Rattlesnake Vaccine


(Update July 2013: We just got back from a road trip to Texas.  Before we left, I got our dog, Saffron, vaccinated against rattlesnake venom.  I’m surprised how many people still don’t know there’s a rattlesnake vaccine available for dogs (and horses)!  It doesn’t completely protect them—you still must immediately get them to a vet if they’re bitten–but it lessens the damage caused by the bite and may buy you some time.  Please note that it’s a 2-part vaccine, so you need to get it a month in advance if you’re traveling to a place with rattlesnakes.)

I was on the Texas Gulf Coast recently walking my parents’ Yorkshire Terrier, CoCo, in some pastureland.  I was being really careful to keep an eye out for snakes, when I noticed a brightly colored caterpillar CoCo had disturbed.  Not 2 seconds later, I heard this scary noise. CoCo had found a good sized rattlesnake.  I got her to stop being a terrier long enough to scoop her up.  Fortunately, neither of us was hurt.  But as a result, I learned about the rattlesnake vaccine (Crotalus Atrox Toxoid) which a lot of y’all might already know about, but that I’d never heard of up here on the NW Pacific Coast.

The vaccine is made by Red Rock Biologics from inactivated Western Diamondback venom and causes an immune reaction so that if your dog is bitten, antibody titers bind and neutralize the venom.  The vaccine is meant to buy you time.  If your dog is bitten, you still need to get her to a vet immediately. According to the manufacturer’s FAQ, if your dog is bitten the vaccine should:

  • decrease pain
  • reduce swelling
  • reduce tissue damage
  • aid in a quicker recovery

However, there are concerns about the vaccine.  Dr. Valerie Wiebe, Pharm.D details reservations about the vaccine & why the UC Davis Veterinary Medical Teaching Hospital does not recommend its use in a 2010 post:

  • insufficient data on the efficacy of the vaccine in dogs
  • dogs who have been bitten must still be immediately taken to a vet for emergency treatment
  • the type of snake that bit the dog may not be covered by the vaccine, for instance the Mojave Rattlesnake’s venom (a neurotoxin) is not protected against

In a 2007 update from UC Davis Veterinary Medical Teaching Hospital note that the Red Rocks Biologic rattlesnake vaccine’s “product license is currently conditional as efficacy and potency have not been fully demonstrated.”

I think it’s important to point out Dr. Wiebe does note that:

…in patients that are at very high risk, and in areas where treatment may be substantially delayed, the rattlesnake vaccine may buy time for the owner to get their animal to a veterinarian and may potentially decrease the overall severity of envenomation.

So what to do?  If your dog is at high risk of running into a rattlesnake, talk to your vet in depth about the vaccine.  Voice your concerns, ask lots of questions, find out how long your vet has been administering the vaccine, if there have been any problems, and find out if your vet thinks the vaccine has helped in cases where dogs have been bitten.  Ask friends and neighbors about their experience with the vaccine.  Ask people at the dog park and your pet supply store.  Make an informed decision and don’t get distracted by brightly colored caterpillars.


DIY: Elevated Dog Bed Like Kuranda

diyelevatedbedI’ve gotten a bunch of questions about this post—it’s time to update it!  Elevated beds are great for dogs with painful joints.  And they help keep your pup comfy when its’s  hot, if the ground is damp, if there are ground dwelling bugs, etc.

The Columbus Dog Connection rescue group has a spiffy tutorial on how to make your own elevated dog bed out of PVC pipe like the beds listed in this post on how to keep your pets cool.  (Be sure to check out the Columbus Dog Connection too!)  This would make an incredible project for students, scouts, etc.!

There are plans for small or large beds.  It has great tips on sourcing your materials so you save money—like looking for outdoor fabric in the second or remainders section of your fabric store, or checking with local companies that make awnings for businesses or boats to see if they have scraps.  There are also invaluable tips to make sure you make a strong, durable bed.  Sweet!

The tutorial includes clear instructions on how to sew the cover for the bed.  And a spreadsheet for mass production if you plan to make beds to help your local shelter—they often want elevated beds to keep dogs off the cold, hard concrete floors in their facilities.

As an aside, Columbus Dog Connection looks like a remarkable group.  Besides generously sharing such a great tutorial, it looks like the group is very busy.  Check out the page on beds they’ve made for underfunded shelters—lots of volunteers and so many beds.  Someone behind the scenes is doing great work.  It takes an outstanding leader to organize so many volunteers and sponsors.  Every rescue group should be so lucky!

And now they have a video tutorial!  Columbus Dog Connection is awesome!!

Rez Dogs—A Documentary

Rez Dogs is a great documentary about a very complex issue.  Our dog, Saffron, was a stray on the Yakama Reservation in central Washington and because of her, I’ve tried to become more educated about Rez Dogs.  This documentary wasn’t easy to watch, but I think it’s important to know what’s going on and to try to understand the issues.  (via our good friend Holly & her 3 awesome Rez Dogs)

I think poverty is at the root of the problem and until that changes, Rez Dogs will have a hard life.  An understandable distrust of outsiders doesn’t help either.  Animal control services on reservation are often underfunded or non-existant.  Can you imagine running a shelter with $300 dollars worth of supplies per year?  This problem isn’t unique to Reservations either.  Many places with over-taxed, crumbling, or non-existant municipal infrastructures have problems with stray dogs—Russia, Iraq, Mexico, India, Bulgaria, etc.  Please click below to watch Rez Dogs.

We Like: The Roadie Harness By RuffRider

I love our Roadie harness!  Every time our dog Saffron rides in the car with us, she’s in her Roadie and buckled in in the back seat. If you’re taking your dog in your car, you’ll both be much safer if your dog is secured by a strong car harness and seat belt.  Find out why you should always buckle up your dog. If you have a dog who is nervous about riding in the car, a harness can make them feel more secure because they’re not constantly trying to keep their balance.  RuffRider used to have different models of harnesses, but have trimmed down to one, which I think is just fine because that one model is awesome and WAY better than all the other car harnesses I’ve seen.
The Roadie isn’t just a regular harness.  It was designed specifically to keep a dog comfortable riding in a car and safe in the event of an accident.  It was independently tested and can withstand over 6,000 lbs. of force.  (The Society of American Engineers standard for human seat belts is 5,000 lbs. of force.)  Unlike a lot of car harnesses, the Roadie doesn’t have any buckles or clips that could fail in an accident.  That does mean there is a certain way to put the harness on, but once you understand how, you’ll have no problems.  You can check out their instructions.  It’s easy to secure your dog in the car by threading the seat belt through the loop on the back of the harness.  Or you can use a carabiner to clip the harness in.  
It’s important that if you use a carabiner, get one used for rock climbing with a strength rating of at least 23 kN.  We use a Black Diamond Dynotron which is rated 25kN.  Don’t use some crappy carabiner you get at Wal-Mart—it isn’t strong enough.
(Note: I have no connections to RuffRider, I just really like thier product!)