By Chino Valley Animal Hospital
Rattlesnakes live in a variety of habitats. They are found in wetlands, deserts and forests, from sea level to mountain elevations. Rattlesnakes are most active in warmer seasons, from Spring to Autumn. In southern latitudes they are occasionally found year-round.
Dogs can encounter a rattlesnake anytime they are in rattlesnake habitat. You and your dog may live in rattlesnake habitat. Perhaps you travel through or frequently visit places where rattlesnakes are found. Maybe rattlesnakes are around when you take your dog hiking, camping or hunting. Like people, dogs may stumble over the location of a snake by accident. Curiosity or a protective instinct can place your dog at risk. In each case, vaccination helps to protect your dog. When injected into an unprotected dog, the toxic components of snake venom are very painful and can have serious consequences. Even if your dog survives the immediate effects of a rattlesnake bite, it can be permanently injured.
Costs of snakebite treatment may include hospitalization, intravenous fluids or other medicines. Vaccination can reduce the overall effects of snakebite and decrease other treatment costs as well.
The first year your dog is vaccinated, it should receive two doses of vaccine spaced one month apart. Subsequent booster doses are recommended annually in the Spring, or about a month before you take your dog into rattlesnake habitat.
Protective antibodies made by your dog in response to the vaccine start neutralizing venom immediately. This means vaccinated dogs should experience less pain and a reduced risk of permanent injury from a rattlesnake bite.
Even after your dog is vaccinated against rattlesnake venom, it should be taken to a veterinarian for evaluation and care as soon as possible following snakebite. Even bites by non-venomous snakes can lead to serious infections and antibiotic treatment may be needed.