antivenin.

  • Lactated Ringers Solution fluids should be administered aggressively to combat the primary problem of hypovolemic shock.

  • Polyvalent antivenin of equine origin should be carefully administered if platlet counts are low and dropping.  One vial per 75 lbs body weight in one liter, administered slowly.  Observe closely for anaphylactic shock.  If reaction occurs, stop infusion and administer benadryl, wait ten minutes, restart infusion at lower rate.  Epinephrine should be on hand.  Repeated administration may be necessary dependent on platlet count, clotting factor, regression of swelling.

  • Broad spectrum antibiotic.

Do not administer corticosteroids, DMSO, aspirin or butazolidin.

Of course keep the airway open.
Note that rattlesnake bites may have no to large amounts of venom injected, so it's primarily the repeated blood tests and secondarily the swelling indication that one must go by and treat accordingly.  A hospital environment with a laboratory is probably best for conducting the repeated testing.

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Additional Sources of Information:
 Snakebite in Camelids -
Dr. Mike Zager, DVM - 2009

Rattlesnakes!  - After you have given medical care to your llama or alpaca, you may find this site very interesting as it deals with snake-proofing your home and yard, basic information, and a list of do's and don'ts.



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