Anyone using rattlesnake vaccine?

neffa3

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I'm not sure I understand the "insurance" comments. The vaccine has never been proven to be effective. There's anecdotal info on both sides. Our vet doesn't recommend it. That's not any kind of insurance I would buy.

Growing up and in the family we've had dogs that died from bites and ones that didn't. The avoidance class seems like a better route. I first preference is a hard frost.

 

ringer

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Dec 1, 2004
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I just killed diamondback #2 in my back yard and he about got my dog and me. He is in the jar with tanning juice now. Our vet is good with the shot and we figure it doesn't cost much so why not. There was a big one in the middle of the dog park Sunday and I offered to kill it and had 5 old ladies screaming at me not to hurt the snake. Go figure. They called the fire department. Crazy. If they are in the yard or garage they are dead. It costs thousands of dollars for antivenin for a dog.
 

Hem

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Vaccines give a dog a fighting chance.
Sound vaguely familiar?

No available ventilators in Bozeman currently.
Huh?
 
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huntinsonovagun

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NE Oklahoma
Do that many dogs die from rattlesnake bites? We’ve had 3 different dogs gets hit by timbers and diamondbacks, usually in the face. They swell up really bad and get sick for several days, but so far none died from it.

Just curious how often a dog would die from a rattlesnake bite. I will say they seem to get “sicker” from the rattlesnake bites than from the copperheads and cottonmouths.
 

manitou1

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After I had four rattlesnake encounters this spring and speaking with our vet, she recommended it. Her vaccinated dog survived a rattlesnake bite last year. The day before I took our two in for their second vax, our vet treated four different dogs bitten in one day. One of the pups didn't make it.
$25.00 is cheap if it helps enhance my dog's chances.
 

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manitou1

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Do that many dogs die from rattlesnake bites? We’ve had 3 different dogs gets hit by timbers and diamondbacks, usually in the face. They swell up really bad and get sick for several days, but so far none died from it.

Just curious how often a dog would die from a rattlesnake bite. I will say they seem to get “sicker” from the rattlesnake bites than from the copperheads and cottonmouths.
According to our vet, many are dry bites (20-30%) with little to no venom administered. The ones to worry about are wet bites.
 
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MTGomer

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I just killed diamondback #2 in my back yard and he about got my dog and me. He is in the jar with tanning juice now. Our vet is good with the shot and we figure it doesn't cost much so why not. There was a big one in the middle of the dog park Sunday and I offered to kill it and had 5 old ladies screaming at me not to hurt the snake. Go figure. They called the fire department. Crazy. If they are in the yard or garage they are dead. It costs thousands of dollars for antivenin for a dog.
I’ll try to find it and post it but I read a scientific paper a while back that basically said that if a snake is relocated outside of its home range, it basically slithers around and dies a slow, miserable death of starvation.
 

MarvB

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₵tral Oar-e-gun
@MTGomer i’d love a link if you find it. When I worked down in Cali we had a BUNCH of buzz tails around the power plant. The City wouldn’t allow the staff to take a shovel to them, were told to cover (if possible) with a 5 gal bucket until animal control could come to relocate them! WTF?? What a waste of time, money, and put more
than one gov employee at risk dancing around a snake with a friggin bucket🤯
 

Gellar

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I’ll try to find it and post it but I read a scientific paper a while back that basically said that if a snake is relocated outside of its home range, it basically slithers around and dies a slow, miserable death of starvation.
True statement. Rattlesnakes imprint on the den they are born at and do not do well elsewhere.

Edit to add:studies show they do ok after relocating until it’s time to hibernate. They don’t survive hibernation. I am only familiar with timber and massasagua. I don’t know if this is true with other rattle snakes, but I suspect it is.
 
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tim629

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upstate NY
i'm on the east coast so not as many snakes as some of you but looking at traveling into some more snake prone areas with our dogs: about 25% of snake bites are dry, i think it said less than 10% of snake bites are fatal.

where we are taking the dogs horseback riding cell reception is spotty and it's not very populated, so going in the fall but still a risk. we're going to carry a vial of antivenom with us (perks of being related to the right people and marrying someone confident to administer it) might be overkill but if we didn't have the option would probably go the vaccine route as unless it causes harm it's a small price to pay to buy some time
 

pddubs

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Apr 28, 2016
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Anyone know any spots where there are a high density of rattlers around bozeman? I would like to harvest one for a hat band, would appreciate any ideas where to find a few. PM me if you'd prefer not to put it out for the public to see. Thanks.
 

