Florida family makes cross-county journey to save dog bitten by rattlesnake

A family made a cross-county trek in central Florida to save their dog that was bitten by a rattlesnake. 

Thankfully, the pup, Abby, survived and is back home with her family a week after the attack on June 9. After the terrifying ordeal, her family is speaking out to spread awareness and advise pet owners if they find themselves in a similar situation. 

The attack happened in St. Cloud, but they had to drive more than an hour to Melbourne because not every vet has anti-venom on hand. The emergency vet, Animal Specialty and Emergency Center, on Eau Gallie, was open and had treatment ready. 

"I let the dogs out, and within five minutes, all of them were barking," said Sayre, who has six other dogs, including Abby. 

They all spotted the snake, but Sayer didn’t know any of them had been attacked immediately. 

After spotting the snake by their family’s cabin in St. Cloud, the family quickly noticed Abby wasn’t acting like herself. 

"She was just pouring drool, and she’ll drool but not that much," she said. 

She was bitten in her ear, and quickly, her face started to swell. The entire family and friends jumped into action, calling frantically to find a vet who could help save Abby’s life. 

"I was just trying to keep her awake because she kept dozing off. I kept her calm, but I just wanted her to stay awake," said Abby’s mother. 

The closest open vet they could find that had anti-venom on hand was more than an hour away, in Melbourne. Abby was bitten around 7 a.m., and they didn’t make it to the vet until 9 a.m. on June 9.

"It can be fatal, and it can be fatal pretty quickly," said Dr. Marissa Rutt, an emergency veterinarian at the Animal Specialty & Emergency Center of Brevard.

Rutt was the first to see Abby. They quickly gave her anti-venom, but she didn’t improve right away.

"She needed multiple, multiple vials of treatment," said the doctor. 

Her family was there holding her paw and getting ready to say goodbye.

"We don’t know if she’s going to make it," said Sayre. "We thought this might be the last time."

Finally, after the seventh vial of anti-venom, Abby turned a corner and started to get better. 

"It literally binds to the venom in their blood and helps to remove it from their system," said Rutt. 

Abby spent a day at the emergency vet and the treatment cost around $6,000. A week later, Abby still has some swelling around her neck, but at least she’s alive.

"If anybody knows us at all, it’s that we love our pets more than people, and they’re our family," said Sayre. 

Rattlesnake bites are more common during the summer. Dr. Rutt says no over-the-counter medicine can help stop the spread. Minutes matter when a rattlesnake strikes and venom starts to take over. 

"Have a plan. Don’t ever think that can’t happen to you, or I live in the city; this can’t happen because it can," she said. "It can happen anywhere."

Having a plan means having an emergency vet in your phone contact who is ready to go and has anti-venom on hand. Look into that before you’re in a crisis! Also, every case is different, but Dr. Rutt says one hour from when the snake bites to when you make it to the vet gives your pet the best chance of survival. 

Abby's family has started a GoFundMe to help with medical expenses for this unexpected emergency. You can access the site HERE