A newsletter from the pharmacy department
Management and prevention of rattlesnake bites in pets.
Although the vaccine appears to be safe (1% injection site reactions), vaccinated animals must still be considered a veterinary emergency if bitten. This is due to the fact that 1) not all species of snakes are well covered by the vaccine 2) the dogs response to the vaccine is variable 3) the amount of venom may overwhelm even the highest titers and 4) the vaccine does not address secondary tissue necrosis or infection. While severe envenomation in vaccinated dogs may still require antitoxin, there does not appear to be a significant difference in the course of treatment if an animal is bitten. In addition, as of this writing there have not been any objective studies conducted to prove the efficacy of this vaccine.
Due to the vaccines questionable efficacy, cost and no substantial difference in acute therapy if bitten, the product is currently not advocated for animals seen at the VMTH. However, in patients that are at very high risk, and in areas where treatment may be substantially delayed, the rattlesnake vaccine may buy time for the owner to get their animal to a veterinarian and may potentially decrease the overall severity of envenomation. Although the VMTH does not stock the vaccine, many referring veterinarians often carry the vaccine.