JohnBob_3

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Okay, I will weigh in here and will admit my bias and expertise at the very beginning. First I apologize for the lengthy read if you go all the way to the end. I was the global R&D lead for dog and cat vaccines at one of the top animal health firms in the world earlier in my career. I am trained in immunology and in particular vaccine development. First and foremost, the "vaccine" being discussed has only a "conditional" license from USDA-Center for Veterinary Biologics. That means it has not be definitively proven to be effective. It is comprised of an inactivated venom preparation from Western Diamondback rattlesnakes. Rattlesnake venom is a very complex mixture of proteins, many of which have enzymatic activity. The thought behind the toxoid is that it retains enough of the shape of the proteins to induce production of antibodies in the dog that will bind up and neutralize venom proteins when a dog gets bitten and envenomated. All that is good and fine with standard immunological theory and the company that developed this has shown that mice inoculated with the toxoid indeed develop protection against the venom. This has never been demonstrated in dogs and Red Rock Biologics does not want to do a study in dogs. We have no idea just how much antibody response the toxoid induces in a 40-50 lb. dog. There are two retrospective studies published in the scientific literature covering over 500 dogs that were bitten by rattlesnakes. The conclusion of both studies was the same, there was no difference in either morbidity or mortality in dogs that had not or had been inoculated with the rattlesnake venom toxoid. My deduction is that there is no scientific evidence that this "vaccine" is effective in protecting dogs against rattlesnake bite.

That said, there are quite a few prairie rattlesnakes in my area and places I hunt. So, against my better judgement and after consulting my veterinarian, I decided to spend a few bucks and get my two dogs inoculated (total for the two getting both doses was $140). I saw it as a cost/benefit aspect that was positive as the toxoid is supposedly safe to inoculate and it just may offer some protection. Both dogs had no adverse response to the first inoculation. However, about 10 days after the second inoculation both dogs have injection site reactions....something neither dog has had before with any other inoculation. One dog has a nodule on his shoulder that is about 1" in diameter with swelling across the site about 3" wide - he has had a lot of vaccines over his 7+ years of life. The other dog has a small nodule about the size of a dime and no swelling in the surrounding tissue. She is not quite 2 yo. The injection site reactions hopefully will totally resolve with time. What do the injection site reactions really mean? Most likely they are indicative of an immune response to the inoculation and may represent an indirect indication of a good antibody response - but, guarantee absolutey nothing with that respect.

I know people who swear by the use of the rattlesnake toxoid to protect their dogs. I also know people who won't use it despite being aware of the product availability. I know scientifically there is no justification that it is effective in dogs with the data submitted to USDA for licensure (remember, it is only "conditionally" licensed) and I also know that carefully evaluated (with heavy duty statistical comparisons) dog snake bite cases shows no statistically significant advantage to using the rattlesnake toxoid in protecting dogs against problems with rattlesnake bite or even death from it. Will I get my dogs the annual booster recommended? At this point, I don't see a justification and have all expectations that they would again develop injection site reactions which can sometimes never fully resolve, so most likely not. I have done at this point the most I can for my dogs with regard to rattlesnakes and I have to be satisfied with that for this season.

As for snake avoidance training, I have run both my dogs through that in a clinic using live Western Diamondback rattlesnakes. One dog is deaf so he was at a deficit to receive maximal benefit, but he quickly learned to avoid them. The other dog also learned quickly. I have extended that training with a refresher with a very large bull snake caught in my yard. Neither dog wanted anything to do with that snake and one would not come within 50 yards once he realized what I had. The other dog also stayed a very healthy distance away at 20 yards. So, if properly exposed to snakes in an avoidance training, it can be very effective in discouraging curiosity in snakes. The flip side is a dog running in the field maybe in tall grass; will it scent or hear the snake in time to avoid it? Probably not in a lot of cases, so snake avoidance training has its limitations and should be appreciated in that regard.

What is the best thing to do for your dog? It is a personal decision on using the rattlesnake venom toxoid inoculation, and in no way as clear as getting your dog vaccinated for rabies or parvovirus. I think the decision is based on your evaluation of the risk, your tolerance for that risk and maybe your pocketbook. Other than injection site reaction, the only other risk to consider is a potential for the toxoid inoculation to induce allergy, but that is reportedly quite rare - far rarer than injection site reaction. There is apparently no straightforward and clear right or wrong on this particular means of preventing consequences of rattlesnake bite envenomation. I apologize for being unable to make a clear recommendation, but felt it best to lay out the facts as I know them.

