When California resident Sunshine Fox took her two Labradoodles—Max and Yuzu—to the local dog park for some welcome play time, she had no idea that a short time later she’d be standing in a veterinarian’s office, wondering if Max would survive the night.
It was a beautiful day, and the park was safe, clean, and well appointed with sand and ample fencing. Sunshine chatted with friends, while their dogs romped and played along the fence line.
Then there was a sound. It was the unmistakable sound of a rattlesnake.
The dogs suddenly bolted toward the center of the park, and one of the other owners went to check the area where they’d been playing. Sure enough, near the fence, there was a rattler, and it seemed in a bad mood.
Sunshine and her friends quickly moved their pets to the “small dog side” of the park, which was unoccupied, and the animals resumed their play—all except Max, who sat alone under a tree. Sunshine knew this wasn’t normal for Max, so she went over to comfort him and offer him a treat. Max, however wasn’t interested—another troubling sign. His eyes seemed glassy, she said, so she took out her phone and looked up the signs of snakebite in dogs (which include sudden weakness, shaking, vomiting, and collapse).
He didn’t show any of the listed symptoms, but she’d had Max since he was a pup, and she knew something was wrong. She decided to check for a puncture wound anyway. At first, she found nothing. She then noticed blood on the bridge of Max’s nose. (Rattlesnake venom contains a powerful anticoagulant that can cause profound bleeding after a bite.) At that moment, Sunshine realized how serious the situation had become.
Sunshine and her friends kept Max calm and still and phoned the fire department. They agreed to come out; however, it would be some time before they could get there. Sunshine knew that any delay could be dangerous for Max. So, she scooped him up in her arms and hustled him to the car, while her friends wrangled Yuzu (who’s still just a pup) and brought him along. Sunshine rode in back with Yuzu and Max while her friend—a fish and game officer—drove quickly to the nearest vet.
As soon as Max arrived, the veterinary staff went into action, rendering emergency care. They confirmed the bite site, cleaned the wound, and began to administer anti-venom. The veterinarian explained that the next few hours were crucial for Max, and for the first time Sunshine was forced to consider the possibility that her beloved pet might not make it through.
“He’s been my rock,” Sunshine said. “I couldn’t imagine life without him.”
The vet explained that Max would need a second dose of anti-venom (costing between $1000 and $1200 per dose) and that he’d need to remain in the hospital overnight. Sunshine was also warned that there would also be extensive follow-up care—including antibiotics, steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, and blood work—and that the overall cost could be as high as $8000. She didn’t know how she’d afford that kind of a vet bill, but the idea of life without Max was unbearable, so she told the doctor to go ahead do whatever was necessary to save Max.
While the vet staff continued to work on Max, Sunshine called her mom to let he know what was happening. It was then her mom remembered something. “Didn’t you sign the dogs up for pet insurance?” she said. In all the chaos, Sunshine had forgotten, she’d enrolled Max and Yuzu a few weeks earlier. A sudden wave of relief washed over her.
“Now, I could just focus on getting my boy well,” she said.
As early as the next day, Max showed signs of improvement. The anti-venom was working! Eventually, he was released from the hospital and allowed to return home with Sunshine.
He came through the follow-up treatment well—the only sign of his ordeal being a sudden loss of fur around the bite site. (Rattlesnake venom can kill hair follicles in the region surrounding a bite.) But Sunshine says the fur is growing back, and Max has returned to his playful self. As a precaution, Sunshine is getting both dogs snake-avoidance training.
As for the cost, Sunshine’s pet insurance covered all but 10% of her post-deductible expenses, and the reimbursement was in her bank account within five days.
“I’ll never go without pet insurance again,” she said. “It’s a real life-saver.”
Cecily Kellogg is a pet lover who definitely has crazy cat lady leanings. Her pets are all shelter rescues, including the dog, who is scared of the cats. She spent eight years working as a Veterinary Technician before becoming a writer. Today she writes all over the web, including here at Figo.
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