Animal Health


Q & A

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Rattlesnake vaccine

At RCVS, we offer a Rattlesnake Vaccine for dogs that are known to be at risk for rattlesnake bites. This vaccine can help dogs survive and recover more quickly from rattlesnake bites. The vaccine has a good reputation across the country for being safe, effective, and having very few side effects.


Snake bites can destroy skin and muscle, cause permanent liver, kidney, neurological, and joint damage, the bites are severely painful, and, of course, they can be life threatening even when veterinary treatment is immediately available. Even when dogs survive, rattlesnake bites to unvaccinated dogs can take months to heal because of the necrosis of the skin and muscle around the bite site. This muscle destruction and neurological damage may never fully heal.

Dogs and cats are over 300 times more likely to be bitten by venomous snakes than to get rabies. Snake bites are also about 25 times more lethal in dogs than in humans. This is partly because a dog has a smaller body and so she has a harder time fighting off the same amount of venom that a larger human receives.

Veterinarians reported benefits that included: a delay in onset of symptoms, fewer symptoms, less severe symptoms, a decrease in mortality rate, faster recovery times, and little or no tissue necrosis. Veterinarians also reported less painful dogs, less lethargy, less swelling, that the swelling progression typically reversed within the first 1 to 2 hours, and that dogs had full recoveries in about 24 to 48 hours.


The protection level that a dog receives from the vaccine depends upon how well that individual dog produces specific antibodies and may vary. Almost no vaccine is effective 100% of the time. There are undoubtedly some dogs who’s immune systems just won’t produce as many antibodies necessary for maximum protection but the partial protection they receive may still be enough to save their lives or help them recover more quickly.


What snake species will this rattlesnake vaccine protect against? The official answer is that Red Rock Rattlesnake Vaccine is conditionally licensed for use against Western Diamondback rattlesnakes. But most of the 15 species of rattlesnakes in the United States have fairly similar venom. This is how one antivenin is able to cross-protect against so many rattlesnake species. The protection afforded by the vaccine depends on the similarity of snake venoms to the Western Diamondback. Red Rock Rattlesnake Vaccine was designed to offer the best cross protection against those snakes responsible for the vast majority of venomous snake bites in the United States.


The Vaccine offers the best protection against the western diamondback rattlesnake. As an off label use, the vaccine has been reported to have good protection against the western rattlesnake (which includes the prairie rattlesnake and seven other sub-species common in the Western United States). From the hundreds of snakebite reports to Red Rock Biologics from across the country, the vaccine is also reputed to have some protection against the pigmy rattlesnake, massasauga rattlesnake, timber rattlesnake, and copperheads. Red Rock Biologics has determined that the vaccine gives little protection against the eastern diamondback and no protection against the Mojave rattlesnake, coral snakes, or cottonmouth snakes. There is development being done on a vaccine that will help against water moccasins. For us Texas Residents – I know we can’t wait for that one!

Snake bites are always something to be concerned about. Even in large dogs, your pet needs to be seen. The Rattlesnake Vaccine offers some protection against the Texas Copperhead. For small dogs or dogs that hunt, this is an excellent preventative measure.