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Pet Dangers & Precautions: Ticks and Snakes

With more and more RVers heading to the great outdoors this time of year, it’s time to sound two warnings…

Depending on where you are, it’s now either snake season or tick season.

For some parts of the U.S., it’s both.

Both creatures post particular problems with pets. And humans, too, if they get bit. And both are very active right now.

And RVers, who are out there camping in the woods and wilds and deserts and fields, could very easily come into contact with them. RVers with pets need to be particularly vigilant.

Pet Dangers: Ticks

A friend, who lives in West Michigan,  took his dog for their usual walk the other night, when they returned home, he found two ticks on him and seven ticks on the dog. 

On an RV trip to Florida, we stopped on a nice spring day at the I-75 rest area near Jellico, TN. I took our dog out of the RV for a short walk on the dog run. He came back with three ticks. In just 10 minutes!

tick on hand

Ticks survive by eating blood from their hosts. They burrow deep under the skin and gorge themselves.

Tips for Ticks and Tick Bites

At the University of Tennessee Institute of Agriculture, ecological researchers are engaged in a four-year, National Science Foundation-funded study of ticks, and the risks they pose for transmitting several diseases.

While investigating disease risks, their work is also yielding practical tips regarding ticks and tick bites.

Machine Wash & Dry Clothes

Machine washing and drying of your clothes after being in the woods is a good idea because tiny immature ticks can be almost impossible to spot.

UT undergraduate John Norris found that ticks can survive the water and detergent in a washing machine. However, they are often killed by being pounded against jeans and other bulky clothes. 

Putting the wet clothes through the dryer is even more deadly and will quickly kill all the ticks.

Don’t Trust Folk Remedies

If you discover a tick attached to your body, don’t trust the folk remedies of matches, lighters, or petroleum jelly. Instead, use tweezers. Or, better yet, use The Tick Key (I keep one on my key chain).

Grasp the tick as close to its mouthparts as you can and remove it by pulling straight out. Be sure to remove the mouthparts, if you didn’t get them on the first pull.

Tick Seasons are Getting Worse

This is one of the worst tick seasons on record and that seems to be the case every year.

Ticks spread Lyme Disease, a very nasty disease that can cause short-term discomfort and long-term problems if left untreated. New cases of Lyme disease are cropping up all across the country.

Same with Rocky Mountain Fever, another potentially dangerous disease. In Tennessee last year, there were almost 700 cases of Rocky Mountain Fever, most believed to have been caught from ticks.

Some of the areas where ticks like to congregate are fields with tall grass, wooded areas and the sand dunes.

How to Keep You and Your Pets Tick-Free

The Center for Disease Control says pets and humans need to be checked very closely for ticks after every excursion into tick territory. Their website provides maps of tick regions where various species of ticks are found.

how to keep ticks off dogs

We have also written a helpful article on How to Keep Ticks Off Dogs & Out of Your RV.

Pet Dangers & Precautions: Ticks and Snakes 2
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Pet Dangers: Snakes

Then there are snakes.

They can be active all yea.

But late May and early June are when most snakes are on the move.

They hatch their young in mid-summer..

Most snakes, of course, are harmless. As a matter of fact, most snakes do good, eating insects and vermin.

But in the U.S., there are several very dangerous snakes with deadly venom, particularly for dogs and cats.

How to Identify Venomous Snakes

The three most commonly encountered venomous snakes in the U.S. are rattlesnakes, copperheads, and cottonmouths, sometimes referred to as the water moccasin.

Venomous snakes often have a heavy triangular head tapering towards the mouth, with elliptical or cat’s-eye pupils. An exception is the small but very venomous coral snake. Most nonpoisonous species have smoothly curved, U-shaped heads.

Here’s a quick guide with photos to help you spot the most dangerous ones in North America.

If you’re curious about the difference between venomous and poisonous, know that most dangerous snakes are venomous. Venom is injected by bite or sting. Whereas, poison is ingested, inhaled, or absorbed.

Therefore, there are almost no poisonous snakes. One exception is the garter snake, which is poisonous if eaten.

Real Stories of Snakes as Pet Dangers

Pet Dangers: Mojave rattlesnake

The snake picture here was taken by my friend William Browne. He was camped in his RV in California and was surprised to see this Mojave rattlesnake slithering through his camp space.

Snakes are particularly dangerous to pets. At a dog park not far from my Michigan house, several dogs are bitten each year by the diminutive Massasauga rattlesnake.

A woman I know who has a large, 65-pound Weimerheimer said she was walking her dog on a leash when it stopped, stuck its nose in the grass, and was bitten on the muzzle. By the time she returned to her car, her dog was stumbling. She rushed him to a 24-hour pet emergency hospital. Three days later and after $2,000 in vet bills, the dog was released.

At the same park not long before, a man and his beagle were bitten. A local sheriff’s deputy told me that the snake attacked the dog while walking near the woods. The man tried to stop the reptile from inflicting any further harm and was then attacked by the snake. He was released from the hospital the next day, the dog a couple of days later.

Antivenom and Snake Vaccines

The smaller the dog, the greater the danger but even a small rattlesnake like the Massasauga can kill if the pet is not quickly treated. Like humans, pets are given antivenom. It is extremely expensive, with treatment ranging between $900 and $1,200 for just the shots.

