This post includes contributions by our partners from Animalia Herpetofauna. While the company itself is newer, the people behind it are experts in the field of rattlesnake avoidance training. Carl Person is a herpetologist and geneticist with a Ph.D. in speciation of rattlesnakes. Carl has personally trained all of my dogs and many of my client's dogs to avoid rattlesnakes. I highly recommend you consider rattlesnake avoidance training for your dog! It can save its life. As you will read below, rattlesnake vaccines have many limits and risks. They don't provide protection like other types of vaccines do. They just buy you some additional time. Training your dog to avoid rattlesnakes is a lot better and cheaper in the long run.
Rattlesnake vaccines don't protect a dog from the poison of a rattlesnake. They slow down its distribution in the body. It can give you more time to get to a vet before it's too late. Unfortunately, that doesn't work as well as you would hope. A recent study tested the effectiveness of rattlesnake vaccines (CAT vaccines). The test included venoms from the Western Diamondback, Northern Pacific, and Southern Pacific Rattlesnake species. These are the most common rattlesnake species in Southern California. The study found improved survival rates and survival time after challenge exposure to Western Diamondback Rattlesnake venom. However, it may only offer limited protection against Northern Pacific Rattlesnake venom. It provided no significant benefit with Southern Pacific Rattlesnake venom. (American Journal of Veterinary Research, March 2015, Volume 76, Number 3, Pages 272-279)
According to this study, there is no help for a snake-bite by a Southern Pacific Rattlesnake. It makes sense. If you are bitten on Mount San Jacinto, you are affected by a powerful presynaptic neurotoxin. It prevents the cells in your brain from functioning. That's a problem. If you are bitten in Wrightwood, you get hellerase, which causes miniature blood clots. Also, not good. Or perhaps, if you are bitten elsewhere, your blood may turn into water. Southern Pacific Rattlesnakes are extremely dangerous. NO antivenom can protect you from their bite. Rattlesnake avoidance training gives you much better chances of avoiding them.
Rattlesnake Vaccines are Mostly Useless
Veterinarians keep pushing rattlesnake vaccines, including their office staff. Some veterinarian office manager told Carl once, they could see the difference after the vaccination. They actually told a herpetologist and geneticist, they could read a blood titer by looking at a dog. A blood titer shows how many antibodies are in the blood. Obviously, it is impossible to know that from just looking. Only a blood test tells you the number of antibodies in your dog's blood. So to claim a rattlesnake vaccine helped by looking at a dog is silly. You can't make this stuff up. Interestingly, 99% of veterinarians rely on rattlesnake avoidance training for their dog. They reject the rattlesnake vaccine for their own pets. They know the side effects it can have and how useless it is.
Further, it is impossible to know how much venom was injected during a rattlesnake bite. It varies widely. In addition, the venom composition of the rattlesnake population in Southern California is VERY diverse. You won't know what you got. But even if you did, it wouldn't help much. So don't try catching the rattlesnake!
The available antivenom helps with bites by all rattlesnakes species. The rattlesnake vaccine is basically useless. Check out Animalia Herpetofauna's studies! EVERY rattlesnake bite is different and complicated by the victim's age, health and weight.
If the rattlesnake vaccine worked, why don’t we have it for humans? We don't, because it doesn't.
Rattlesnake Avoidance Training
Rattlesnake avoidance training is a far superior option. Of course, nothing is 100% guaranteed. However, Carl's team tries to engage the dog's amazing vomeronasal system. This produces the best results possible. Consequently, Carl and his team have saved lives.
Read more about rattlesnakes.
Schedule your Rattlesnake Avoidance Training at Animalia Herpetofauna.