Rattlesnake Vaccine: What You Should Consider
Here is a question we have heard any number of time: “We like to spend time outdoors with our dogs and are concerned about rattlesnakes. We are thinking about having our dogs vaccinated with the rattlesnake vaccine. What is your opinion?”
As you no doubt already know, we are more cautious about vaccines than many vets. After looking at the science we agree with a number of the experts and do not offer the rattlesnake vaccine that is currently available:
* The AVMA and the AAHA canine vaccine task force do not generally recommend this vaccine as the "information regarding the efficacy of rattlesnake vaccine is insufficient", it "may produce adverse events with limited benefit" and snake bites generally "respond readily to treatment".
* According to Dr. Jean Dodds, one of the foremost experts in the world on vaccines and vaccination protocol, "the rattlesnake vaccine is a killed, inactivated product that we've been told will protect against some breeds of rattlesnake, but not all and not against the most common form of rattlesnake in our area. (Dr. Dodds is based in Southern California) As it is not a highly purified snake extract, it may cause adverse reactions, some quite serious with sloughing of skin and muscle at and below the injection site".
* UC Davis states that "although a rattlesnake vaccine may be potentially useful for dogs that frequently encounter rattlesnakes, currently we are unable to recommend this vaccine...". Owners of vaccinated dogs must still seek immediate veterinary care in the event of a bite because the type of snake is often unknown, antibody titers developed by the vaccine may be overwhelmed in the face of severe envenomation, and an individual dog may lack sufficient protection depending on its response to the vaccine and the time elapsed since it was administered. The product license is currently conditional as efficacy and potency have not been fully demonstrated. Based on existing evidence the UC Davis VMTH does not recommend routine vaccination for dogs and the vaccine is not stocked in their pharmacy.