Rattlesnake Bites – To Vaccinate, or Not

       I recently purchased a 7 month old Scottish Terrier puppy from South California and in reviewing the health records I saw my puppy had received a rattlesnake vaccination. Knowing little about the vaccination I decided to do some quick research about the vaccination. Regardless of the breed of dog, knowing about the risks can make a difference.
     What is the vaccination? The vaccination is an injectable vaccine, first developed by Red Rock Biologics, a company located near Sacramento, California. This vaccination is specific to a common rattlesnake found in the California, the Western Diamondback Rattlesnake. (Red Rock Biologics Rattlesnake Vaccines, 2016)
     What is risk and should you consider this vaccination? Like any vaccination there are pros and cons and you discuss the risk with your veterinarian. Some quick background information may helpful in considering this vaccination. A first consideration is your location and the likelihood you may encounter a poisonous snake. Just like giving my Scotties their heartworm pill, it is yet another medication I worry about and why give you dog a medication when the risk is low. In my breeder’s case, they lived in an area where rattlesnakes are commonly found amongst urban living. My puppy’s breeder happens to live in the foothills of South California, and their property was in a semi-rural environment. As a result all six puppies in the litter and all the adult dogs have all been vaccinated.
According the Veterinary Pet Insurance (VPI), a Nationwide Insurance company states that “approximately 300,000 dogs and cats are bitten annually in the United States from venomous snakes.” (Rattlesnake Vaccine for Dogs, 2016) While the statistic may sound alarming, your decision should factor in risks. Pet owners face a long list of potential threats, and this is one more to add to the list.
     Are the Vaccinations Safe, Side-Effects and are they Effective? This depends on who you ask. The vaccination has been United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) since October, 2004, and in use in California since July 2003. Dosage may vary as directed by your veterinarian, but according the manufacturer of the vaccine; “the first time your dog is vaccinated, we recommend an initial vaccine injection followed by a booster dose about one month later. We recommend then boostering each subsequent year.” (Red Rock Biologics Rattlesnake Vaccines, 2016).
UC Davis describes the side effects as minimal and flu-like if they occur at all, but if you are concerned, read the short article used in this summary. The recommend (UCDAVIS Veterinary Medicine, 2016)
     What is the cost of vaccination? The vaccination costs will vary from $20.00 to $40.00 per injection according the UC Davis Veterinary Medicine. (UCDAVIS Veterinary Medicine, 2016)More Information? The websites used in this summary provide additional information, some in easy to read, frequently asked question format that provides further information, and the UC Davis site does address some health concerns and provides a more of objective overall view of the subject.
     Works Cited:
Rattlesnake Vaccine for Dogs. (2016, July 10). Retrieved July 10, 2016, from What Pet Ownders Should Know: http://www.petinsurance.com/healthzone/pet-articles/pet-health/Rattlesnake-Vaccine-for-Dogs.aspx

Red Rock Biologics Rattlesnake Vaccines. (2016, July 10th). Retrieved July 10, 2016, from Frequently Asked Questions: http://www.redrockbiologics.com/rattlesnake_vaccine_faq.php

UCDAVIS Veterinary Medicine. (2016, July 10). Retrieved July 10`, 2016, from Avoic Snakebite dueing Summer Pet Outings: http://www.vetmed.ucdavis.edu/whatsnew/article.cfm?id=1883

Many thanks to  SFBSTC member Jim Nolte for sharing this information.

Scottish Terrier Health Information

Scottish Terriers are known as a hearty and healthy breed. They have a minimum of genetic problems and good longevity. However, if you expect a long and healthy life for your dog you must provide a well balanced diet, adequate exercise, regular grooming, and annual medical checkups.


After a winter of El Nino and its resulting mold, spring has arrived with irritating pollens from trees, grass, and flowers causing many to sniffle, sneeze and rub itchy eyes. We are not the only ones to suffer and though our dogs may not show the same symptoms to allergies as we do, they also suffer. In dogs, pollens can cause excessive itching leading to hair loss and infections.  We have found that simply supplementing our dog’s daily diet with a food supplement containing marine and vegetable oils rich in Omega 3 and Omega 6 fatty acids has eliminated all itching and resulting hair loss. This supplement can be obtained from your vet, pet store or pet supply catalog in either liquid or capsule form. Aside from providing nutritional benefits they also have antihistamine effects and are very safe for your pet.

Another common allergy can be caused by the saliva of the flea. Symptoms are itching and loss of hair most usually apparent over the back and at the base of the tail. With today’s excellent topical solutions no one should have trouble ridding their dogs of flea infestation and eliminating them from their environment. We have two cats that were a source of fleas but with the application of a topical solution administered once a month we have no fleas and do not have to treat our dogs. Simultaneous spraying of the inside and outside environment should also eliminate the present fleas and aid in future flea infestation.

A less common cause of irritation to our pets are food allergies. Corn and wheat are common causes and are present in many pet foods. For seven years we have limited the intake of corn and wheat in conjunction with a supplement of fatty acids and have had no itching or skin problems. Without the addition of the fatty acid all of our Scotties have had excess itching during times of heavy pollination.

To treat infections resulting from scratching due to allergies, consult your veterinarian. It may be necessary to administer antibiotics. Steroids have been commonly used and while they have an anti-inflammatory effect at lower doses, higher doses of steroids can actually inhibit or suppress the immune system. Steroids may be effective for short-term treatment but they can have dangerous side effects. With longer therapy the development of Cushing’s disease, kidney and liver disease, and urinary tract infections can occur. Since allergies are generally for the life of the animal it is imperative that treatments other than steroids be used.

Antihistamines can also he used if diet supplementation and flea control is not effective. They are safer than steroids for long term treatment but animals do not consistently respond to antihistamine treatment. Different antihistamines often have to be tried until one is found that is effective. This should only be undertaken with the help of your veterinarian.

‘Tis the season!