Amylia Vikner of Penticton is reunited with her dog, Meeka after being bitten by a rattlesnake recently, Dr. Jatinder Mundi successfully treated the dog who is recovering nicely.
The rattler bit Meeka on her face, prompting a near-death experience for the dog and an agonizing few hours for its owner, 20-year-old Amylia Vikner.
"It was a pretty scary experience," Vikner said Thursday. "A few minutes after the bite, Meeka started walking weird, the swelling really came up, and she seemed to be having trouble breathing."
Vikner was hiking with Meeka last Sunday on a trail near Keremeos, west of Penticton in the Similkameen Valley. All nearby veterinarian offices were closed for the holiday, and she was referred to the Burtch Animal Hospital in Kelowna.
By the time she'd hustled off the hiking trail and driven to Kelowna, nearly three hours had passed before Vikner arrived at the vet's. There, she got quite a shock when she learned how much treating Meeka might cost.
One vial of anti-venom treatment for an animal bitten by a rattler can cost $1,000, veterinarian Jatinder Mundi said. "And that treatment might actually require five or six vials," he said.
The cost being prohibitive for Vikner, she and Mundi opted instead for an aggressive treatment involving antibiotics, bloodwork, antihistamines, the application of fluids, and round-the-clock monitoring.
After four days of intensive care, Meeka was pronounced well enough to go home on Thursday afternoon.
"She's on the path to a full recovery," said Mundi.
The vet, who provided the treatment at a reduced cost to Vikner, says he hears from his colleagues that rattlesnakes bite dogs a couple times a year in the Valley.
A Ministry of Environment fact sheet on rattlesnakes says they bite three or four people annually in the province. One of 63 recorded bites on humans proved fatal.
In B.C., at the extreme northern end of their range, rattlesnakes hibernate for as long as seven months of the year.
"When active, they prefer dry, usually rocky and rugged landscapes with sparse or scattered tree cover," the government fact sheet says.
"Rattlesnakes are rather shy, retiring creatures which normally depart or seek cover when approached by people," the sheet says. "If cover is not readily available, they usually will give a warning rattle.
"People who encounter rattlesnakes along trails should detour around them and go on their way," the sheet says. "Rattlesnakes will not chase after people and cannot strike beyond the length of their body."
Rattlesnakes range in length from two to five feet and are most active from dusk to dawn. For her part, Vikner says she will keep Meeka on a very short leash next time.