As for snake avoidance training, I recommend it. It can be quite effective and in handling nearly 500 dogs in a clinic earlier this summer, it was quite clear that nearly all dogs who had gone through previously and were there for a "refresher" had a lasting imprint in their memory of avoiding these snakes from their earlier experience. It was like night and day between dogs who had been through before and those that had not. So the training is quite effective in the vast majority of dogs if trained appropriately. That said, as I mentioned above, a snake avoidance trained dog running through any sort of cover may not detect the snake in time to avoid it. So snake avoidance training does have limitations that need to be understood. For discouragement of a dog's curiosity in snakes in a slower paced environment, I think the training is highly effective and I strongly recommend it. Just make sure to temper expectations and be sure your dog goes through a properly executed training.
 
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David58

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Oct 13, 2020
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Northern NM
Do that many dogs die from rattlesnake bites? We’ve had 3 different dogs gets hit by timbers and diamondbacks, usually in the face. They swell up really bad and get sick for several days, but so far none died from it.

Just curious how often a dog would die from a rattlesnake bite. I will say they seem to get “sicker” from the rattlesnake bites than from the copperheads and cottonmouths.
Our vet in Oregon, who had studied your very question as well as the vaccine while teaching in AZ, would say not often at all. In over 2000 dog/snake interactions (bites), they lost two.
 

David58

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Joined
Oct 13, 2020
Messages
272
Location
Northern NM
Okay, I will weigh in here and will admit my bias and expertise at the very beginning. First I apologize for the lengthy read if you go all the way to the end. I was the global R&D lead for dog and cat vaccines at one of the top animal health firms in the world earlier in my career. I am trained in immunology and in particular vaccine development. First and foremost, the "vaccine" being discussed has only a "conditional" license from USDA-Center for Veterinary Biologics. That means it has not be definitively proven to be effective. It is comprised of an inactivated venom preparation from Western Diamondback rattlesnakes. Rattlesnake venom is a very complex mixture of proteins, many of which have enzymatic activity. The thought behind the toxoid is that it retains enough of the shape of the proteins to induce production of antibodies in the dog that will bind up and neutralize venom proteins when a dog gets bitten and envenomated. All that is good and fine with standard immunological theory and the company that developed this has shown that mice inoculated with the toxoid indeed develop protection against the venom. This has never been demonstrated in dogs and Red Rock Biologics does not want to do a study in dogs. We have no idea just how much antibody response the toxoid induces in a 40-50 lb. dog. There are two retrospective studies published in the scientific literature covering over 500 dogs that were bitten by rattlesnakes. The conclusion of both studies was the same, there was no difference in either morbidity or mortality in dogs that had not or had been inoculated with the rattlesnake venom toxoid. My deduction is that there is no scientific evidence that this "vaccine" is effective in protecting dogs against rattlesnake bite.

That said, there are quite a few prairie rattlesnakes in my area and places I hunt. So, against my better judgement and after consulting my veterinarian, I decided to spend a few bucks and get my two dogs inoculated (total for the two getting both doses was $140). I saw it as a cost/benefit aspect that was positive as the toxoid is supposedly safe to inoculate and it just may offer some protection. Both dogs had no adverse response to the first inoculation. However, about 10 days after the second inoculation both dogs have injection site reactions....something neither dog has had before with any other inoculation. One dog has a nodule on his shoulder that is about 1" in diameter with swelling across the site about 3" wide - he has had a lot of vaccines over his 7+ years of life. The other dog has a small nodule about the size of a dime and no swelling in the surrounding tissue. She is not quite 2 yo. The injection site reactions hopefully will totally resolve with time. What do the injection site reactions really mean? Most likely they are indicative of an immune response to the inoculation and may represent an indirect indication of a good antibody response - but, guarantee absolutey nothing with that respect.

I know people who swear by the use of the rattlesnake toxoid to protect their dogs. I also know people who won't use it despite being aware of the product availability. I know scientifically there is no justification that it is effective in dogs with the data submitted to USDA for licensure (remember, it is only "conditionally" licensed) and I also know that carefully evaluated (with heavy duty statistical comparisons) dog snake bite cases shows no statistically significant advantage to using the rattlesnake toxoid in protecting dogs against problems with rattlesnake bite or even death from it. Will I get my dogs the annual booster recommended? At this point, I don't see a justification and have all expectations that they would again develop injection site reactions which can sometimes never fully resolve, so most likely not. I have done at this point the most I can for my dogs with regard to rattlesnakes and I have to be satisfied with that for this season.

