PRATHER, California. (KGPE) – A Central Valley family is warning other pet owners after their dog was bitten and killed by a rattlesnake at their home.

Despite initial signs she was on the mend, the family’s three-year-old dog Jersey died over the weekend.

Jersey’s owner, Deborah Smith, wanted to share what happened to her dog in hopes of saving others.

“We picked Jersey up December 31st and took her home, she was our baby and has been our baby ever since,” said Smith.

For three sweet years, Smith says Jersey lived a happy life at her spacious home in Prather.

“She usually would run up here in these rocks.”

But last week while Jersey was playing outside by the rocks, she found herself snout to fang with a rattlesnake.

“I heard the gravel move and she came out from between the cars, and she was swollen and drooling, and she had been bit by a rattlesnake,” Smith said.

The Smith family rushed Jersey to Fresno Pet ER, where they found five rattlesnake bites and immediately started anti-venom treatment.

After three days in the hospital, Jersey was well enough to head home.

“She was so happy to be home, I’m glad we had those couple days with her,” Smith explained.

But a few days later, Jersey passed away. 

Most rattlesnake bites happen between April and October when snakes are more active.

“If you are in an area or you live where rattlesnakes tend to come out, be on guard right now, said Camala Siebeneicher, an animal care manager at Valley Animal Center.

Siebeneicher says after a rattlesnake bite, time could be the difference between life or death.

“Don’t think you have ten hours to get to the vet you have a couple hours to get to the vet,” said Siebeneicher.

Siebeneicher also says to call ahead to veterinarian clinics to make sure they have anti-venom before making the trip. Also – consider getting a yearly two-shot rattlesnake vaccine.

“A rattlesnake vaccine is not a preventative but what it does is that it buys you time that you need to get your pet to a hospital,” said Siebeneicher.

Deborah says she’s already made appointments for her other dogs.

And after seeing two rattlesnakes on their property so far this year, they hope their neighbors will do the same.

“We moved into their country and we realized that. We tried to do everything we could, you know?” said Smith.

The family says the venom must have gotten into Jersey’s bloodstream and caused her organs to fail. They are still facing a big vet bill.

A GoFundMe account has been set up to help the Smith family with Jersey’s medical expenses.