Dog Rattlesnake Vaccine – Is It Effective?
In some locales, the possibility of your dog getting bit by a rattlesnake is a real possibility. Worst case scenario – is there a dog rattlesnake vaccine and is it effective?
There are few things more unsettling than taking your dog for a walk and stumbling upon a rattlesnake. While rattlesnakes typically do not bite if they are left alone, you never know what might happen if your dog catches a snake off-guard or wanders into the snake’s territory.
Snake bites happen, and they can be very dangerous, depending on the snake. This is why some dog owners choose to have their pooch treated with the dog rattlesnake vaccine. Keep reading to learn more about the vaccine and whether it is effective.
What is the Dog Rattlesnake Vaccine?
The dog rattlesnake vaccine is produced by Red Rock Biologics and it is designed to encourage a dog’s body to product protective antibodies against rattlesnake venom. The vaccine was specifically designed to protect against the Western Diamondback Rattlesnake but may also be effective against species with similar venom such as timber rattlesnakes, sidewinders, and copperheads. It is not effective against coral snakes or water moccasins.
How Does the Dog Rattlesnake Vaccine Work?
Like a typical vaccine, the rattlesnake works by triggering your dog’s immune system to produce antibodies against rattlesnake venom. The idea is that, if your dog should be bitten, his immune system will already have antibodies in place to neutralize the venom. Dogs who have had the rattlesnake vaccine experience less pain and swelling following a bite, and they also require less antivenom during treatment. This is important because the antivenom is expensive and it can cause side effects.
If you choose to have your dog vaccinated, you’ll need to get him a booster about a month after the first vaccination. From there, he’ll need an annual booster in the spring during peak rattlesnake season when the risk for a bite is highest. The protective effect kicks in about 4 to 6 weeks after vaccination and declines in efficacy over time. The efficacy of the vaccine can also be affected by the location of the bite, the type of rattlesnake, and the amount of venom.
Should You Have Your Dog Vaccinated?
In the end, it is your choice whether you have your dog vaccinated or not, but you should definitely take your veterinarian’s advice into consideration. If your dog suffers from a chronic illness or an immunosuppressive condition, it is not recommended that he take the rattlesnake vaccine. If your dog has a history of reacting poorly to vaccines, there is a high risk for a reaction and you may not want to give it to him.
Something else to consider is that some veterinarians are concerned about the safety and efficacy of the rattlesnake vaccine, claiming that there is no real science behind it. While the idea behind the vaccine may be a good one, it doesn’t completely protect your dog against venom – he will still need to be treated with antivenom following a bite. You should also consider the fact that there are no controlled studies for the product and the product is not backed by any reputable specialists.
A rattlesnake bite is approximately 25 times more fatal in dogs than in humans and, even if your dog does survive, there is the risk that he will be permanently damaged. If you live in a high-risk area, you may want to consider having your dog vaccinated but be sure to do your own research and talk to your veterinarian to see if it is the right choice.