Peak rattlesnake season will soon be rapidly upon us as the weather begins to again turn warm!

Here in Arizona, rattlesnakes start to become active as the weather warms up and they are the most active during the summer months. Encounters can occur anytime your dog is in a rattlesnake habitat. These areas may include your own backyard, favorite hiking or walking trails, campsites, hunting trips, parks, and any other areas where natural desert habitat can be found. Our beloved pets are very curious and protective and any encounter with a rattlesnake could place your pet at risk for a bite.

A rattlesnake bite will in many cases result in injection of the toxic venom into the bloodstream as well as introduction of a significant local bacterial infection into the bite wound itself. Like in humans, snakebites in dogs are ALWAYS a medical emergency and medical attention should be sought immediately. A bite is extremely painful and envenomation could result in serious injury and even death, especially in a dog that has not received a vaccination against snakebite. The venom could also result in significant organ damage and interfere with the body’s ability to clot blood. If the bite occurs near the head or neck, swelling could become so severe that it interferes with breathing and could be life threatening. Bites on the body can sometimes be more rapidly toxic as the venom can enter the bloodstream and reach critical organs quickly. Treatment generally includes hospitalizations, IV fluids, pain medication, antibiotics and anti-venom. Many bitten pets will need to be hospitalized for days and costs could run into the thousands of dollars in severe cases.

Fortunately, there is a vaccine available that we currently offer at Raintree Pet Resort + Medical Center. The vaccine works by stimulating the immune system to produce antibodies against the venom. These antibodies help to neutralize the venom after a bite and reduces the pain and risk of permanent injury. Vaccinated dogs will typically experience less swelling and tissue damage and experience faster recovery and a shorter hospital stay in most cases will be able to handle two to three times the venom compared to a non vaccinated dog. It is important to note that the vaccine is not 100% effective at eliminating all negative side effects from envenomation, but it will greatly improve their chances for recovery and survival.

Here in Arizona, two doses of the vaccine are recommended with a month in between each dose for the initial series, in a previously  non vaccinated dog. The last dose should be given in March which is approximately 4-6 weeks prior to the start of peak snake season. A dog that has previously been vaccinated should receive a booster every March. Immunity will last for approximately 6 months after the booster vaccine, so in dogs that will have a high risk of exposure to snakes year round (ie. hunting dogs, traveling dogs where snakes are more active in the “off” season) a second booster vaccine should be considered 6 months later.

Please call 480-991-3371 for more information and to schedule your dog’s rattlesnake vaccination. It could save your dog’s life!!