As for snake avoidance training, I have run both my dogs through that in a clinic using live Western Diamondback rattlesnakes. One dog is deaf so he was at a deficit to receive maximal benefit, but he quickly learned to avoid them. The other dog also learned quickly. I have extended that training with a refresher with a very large bull snake caught in my yard. Neither dog wanted anything to do with that snake and one would not come within 50 yards once he realized what I had. The other dog also stayed a very healthy distance away at 20 yards. So, if properly exposed to snakes in an avoidance training, it can be very effective in discouraging curiosity in snakes. The flip side is a dog running in the field maybe in tall grass; will it scent or hear the snake in time to avoid it? Probably not in a lot of cases, so snake avoidance training has its limitations and should be appreciated in that regard.

What is the best thing to do for your dog? It is a personal decision on using the rattlesnake venom toxoid inoculation, and in no way as clear as getting your dog vaccinated for rabies or parvovirus. I think the decision is based on your evaluation of the risk, your tolerance for that risk and maybe your pocketbook. Other than injection site reaction, the only other risk to consider is a potential for the toxoid inoculation to induce allergy, but that is reportedly quite rare - far rarer than injection site reaction. There is apparently no straightforward and clear right or wrong on this particular means of preventing consequences of rattlesnake bite envenomation. I apologize for being unable to make a clear recommendation, but felt it best to lay out the facts as I know them.

As for snake avoidance training, I recommend it. It can be quite effective and in handling nearly 500 dogs in a clinic earlier this summer, it was quite clear that nearly all dogs who had gone through previously and were there for a "refresher" had a lasting imprint in their memory of avoiding these snakes from their earlier experience. It was like night and day between dogs who had been through before and those that had not. So the training is quite effective in the vast majority of dogs if trained appropriately. That said, as I mentioned above, a snake avoidance trained dog running through any sort of cover may not detect the snake in time to avoid it. So snake avoidance training does have limitations that need to be understood. For discouragement of a dog's curiosity in snakes in a slower paced environment, I think the training is highly effective and I strongly recommend it. Just make sure to temper expectations and be sure your dog goes through a properly executed training.
One point our vet made about the vaccine - in his argument against it - and that I have read elsewhere, is that the complexity of the snake venom is a significant factor, as there can be very marked differences in venom from snakes in different locations.

I am in the camp of twofold avoidance - we use the avoidance training, and I don't take them to "snaky" places in the summer.
 

JohnBob_3

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The differences between rattlesnake species are greater than the quantitative differences in venom of the same species for different localities. That said, yes, the venoms are quite complex and can easily have 15-25 major proteins and as many as 50 proteins altogether that contribute to the toxicity; some attack red blood cells, some attack muscle cells and some attack nervous tissue and there are even some that attack the membrane of any and all cells. However, rattlesnake venom is not the only complex toxin out there, as tetanus and botulinum toxins are also made up of a number of different toxins. I don't think that the complexity of the venom is that strong a reason not to use the toxoid. It is the lack of solid proof that the toxoid used as directed in dogs actually works as intended that bothers me the most. Here are the links to the two studies I mentioned earlier so you can read for yourself - I am not making this up: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7337165/ and https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/26341419/ The conclusion of the first study from the abstract states in the 82 cases examined: "No statistically significant difference in morbidity or mortality between vaccinated and unvaccinated dogs was found. The findings of this study did not identify a significantly protective effect of previous vaccination in the cases of moderate to severe rattlesnake envenomation that require treatment with antivenin." The second of these published studies also examined many of the treatments that are often used in addition to anti-venom and nothing else seemed to make a difference in the 272 canine rattlesnake bite cases examined. This the last two sentences of the abstract of the second publication: "Antivenom administration was found to be generally safe in treatment of canine rattlesnake envenomation. In view of the results of this study, in dogs with rattlesnake envenomation, there is no evidence that use of glucocorticoids, diphenhydramine (Benedryl), prophylactic antibiotics, or vaccination lessen morbidity or mortality." So there you have it, in over 350 rattlesnake bite cases examined and statistically evaluated, nothing other than anti-venom is helpful in preventing illness or death of the envenomated dogs...not the vaccine, antibiotics, diphenhydramine, or steroids.
 
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wolfpup

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Jul 14, 2015
Messages
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Encountered a few out dove hunting and my dog barked at both until I came to find out what it was and each time was an area I walked over several times. I figured she earned the vaccine while she hunts. If it gave me one more season with her I would be thankful. Small price to pay for possible insurance. I got it each year with annual checkups and vet checkups for Bordetella which was required for kennel. She is 13 this year so her hunting days are gone, however she still finds one on average per year in our backyard so I keep getting the for her.
 
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