THE PROBLEM OF RATTLESNAKE BITES:
Venomous snakes bite about 150,000 dogs and cats every year. Dogs and cats are about 20 times more likely to be bitten by venomous snakes than people and are about 25 times more likely to die if bitten. A dog or cat is about 300 times more likely to be bitten by a venomous snake than to get rabies. Snake bites are life threatening, extremely painful, expensive to treat, and can cause permanent damage even when the dogs survive.
Initially, a dog should receive two subcutaneous doses about 30 days apart. Dogs over 100 lbs or under 25 lbs may benefit from a three dose initial series. It is best to give vaccination boosters about 30 days before beginning of exposure to rattlesnakes. Protection peaks about 30 to 45 days after boosters and lasts about six months.
SAFETY OF VACCINE:
Rattlesnake vaccine has been on the market since 2003 and is a standard of veterinary care for dogs at high risk for rattlesnake bites. It is listed in the American Animal Health Association’s 2006 canine vaccination guidelines. It is conditionally licensed by the USDA and is recommended in over 4,000 veterinary hospitals nationwide. It is highly recommended by VPI, the largest pet insurance company in America. Over 500,000 doses have been used in over 100,000 dogs. Antivenin is not contraindicated because the vaccine uses no horse or sheep products.
Adverse events are reported in far fewer than one percent of all vaccinated dogs. Most of these side effects are mild and need no veterinary care. Injection site lumps can be treated with hot moist compresses, antibiotics, and pain relief medication if necessary. Systemic reactions (typically flu like symptoms) are reported in fewer than one in 3,000 vaccinates and usually self-resolve in two to three days.
Reported benefits include delay of onset of symptoms, less severe symptoms, faster recovery times, and lower mortality rates. About 90% of veterinary clinics nationwide report that the vaccine works well or very well, about 5% of clinics report mixed results, about 3% of clinics see no apparent effect and about 2% of clinics are undecided. Though many vaccinated dogs won't need additional veterinary care, rattlesnake bites can be complex and should still be evaluated by a veterinarian immediately.
A vaccinated dog's resistance to rattlesnake venom can be overcome with enough venom or special circumstances. These circumstances include very small dogs, very large snakes, multiple snake bites to the same dog, or some snake species that the vaccine has little or no protection against.
SNAKE SPECIES PROTECTION:
The vaccine will not protect against coral snakes, cottonmouth snakes, or the Mojave rattlesnake. It has limited protection against the eastern diamondback rattlesnake. Red Rock has conducted a survey and received hundreds of rattlesnake bite reports from vet clinics across the country indicating that the vaccine helps protect dogs from many different species and subspecies of rattlesnakes.