In Georgia earlier this year, I saw a sign outside a veterinarian’s office saying “Snakes are everywhere: Vaccinate your pets!” That’s good advice. In the south and southwest, most vets do offer snake vaccines. Regular shots help build up an animal’s immunity to the poison.

So be careful out there. Especially with your pets.

Other Pet Dangers: Getting Lost!

Another major pet danger while traveling is getting lost. When your pets are in unusual situations or new places, they can act unpredictably. So, it’s important to take extra measures to prevent them from getting lost.

Here is a Pet Detective’s Advice for RVers who want to ensure their pets come home with them.

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23 Responses to “Pet Dangers & Precautions: Ticks and Snakes”

August 26, 2021at3:30 pm, Henry said:

If you live in snake country, look into “snake avoidance training” for your dogs. A professional with a milked snake and a shock collar teaches your pet to steer clear of snakes in about ten minutes. Two sessions recommended a month apart. Our retrievers have since taught themselves to “point” snakes in the yard and give a distinct bark until we collect and dispose of them.

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January 04, 2014at2:19 pm, Maureen said:

In the Pacific Northwest, in and around the cities, the raccoons, coyotes and eagles are main predators of the smaller pets. My small dog was nearly picked off by an eagle. Fortunately I was very close and able to stop the eagle from picking her up. Remember, they are silent when winging on a glide path for prey. Of course, one always has to be vigilant when camping for the big cats and bears. I always give my pups Sentinel when travelling to other parts, particularly inland, to ward off all sorts of little problems such as ticks.

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January 04, 2014at9:11 am, Stephen Allen said:

In much of the country snakes are your best friends! And they eat ticks! The pic looks like a simple garter snake, the perfect yard &garden protector, but even rattlers eat mice and rats. Leave them alone and they’ll leave you alone. Ticks are by far a greater danger, Hundreds are sickened and many suffer or even die from Lyme Disease. Look here: http://www.tickencounter.org/ Sorry to be so preachy, but the irrational fear of snakes is way too prevalent in our supposedly “enlightened” environment!

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January 04, 2014at8:41 am, Ron Rogers Sr. said:

Up in Maine. Bears ate an issue, where I camp! And I got a toy fox terrier “”

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January 04, 2014at8:04 am, Barbara Emma Mautz said:

Thank You for warning us!

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January 04, 2014at2:22 am, Mark Haeussler said:

That’s a big snake.

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January 03, 2014at10:37 pm, Tim Enstad said:

Party

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January 03, 2014at9:23 pm, Janie Swartz said:

This is not a Mohave

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January 03, 2014at9:23 pm, Janie Swartz said:

This is not a Mohave

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January 03, 2014at7:27 pm, Bev Laing said:

Whoa!

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January 03, 2014at7:27 pm, Anna Donnelly said:

Get the gun and blow his head off.

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January 03, 2014at7:21 pm, Scott Atkinson said:

That would make a great hat band…and dinner…

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January 03, 2014at7:05 pm, Walter Sarley said:

Were ever you people are camping I’m not going there. Lol

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January 03, 2014at6:07 pm, Lauren Laub said:

Watch for large birds and tiny pups as well. They will swoop down and carry them off.

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January 03, 2014at5:52 pm, Linda Maisey said:

Wow good information – Thank you – being from the big city of Toronto Canada we would not have thought of any of this!

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January 03, 2014at5:38 pm, Dan Ninedorf said:

Last summer I saw something in the air over the street ahead of me, then it turned down a street and I saw it was an eagle with a snake that big in it’s talons.

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January 03, 2014at5:23 pm, John Berryhill said:

I don’t like spiders & snakes & gators

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January 03, 2014at5:21 pm, Mary Snook said:

I’ll take a tick any time compared to gators!

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January 03, 2014at5:17 pm, Linda Bodkin said:

We generally treat our dogs with ‘Advantage’ which protects the animal against fleas (heartworm preventative) and ticks if we are heading anywhere that we think might be a problem. Your vet ca advise you. Better to be safe than sorry. I will have to look into the snake vaccine as well.

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January 03, 2014at5:09 pm, Jo Russ-Keller said:

In South East TX we also have to worry about gators. Had a park ranger warn me once when I let my dog get too close to the waters edge. He said they hide just under the surface at the edge and unfortunately campers have lost some pets.

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June 06, 2013at7:21 am, shari groendyk said:

Wow! Very good reminders as we begin our summer! I walked out into the woods by our house the other day to inspect a recently fallen tree. Later in the day found a tiny tick on me, and the next morning, felt another that had attached itself to my back! Really need to be vigilant …

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June 06, 2013at6:56 am, Mike Wendland said:

The dog park referenced above is Orion Oaks Park in Orion Township, MI. They have a fairly large resident population of Massasauga rattlesnakes. They populate the grassy areas to the north and west of the park but snakes do sometimes slither into the wooded area inside the fence. Massasaguas are small and very timid snakes. But dogs like to poke their snouts where they shouldn’t and usually every year, a couple are bitten there.

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June 05, 2013at11:54 pm, Betty Bosse said:

Where is the dog park in Michigan that you were referring to in this article?

Reply

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