Will the Rattlesnake Vaccine Save Your Dog’s Life?

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Tony Maples Photography


According to Texas Parks and Wildlife, Texas is home to 15 potentially dangerous snake species. Many people with pets worry about them coming into contact with a venomous snake, most notably, a rattlesnake. Dogs have a natural curiosity and an innate instinct to protect their family – both of which can spell danger when snakes are sharing our outdoor spaces.  

Did you know that there’s a rattlesnake vaccine (currently only available for dogs and horses) available through your vet that can reduce the impact of a snakebite? You love your pets and want to spare them from injury and certain death. Also, the cost of treating a snakebite is incredibly expensive. So, should you consider getting the rattlesnake vaccine?

According to the manufacturer of the rattlesnake vaccine, upwards to 300,000 dogs are bitten by venomous snakes each year in the United States. With numbers like these, the rattlesnake vaccine seems like a no-brainer for Texas Hill Country pets, right?

How does the vaccine work?

Rattlesnake vaccine

Photo: Pixabay

According to Red Rock Biologics, the vaccine generates protective antibodies against the rattlesnake venom, which neutralizes the venom itself. They claim that dogs are reported to experience less pain and have a reduced risk of permanent injury from the bites when properly vaccinated.

The jury is still out on the effectiveness of the rattlesnake vaccine. Veterinarians contend that what the vaccine does is merely buy the pet owner a little extra time in getting to the pet hospital after a dog has been bitten. In some cases, the severity of the illness seems a bit lessened in dogs who have had the vaccine but vets are quick to warn that the vaccine is no replacement for prompt veterinary care in the event of a snake bite.

Does it work for other venomous snakes?

Water Moccasin

Photo: Flickr/Patrick Feller

Out of all of the venomous snakes in Texas, rattlesnakes are responsible for the majority of deaths in both human and animal victims. Copperheads are the most common snake to cause bites, due to their tendency to live close to human habitation. Water moccasins can be aggressive and have a higher tendency to deliver venom when they bite. The rattlesnake vaccine also gives protection against copperheads but is not effective against water moccasins or coral snakes.

What are the drawbacks of the vaccine?

Sick dog

Photo: Flickr/Albaluisa Gomez

The cost of the vaccine is a drawback for many pet owners. Ranging in price from $20 to $30, for some pet owners, the price for this twice-yearly vaccine is a deal-breaker. Also, there are questions about the health implications of the vaccine. Swelling and abscess at the point of injection is a common side effect of this particular vaccine. Some vets also have concerns surrounding the vaccine and focus on the fact that the vaccine manufacturer presents no real science behind the product.

Quick action is necessary, whether your dog has been vaccinated or not

Snake sniffing

Photo: Flickr/Tony Alter

It’s important not to “rest on your laurels” if you’ve gotten the vaccine for your pet. In the event of a snake bite, you still must seek immediate medical attention for your dog. The vaccine is believed to only buy a pet owner slightly more time to get to the vet.

Whether you decide on the rattlesnake vaccine or not, vets recommend keeping your dog on a leash when on hikes and avoiding dense grass. Homeowners should remove brush and keep their grass mowed to keep snakes at bay in the yard. Experts also recommend conditioning your pets not to play with snakes and consider snake avoidance training to ensure the health and safety of your four-legged family members.