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Q: I hike with my dogs in the forest all the time and since summer is coming, I am worried about rattlesnakes. Is there anything I can do to protect them?

A: Summer in Arizona does bring with it the risk of running into a rattlesnake. Of the 17 different types of rattlesnakes in Arizona, the western diamondback in the most common and is the most likely source of a snake bite in this state.

Rattlesnakes are cold blooded, so during colder months they usually go into a type of hibernation until the temperature rises. This means that in areas where snakes are likely to have gone into hibernation it is important to remember that when the temperature rises the risk of running into a snake also increases.

In general, snakes are not aggressive and prefer to avoid any conflict with humans so when a snake bite does happen it is typically because a snake has been surprised.

For dogs, there is an even greater risk as they are lower to the ground and tend to have their nose down taking in all the smells. In areas where the risk of running into a snake is very high, such as the lower deserts, rattlesnake training for your dog might be a good idea.

Rattlesnake training involves training your dog to have an inherent aversion to rattlesnakes. So, instead of becoming curious and approaching a snake, they will learn to avoid the situation.

There is also a rattlesnake vaccine that you can consider for your dogs. This vaccine is made to help lower the clinical effects of the rattlesnake venom. The vaccine does not prevent the need for veterinary medical attention after a bite but can slow the toxic process of the venom and reduce the damage done by the venom. This vaccine is only recommended for dogs that are at very high risk of coming into contact with a rattlesnake.

Q: I’ve been hearing conflicting information about buying food and supplements from the online stores. They are so much cheaper, so I am confused as to why I would not buy all my pet’s needs online versus at my veterinarian’s office.

A: This is a topic that comes up in our clinic almost on a daily basis, and I addressed it recently in this column.

I understand your frustration and, as a price shopper myself, I absolutely understand the incentive to try to get the lowest price for a product to help with budgeting.

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As we all know, the online stores can be cheaper because they can buy in bulk and then offer that discount to the consumer. Unfortunately, with all the choices that are out there nowadays, it is easy to be tempted by the cheap price of goods online but my advice is to look at the big picture.

This pricing is difficult for brick and mortar stores to compete with as they have overhead costs that inhibit the lower pricing. The large commercial online stores also often get you signed up with discounts and incentives but then slowly increase the prices over time.

However, there is a real concern within the veterinary community about the quality of food that is being given to our pet population. With all the issues with product quality these days, it is recommended to make sure you are educating yourself on the source of the products that you’re purchasing online.

The good news is that we in the veterinary community have been able to start offering our own online stores through our websites. This means we can offer the same pricing but will stand behind the quality of the product. By using your local veterinary online stores, you are not only supporting your local veterinarian but you can also trust in the quality of the products offered.

At the very least, we can offer a competitive online alternative to your pet’s needs and not charge the higher prices that you see at the clinics.

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Dr. Julianne Miller is a Flagstaff veterinarian. She can be reached at drmiller@canyonpet.com.

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