Rattlesnake Vaccine For Dogs

Depending on where you live or what outdoor activities you like to do with your dog, he may be in danger of being bitten by a poisonous snake. Rather than run the risk of having your beloved pooch severely hurt or worse, dog owners should consider having their four-legged friend inoculated with the rattlesnake vaccine. The rattlesnake vaccine was first licensed for use in animals in California in July 2003 and was approved nationwide by the USDA in October 2004.


There are thirty-eight species of snakes found in South Carolina and five of these – the coral snake, eastern diamondback rattlesnake, timber (or canebrake) rattlesnake, pigmy rattlesnake, copperhead and cottonmouth – are venomous. The rattlesnake vaccine is specifically designed to produce antibodies against the venom of the western diamondback rattlesnake. The vaccine may also be effective against other snakes with similar venom, such as the sidewinder, timber rattlesnake, and copperhead. The vaccine does not protect against the venom of water moccasins or coral snakes.

The vaccine works by creating protective antibodies that help neutralize venom, so dogs experience less pain and swelling after a snake bite. Dogs that are bitten may also require less antivenin, which can be fairly costly and may produce side effects. Factors that can influence the effectiveness of the vaccine include the location of the bite, the type of snake, and the amount of venom injected.

Features of Rattlesnake Vaccine For Dogs

The Cortalus Atrox Toxoid, or “rattlesnake vaccine,” provides dogs with some protection against some types of snake bites. It was developed by Red Rocks Biologics to provide protection against Western Diamondback Rattlesnakes, but it may provide cross protection from other types of rattlesnakes and related venomous snakes, such as Copperheads. The vaccine works by helping dogs develop antibodies to some snakes’ venom. These antibodies then help a bitten dog to experience less pain, swelling and tissue damage, give the owner more time to get to a veterinarian, and potentially require less antivenin or other medications. Depending on the size of the dog, the age and type of snake, and where the dog is bitten, the vaccine can help mitigate the effects of snakebites and speed up recovery.

Importantly, though, it does not mean veterinary care is not required after a snake bite, and it does not protect against all snake bites. Rattlesnake bites are extremely serious, and dogs can easily die from them, so you should always see a veterinarian immediately if your dog gets or you suspect a venomous snake bite. Initially, a dog should receive two subcutaneous doses about 30 days apart. Dogs over 100 lbs or under 25 lbs may benefit from a three dose initial series. It is best to give vaccination boosters about 30 days before beginning of exposure to rattlesnakes. Protection peaks about 30 to 45 days after boosters and lasts about six months.

Benefits of Rattlesnake Vaccine For Dogs

According to Ibsen, there are three benefits to the rattlesnake vaccine. “Besides buying you more time to get your dog to the veterinarian if he was bitten, dogs will experience a lot less pain, tissue-sluffing and swelling,” she says. “Even if there is swelling at the bite site, vaccinated dogs will normally see swelling subside within 20 minutes. There are additional benefits of the vaccine: Cross protection is provided to multiple species of rattlesnakes, as well as Copperheads and the venom of the Western Diamondback, the Western rattler (North & South Pacific rattler, Prairie rattler, Great Basin rattler), Pygmy rattlers, Massasaugas, Sidewinders and Timber rattlers.

In early 2012, Red Rock Biologics began working on creating a different formulation that will protect against the venom of Eastern Diamondback and other similar species. Rattlesnake vaccine has been on the market since 2003 and is a standard of veterinary care for dogs at high risk for rattlesnake bites. It is listed in the American Animal Health Association’s 2006 canine vaccination guidelines. It is conditionally licensed by the USDA and is recommended in over 4,000 veterinary hospitals nationwide.

Mode of action

According to Red Rock Biologics, the vaccine generates protective antibodies against the rattlesnake venom, which neutralizes the venom itself. They claim that dogs are reported to experience less pain and have a reduced risk of permanent injury from the bites when properly vaccinated. They do clearly acknowledge that while the vaccine may reduce signs if the dog is bitten, immediate veterinary care is still essential.

The rattlesnake vaccine was developed to protect against the venom of the Western Diamondback Rattlesnake. The vaccine provides no protection against venom from the Coral Snake, Water Moccasin, or Mojave Rattlesnake.

According to Dr. Paula Ibsen, a staff veterinarian with Red Rock Biologics, 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.

Side effects of Rattlesnake Vaccine For Dogs

Adverse events are reported in far fewer than one percent of all vaccinated dogs. Most of these side effects are mild and need no veterinary care. Injection site lumps can be treated with hot moist compresses, antibiotics, and pain relief medication if necessary. Systemic reactions (typically flu like symptoms) are reported in fewer than one in 3,000 vaccinates and usually self-resolve in two to three days.

Prices of Rattlesnake Vaccine For Dogs

$29.00 – $66.00

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