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Rattlesnake Avoidance Training and Vaccine

Rattlesnakes are a fact of life, living here in Utah.  Prevention is the best course of action.

According to the Utah State University Extension, there are 31 species of snakes in Utah.  Seven of them are poisonous.

If you are out hiking or walking with your pet, chances are your pet is going to be curious of a snake and investigate.  Many times, they are bitten.  

Preventing Snake Bites

  • While out walking, controlling your dog with a leash may be your best safety device
  • Do not allow your dog to explore holes in the ground or dig under logs
  • Stay on open paths where there is an opportunity for snakes to be visible
  • Keep nighttime walks to a minimum; rattlers are nocturnal most of the year
  • If you hear a rattlesnake, keep your dog at your side until you locate the snake; then move away
  • Off-trail hiking with an unleashed dog may stir up a snake and you may be as   likely a victim as your dog
  •  If your dog seems unusually curious about "something" hidden in the grass, back off immediately until you know what it is.

There are classes for Rattlesnake Avoidance Training for your dog offered through www.snakesafe.com. To find out more about avoidance training, please visit the website.  

It is estimated that 150,000 dogs and cats get bitten by venomous snakes every year.  The same report states that it is 300 times more likely to be bitten by venomous snakes than to get rabies.  Rattlesnake bites are about 25 times more fatal in dogs than in humans. Even dogs that survive the bite can be permanently damaged.

Rattlesnake Vaccine

Most of our local veterinarians carry the Rattlesnake Vaccine that will slow down the process.  This vaccine is given twice the first year (the second vaccination should be given one month after the first vaccination) and then it is yearly thereafter.  Our investigation found that depending upon the vet, the prices for these shots range from $25.00 to $52.70.  Most of the veterinarians do not charge an office visit.  It is considered included in the vaccination.

The vaccine stimulates a dog to create his own antibodies to rattlesnake venom that will protect him from bites that happen in the future. The vaccine has been reported to both delay the effects and reduce the severity of rattlesnake bites and help dogs survive and recover more quickly with less pain and swelling.  A nationwide survey of 720 veterinary clinics showed about 90% of clinics that had treated vaccinated dogs for snake bite said that the vaccine works well or very well.

WHAT SHOULD YOU DO in the event a snake bites your dog?

  • Try to identify the snake by taking note of its size, color patterns and the presence or absence of a rattle at the end of the tail.
  • Look the dog over carefully for fang marks; there might be more than one set
  • If your dog is bitten, IMMEDIATELY seek veterinary assistance and keep him as quiet as possible.
  •  If your dog gets bitten, do not take out your pocketknife and cut Xs over the fang marks! Do not attempt to suck venom or aspirate through those X marks.

The veterinarian will monitor your pet and antihistamines may be administered. IV fluids may also be given to help prevent low blood pressure. Oxygen is given if needed. Antibiotics are used to prevent secondary infections. Pain medication is provided as necessary. Laboratory tests to check for bleeding problems and organ damage will be performed repeatedly. Blood transfusions may be necessary in cases of severe coagulopathies. The area above and below the bite wounds may be measured every 15 minutes to monitor the edema.

What is antivenin?

The antivenin is commercially processed to neutralize the effects of the injected venom.  A specific antibody is produced for each type of snake.   Your dog can receive an antivenin shot  which will help slow down the poisonous process but bitten dogs should be brought to the vet immediately after a bite regardless if they have had the rattlesnake vaccine or not.

Unfortunately, none of our local veterinarians carry the antivenin that is given after being bitten, as it is quite costly.  The antivenin is commercially processed to neutralize the effects of the injected venom.  A specific antibody is produced for each type of snake. 

According to Drs. Foster and Smith @ PetEducation.com this antivenin should be administered within 4 hours after the bite because it becomes less effective the longer you wait.

What happens when bitten by a venomous snake?

Venomous snakebites cause severe pain, cell death, numbness, diminished function and, occasionally, loss of a limb. Snake venoms inflict local effects such as inflammation, damage to blood vessel lining, clotting defects and localized tissue destruction. Some venom can also cause neurotoxicity and interfere with nerve transmission resulting in paralysis.

For more information, please see the following links: