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August 05, 2009

Rattlesnake Vaccine

Did you know that there is a vaccine for dogs against the venom of this bad boy? That's right! We live in an area where there are [Western Rattlesnakes (Crotalis viridis)]. In our clinic we have been recommending vaccination against rattlesnake venom for 4 years now. Part of our clientele and their dogs live in areas of the county that are particularly prone to rattlesnakes. Every summer we usually see half a dozen dogs come in with snake bite. Typically a dog that has been bitten by a rattlesnake comes in and is pretty ill --swelling, pain, lethargy, fever, and infection -- are all symptoms. Most dogs will survive a bite if treated soon and appropriately. The most dangerous bites are to the head and neck as swelling is a big concern. However, if the dog has been vaccinated for the rattlesnake venom, these symptoms are MUCH less severe -- there may be a little swelling and pain, but less.

We have been offering this vaccine from [Red Rock Biologics] and we like how well it works. The protocol for vaccination is a two dose vaccination a month apart to begin with, then yearly (usually in the late spring when the snake are about to come out). It takes 4-6 weeks for the initial dose to be effective. I should point out that once your dog is vaccinated, you should still bring the dog in to the veterinarian after a snake bite, but the urgency of treatment is not so immediate. The amount of venom that is released during a bite varies greatly, and sometimes the bite is "dry" -- or no venom is released. However, the fangs of the snake often harbor bacteria and the wounds from the bite will become infected, and with the disruption of cells that the venom can cause, the infection can be bad. Thus, we usually put a dog on antibiotic therapy to offset the possible infection.

There is some controversy on the Internet about the efficacy of the vaccine and whether or not it is even necessary. All I can say is that at our clinic, we have noticed that it does help. And our clients that have dogs that get bitten repeatedly summer after summer notice the difference too. We have not observed any bad reactions to the vaccine itself in any of the dogs we have vaccinated. We do not recommend that every dog get vaccinated, only the dogs that live in areas where rattlesnakes are common and the likelihood of getting bitten is high.

For information on the vaccine --

For information about Western Rattlesnakes: