Local veterinarians say summertime is prime season for snakes -- and if you aren't careful, you or your pet could be in dangerous territory.

Melissa Mays, DVM is a veterinarian at RIVER, the emergency animal hospital in Chattanooga. She said several pets have been coming in with snake bites each week.

Snake bites tend to be more severe this time of year, Mays said, because snakes are coming out of hibernation and the young ones don't know how to control their venom.

"The majority of (snake bites) are not life threatening, but I think it's because owners are so astute of what's going on and the urgency of getting them in here," Mays said.

She helped treat Saki, a small collie mix, after a large Copperhead snake bit her while hiking at Big Soddy Gulf earlier this week.

"Although they are venomous, if you're going to get bit by a snake, you would rather be bit by a copperhead versus something like a rattlesnake," said Mays.

She explained that Saki is a typical snake bite patient with fang puncture wounds, swelling, and discolored tissue that's starting to die. It's not a great sight to see, but vets say Saki's bite was on the lower scale of seriousness.

Antivenom, which can cost $900 per treatment, wasn't required for Saki's bite, but the bill for her hospital stay plus medication is still over $600.

Jane Indyk said she stepped over a rattlesnake while hiking with friends several weeks ago near Big Soddy Gulf.

"It had coiled up and it was rattling. The other people screamed and jumped," said Indyk.

The close call didn't stop Indyk, an avid hiker, from enjoying the outdoors, but the encounter keeps her alert while in the wilderness.

"Just be aware as you're hiking," she said.

That advice counts for people -- and their pets.

While most snake bites are not life threatening, timing can be critical. Mays said it doesn't take much for some minor swelling to take a turn for the worst.

"Overnight while you're sleeping, if their blood pressure drops, or they start having bleeding tendencies, that can be a life threatening condition," she said.

Vets say the number one sign of a snake bite is swelling on your pet's face or legs. Many dangerous snakes are found in wooded areas, and are most prevalent up in the mountains. Mays reports most of the pets they treat for snake bites were bit on Lookout Mtn. or Signal Mtn.