Rattlesnake Vaccine


The Eastern Diamondback Rattlesnake is the largest and potentially the most dangerous rattlesnake on our continent. They grow to be an average of 3-6 feet and snakes up to 8 feet long have been reported. This rattlesnake is found in the whole state of Florida and the surrounding areas of Georgia, Alabama, Mississippi and Louisiana. Diamondbacks are distinctive because of the brown diamonds on their back; the diamonds are usually bordered in black on a cream colored body. Their preferred habitats include pine forests and scrublands and coastal barrier islands. This means     that these snakes are especially common in Tallahassee and the surrounding areas because the entire area from the city south to the coast is covered with pine forests and the Gulf coast west to the rest of the Panhandle has many barrier islands formed from built up sandbars. Since humans have built houses, parks, etc. in their home, the rattlesnakes are stuck in a hostile world where their prey has also disappeared. This means dogs and cats can run into rattlesnakes and corner or aggravate them. Snakes in Florida do not usually attack unless provoked, but curious cats or dogs can box these creatures in their shelter or in the pets’ backyard. Rattlesnakes are not aggressive: the warning rattle shows that the snakes prefer to bite in defense, otherwise they would attack with no warning. Most people that are bitten by rattlesnakes accidently step on them, we can infer that most pets that are bitten accidently stumble upon an aggravated snake. Rattlesnakes have the only neurotoxic venom of the 6 venomous species of snakes in Florida. Neurotoxic means toxic to the nervous system: symptoms of rattlesnake envenomation include tissue and muscle damage, extreme pain at the site of the bite, blurred vision, difficulty swallowing, difficulty breathing and the worst symptom is respiratory failure (suffocation).

To alleviate this problem, we now have a vaccine against rattlesnake venom that will protect your pet. The vaccine boosts immunity to the venom and makes the pet’s reaction less severe. You will have more time to get the pet to a veterinary hospital, the pet will have less inflammation and fewer muscular and neurological effects from the bite, the pet will require less medication and less intensive hospitalization: your pet is more likely to survive the venom. The vaccine costs $70 for the course of the vaccine. There is the initial vaccine and then a booster shot 30 days later. From then on the vaccine should be added to your annual vaccines. The vaccine can be recommended to any dog, but is especially recommended to dogs whom go hiking, camping, kayaking and do other outdoor activities with their family. Small dogs and cats are especially vulnerable to rattlesnake venom, just like children are more vulnerable than adults. A rattlesnake biting an unvaccinated cat is almost 100% fatal. The vaccine may confer immunity to other species of rattlesnakes and other pit vipers with similar venom. Unfortunately, there is not a water moccasin or coral snake vaccine yet.


Please note to ensure that there is no miscommunication: this vaccine does not confer 100% immunity to rattlesnake venom! Even if an animal has a vaccine, a rattlesnake bite is a medical emergency and it may need to be treated with antivenin: the sooner the better. This vaccine gives you time to get your pet to the vet, and a better chance at survival with fewer long-term health effects.