Vaccinate pets now to reduce the effects of rattlesnake bites

KINGMAN - March may not be the month of the rattlesnake, though it is the time of the year when they start to pop their heads up around the community.

Stockton Hill Animal Hospital is advising owners to vaccinate their dogs against rattlesnake venom.

"When a dog is bit by a rattlesnake, the toxic components of venom are very painful and can have serious consequences," Dr. Kristen Nelson said in a news release.

"Even if your dog survives the immediate effects of a rattlesnake bite, they can be permanently injured."

Most incidents occur beginning March and continuing until the weather cools in the fall, said Jennifer Kreyger with Stockton Hill Animal Hospital.

"Dogs can encounter a rattlesnake anytime they are in rattlesnake habitat," Nelson said. "You and your dog may live in a rattlesnake habitat.

"Like people, dogs may stumble over the location of a snake by accident," she added.

"Curiosity or a protective instinct can place your dog at risk. In each case, vaccinating helps to protect them."

Every year, veterinarians see thousands of dogs that suffer serious injury or even die following a rattlesnake bite, Nelson said.

The animal hospital at 4335 Stockton Hill Road, they see 10 to 15 dogs a year bit by rattlesnake, Kreyger said.

"Vaccinating your dog can reduce the overall effects of snakebite, reduce or eliminate the need for anti-venom, and decrease other treatment costs as well," Nelson said.

"Protective antibodies made by your dog in response to the vaccine start neutralizing venom immediately. This means vaccinated dogs should experience less pain and a reduced risk of permanent injury from a rattlesnake bite."

The process requires two initial shots within four weeks of each other. From then on, dogs should be vaccinated every year. At Stockton Hill Animal Hospital, vaccinations cost $18.15, with $18.80 for an examination.

"We generally recommend that they set it up this month," Kreyger said.

By getting the vaccine at the start of the increase in rattlesnake activity, dogs will have an initial higher resistance to the venom, she added.

Just because your dog has been vaccinated, Nelson recommends taking your dog to a veterinarian for evaluation as soon as possible following a snakebite.

"Bites by non-venomous snakes can lead to serious infections, and antibiotic treatment may be needed," she said.

For more information, contact Stockton Hill Animal Hospital at (928) 757-7979.