It’s Rattlesnake Season!

There are thirty-eight species of snakes found in South Carolina and five of these – the coral snake, eastern diamondback rattlesnake, timber (or canebrake) rattlesnake, pigmy rattlesnake, copperhead and cottonmouth – are venomous.

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, so dogs experience less pain and swelling after a snake bite. 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.

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.

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.

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. The vaccine is an aid in preventing injury and death from a rattlesnake bite. It is designed to stimulate a dog’s natural immune system to create antibodies to rattlesnake venom. A snakebite is STILL an emergency-the vaccine does not give total immunity. You should still have your dog treated at an emergency clinic if bitten. The closest one to Magley Animal Hospital that carries the antivenin is the Animal Emergency Clinic at 393 Woods Lake Rd, Greenville, SC 29607. Please call to make sure they have it on hand before traveling there (864) 232-1878

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.

The vaccine will not protect against coral snakes, cottonmouth snakes, or the Mojave rattlesnake. It has limited protection against the eastern diamondback rattlesnake.

Due to the increased interest by pet owners and the prevalence of snakes in this area, we are offering this vaccine.

To schedule an appointment for the vaccine please call us at (864) 647-7877 or click here

For more information, please visit Red Rock Biologics, Rattlesnake Vaccine FAQs