Veterinarian: Rattlesnake vaccine could save your pet this spring

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As the bluebonnets bloom and the days become longer, veterinarians are sending out a warning to those taking their dogs for walks at state parks and city trails.

They say snakes are beginning to come out of hibernation, so the chance of your pet being bit by a rattlesnake is much more likely. “They are very active this time of year as they are looking for their first meal as they come out of dormancy,” said Wimberley Veterinary Clinic veterinary technician Tracy Sheffield.

Sheffield says she recommends dog owners get their dog vaccinated with a rattlesnake vaccine. “Any dog in this area can bump into a snake, we don’t plan on it but it can happen,” she said.

The vaccine costs around $25 and gives the pet owner three to four hours to get to a veterinary clinic and be checked out. Without a vaccine, Sheffield says the animal only has about an hour to get the help they need from a veterinarian and the cost is much higher.

“What you don’t want to be in as a pet owner is a situation where your dog has just been bitten and you have to decide if you are going to spend the $700 to $1,000 on anti-venom right then and there and you must make that decision very quickly,” said Sheffield.

Sheffield says the vaccine has been out for about 10 years, in that time she’s seen how well it really works. “I don’t believe, at our practice, that we’ve ever had a death due to rattlesnake bite in a vaccinated animal. In the unvaccinated, we’ve lost several,” said Sheffield. “There’s much less swelling and much less pain for the vaccinated animals and if we do need to give more anti-venom it’s usually quite a bit less, so it’s just cost effective for the owner.”

The vaccine is only available to dogs and horses and will not work against a bite from a coral, Mojave Green or cottonmouth snake. Wimberley Veterinary Clinic says it has plenty of the vaccine in stock and says most other veterinary clinics do as well, Sheffield says all you have to do is call ahead and ask.

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