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Care Guide

About Care Guides[x] These care guides are written to help your clients understand common conditions, tests, and procedures, as well as to provide basic information about pet care. They are based on the most up-to-date, documented information, recommendations, and guidelines available in the United States at the time of writing. Pharmaceutical product licensing, availability, and usage recommendations are based on US product information. Use the Download Handout button to generate a PDF for printing or e-mailing to your clients.

Rattlesnake Vaccine

    • The rattlesnake vaccine can help a dog’s immune system neutralize venom if the dog is bitten by a rattlesnake.
    • The vaccine is designed specifically to counteract the venom of the western diamondback rattlesnake, but the vaccine may also be effective against similar venom of other rattlesnake species.
    • In the first year of administering the vaccine, it should be given in two doses, approximately 1 month apart, followed by every spring, depending on the dog’s exposure to snakes.
    • If your pet is bitten by any snake, take your pet to a veterinarian immediately.

    Each year, about 150,000 dogs and cats are bit by venomous snakes in the United States. Most bites occur during warmer months (between April and October in the northern hemisphere). Snakebites are painful, and the injected venom can result in tissue swelling, impaired blood clotting, shock, and sometimes death. Treatment may include antivenin (a serum that neutralizes the venom), pain medications, IV fluids, and antibiotics to control secondary infections. Even if the pet recovers, there may be long-term complications.

    What Is a Rattlesnake Vaccine?

    The rattlesnake vaccine is specifically designed to produce antibodies against the venom of the western diamondback rattlesnake. The vaccine may also be effective against other snakes with similar venom, such as the sidewinder, timber rattlesnake, and copperhead. The vaccine does not protect against the venom of water moccasins or coral snakes.

    The vaccine works by creating protective antibodies that help neutralize venom. Dogs that are bitten may also require less antivenin, which can be fairly costly and may produce side effects. Factors that can influence the effectiveness of the vaccine include the location of the bite, the type of snake, and the amount of venom injected.

    After the first vaccination, the dog should receive a booster approximately 1 month later, followed by annual boosters in the spring before peak rattlesnake season.

    Does My Dog Need This Vaccine?

    If you live in or near a rattlesnake habitat or you plan on taking your dog hiking or camping in a rattlesnake habitat, it’s a good idea to consult your veterinarian about the rattlesnake vaccine. Because any vaccine can produce side effects, it’s important to discuss the risks and benefits of vaccination with your veterinarian.

    What Should I Do if My Dog Is Bitten By a Snake?

    Any snakebite is an emergency. Snakes that aren’t venomous can still inflict painful bites that result in infection. If a snakebite occurs--even if your dog has been vaccinated—he or she should be seen by a veterinarian immediately.

    If the veterinarian suspects that a venomous snake is involved, a specific type of antivenin is needed for each type of snake. So it’s important for you to know the type of snake that bit your pet. Being familiar with the snakes that are commonly in your area can help you identify the snake so that your veterinarian can determine the best treatment.

    What Can I Do to Prevent Snakebites?

    When hiking with your dog, stay on open paths and keep your dog on a leash. Don’t allow your pet to dig under rocks or logs. If you live in a rattlesnake habitat, clear brush and firewood away from your house, and keep grass mowed.

    What Are the Benefits of the Vaccine?

    Rattlesnakes can inject potent venom that spreads throughout a dog’s body, causing serious, and sometimes fatal, damage. The rattlesnake vaccine is designed to stimulate a dog’s immune system to neutralize the venom immediately. This can result in milder signs and reduce or eliminate the need for antivenin, thereby lowering treatment costs.

    Reviewed December 2011