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Posted on 04-11-2014

Rattlesnakes and Rattlesnake Vaccines!

In Colorado, the month of April typically marks the beginning of “rattlesnake season,” as spring time brings about increased rattlesnake activity as they emerge from winter hibernation.  As temperatures rise, these snakes will begin to emerge from their winter dens and can be found sunning themselves on areas of rocks and pavement in the midday sun. Later in the summer, they spend the hottest part of the day under rocks or in the shade.

The Prairie Rattlesnake is one of only two venomous snakes native to Colorado. Despite its name, the Prairie Rattlesnake can be found in the foothills as high as 7,500 feet.  In Colorado Springs, many of our favorite and most popular hiking trails and fishing holes are home to the Prairie Rattlesnake. Some of the areas where rattlesnake sightings commonly occur include: Ute Valley Park; Pulpit Rock Open Space; Quail Lake; Red Rocks Canyon; Cheyenne Mountain State Park; and Garden of the Gods.

If you are concerned about the threat of rattlesnakes, there is a rattlesnake vaccine available for dogs but it is something that should be discussed with your veterinarian as it is not recommended for every dog, and administration is determined on a case by case basis.  The vaccine is meant for use in healthy dogs to help decrease the severity of rattlesnake bites.  Benefits of the vaccines are that it reduces the amount of pain and swelling experienced by your pet(s), provides faster recovery times, and allows pet owners more time to get to a veterinary hospital. 

The vaccine works by stimulating your dog’s immune system to produce antibodies against rattlesnake toxin. Dogs need to be inoculated at least 30 days before any potential exposure to rattlesnakes (full antibody protection is not reached until 30 days following the vaccination), and should get a booster shot every six months thereafter.  Pet owners should be aware that not all vaccines are 100% effective. Even if a vaccinated dog is bitten, the situation should be treated as an emergency and the owner should seek veterinarian care as soon as possible.

At Bear Creek Veterinary Care, we do not routinely recommend this vaccine unless your pet will be hiking and/or camping in a rattlesnake endemic area, or you are planning to be in a known rattlesnake area without a veterinary clinic nearby.  In these scenarios, it would be best to discuss the pros and cons of vaccinating your pet with one of our doctors. 

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