Pet owners beware: Local rattlesnakes on the move

Woman says dog fighting for life after bite at Eisenhower Park

SAN ANTONIO – A San Antonio woman has a warning for South Texas pet owners: Watch out for snakes.

Lisa Fischnar said Wednesday her dog is fighting for its life after being bitten by a rattlesnake at Eisenhower Park on the city's far Northwest Side.

Fischnar's daughter took the 3-year-old blue heeler Australian shepherd mix named China for a walk at the park around 4 p.m. Sunday.

She said within just a few seconds of roaming off the beaten path, China took a direct strike to the mouth from a 4- to 5-foot-long rattler.

"She heard a sound, and she saw the tail of a rattlesnake and it was already too late," Fischnar said. "There was a lot of blood, my daughter's car was covered in blood."

China is still fighting for her life in a local pet emergency clinic after five rounds of anti-venom and around-the-clock care.

"She's real weak," Fischnar said. "This happened Sunday, so we're into Wednesday and she's still critical. She needs a whole blood transfusion and they're getting dog blood donors to see if they match her blood type."

So far she estimates they've run up a bill that exceeds $6,000, prompting them to start an online campaign to raise money for China's medical expenses.

Fischnar's story is not uncommon at all. In fact, she said where she's getting her dog treated the staff members told her they've treated five other dogs for rattlesnake bites in recent days.

Local veterinarian Dr. Pat Richardson from Broadway Oaks Animal Hospital said this is the time of year to be extra cautious to look for snakes.

"They've been denned up all winter, and with the warm weather, they're out moving around and starting to eat again," Richardson said. "You start getting off into the underbrush and stuff that's where you're most likely going to run into them. But if you're just on these dog trails and hiking trails, you just (have) to be really careful because they're all over everywhere now."

Richardson has seen his share of snake bites over the years and the damage they cause.

"It causes necrosis and the tissues, the blood vessels, are ruptured and they die, and all the tissue just becomes gangrenous," Richardson said. "It's my experience that the ones that get bit on the face are a lot more likely to survive than ones that get bit on an extremity. Sometimes you have to treat them from a week to 10 days to get them through the woods."

Click here to see an article about venomous snakes and how to identify the most common types in our area. 

Richardson said like most vets he doesn't keep a supply of anti-venom on hand because it's too costly and has a short shelf life, but he does carry rattlesnake vaccine, which he recommends for dogs who hunt or spend a lot of time outdoors.

"Just like any vaccine, it forms antibodies to the venom so this dog has a lot of immunity for that snake bite," Richardson said. "It neutralizes the venom but it's not a cure-all. You still need to get the dog into a veterinarian as soon as you can but it will buy you some time."

Fischnar hopes pet owners will learn from their mistake and pay closer attention to posted warning signs and their surroundings when taking your pet for a walk in nature.

"We go to the parks all the time and China wants to sniff the grass and whatever's on the side of the trail, and this one time it was almost deadly," Fischnar said. "I don't want this to happen to a human or another animal. Just be aware of your surroundings and stay on the trails."

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