We have more than our share of obnoxious creatures here in the desert: scorpions, black widow spiders, tarantulas, Gila monsters, mountain lions, and coyotes, to name a few. But by far the most common and potentially deadly is the rattlesnake! Although usually not aggressive, they are a common threat to both humans and animals that inadvertently pass too close.
The two most common species of rattlesnakes that exist here in the desert are the Western Diamondback and the Mojave Rattlesnake. The following descriptions and comments are taken from the book "DESERTS", by James A. MacMahon.
Western Diamondback Rattlesnake (Crotalus atrox):
This is the largest western rattlesnake, 34-83 7/8 inches, heavy-bodied with a large head sharply distinct from the neck, back patterned with light-bordered dark diamonds or hexagonal blotches; blotches often obscured by randomly distributed small dark spots, which give the back a mottled or dusky look. It has 2 light diagonal lines on side of face, stripe behind eye meets upper lip well in front of the angle of the jaw. The tail is encircled by broad black and white rings.
The "Coon-tail" rattler is capable of delivering a fatal bite. When disturbed it usually stands its ground, lifts its head well above its coils, and sounds a buzzing warning. Take heed! Active late in the day and at night during hot summer months, it primarily hunts for rodents and birds.
Mohave Rattlesnake (Crotalus scutulatus):
This snake has uniformly white scales surround brown diamonds marking the midline of its back, greenish gray, olive green, greenish brown, or occasionally yellow above. Black and white rings encircle the tail; the white rings are significantly larger. A light stripe behind the eye extends backward above the angle of the mouth. The "Mohave Green" rattler is usually encountered on mild nights, crossing a road, of before the heat of the day, partially exposed under the bank of a dry wash or along a mesquite-bordered stream bed. Its venom is extremely toxic and causes more respiratory distress than that of any other North American pit viper!
About the only good thing about rattlesnakes is that they don't always inject venom when they bite, and other times they only inject a small amount. So although some bites are not as severe as others, there is no way of telling. Therefore, immediate medical or veterinary care must be obtained for you or your pet, respectively.
In the past, different methods of first-aid have been described: cutting over the fang marks, icing the area, or electrical current applied. None of these methods has proven effective. (If they seem to work sometimes, remember the snake doesn't always inject venom - so did it really work or not?) Don't wait and take a chance - the only effective treatment is ANTIVENIN. Most veterinary clinics will stock antivenin. Here at Kingman Pet Supply, antivenin is always readily available for your pet's immediate needs!
Other treatments necessary include intravenous fluids and analgesic medications for shock, antibiotics for infection, and occasionally blood transfusions if immediate care has not been obtained. Although one should never take undue risk, a thoroughly-dead snake might help with planning the treatment protocol.