Most people that spend any time in the desert of Central Oregon will, sooner or later, have an encounter with a rattlesnake. For humans, this is no great worry, as rattlesnakes have the good manners to warn us if we start to invade their personal space. People around here generally have the good sense to step cautiously, look carefully, and back off when we hear that signature rattling.

Unfortunately, some of our furry friends do not necessarily have the same good sense we do.

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Dogs in the desert are at a high risk of rattlesnake bites, and a rattlesnake bite can be a life threatening emergency for a dog. Luckily, there is something you can do to protect your dog before she ever even encounters a rattlesnake: vaccination!

Red Rock Biologics is a company that researches and manufactures vaccines against rattlesnake bites. Their rattlesnake vaccine for dogs works much like any other vaccine, essentially teaching your dog’s immune system how to defend itself against rattlesnake venom. All dogs more than four months old are considered good candidates for the rattlesnake vaccine. Getting your dog vaccinated is a simple process:  two initial injections, followed by an annual booster at the start of rattlesnake season. Rattlesnakes begin to become active as the weather gets warmer, so now is the time to get your dog vaccinated, or to get a booster if she’s been vaccinated before.

Side effects are an understandable concern for any medical treatment, but we are happy to say that the rattlesnake vaccine is just as safe all the other vaccines your dog has received. Most dogs will experience no side effects whatsoever. In a very small number of cases, dogs might experience some mild swelling at the injection site, and as with any medication, there is a miniscule chance of a more severe allergic reaction. But we believe the tiny risks are far outweighed by the protection offered by the vaccine.

It is important to remember that even a vaccinated dog is not invincible. If your dog is bit, it is still very important to seek emergency veterinary care as soon as possible. However, the vaccine has been shown to greatly reduce the severity of the symptoms of a rattlesnake bite, buying more time to get the dog the treatment it needs. The vaccine can also shorten the recovery time for a dog that is bit by a rattlesnake.

If you have a dog that works or plays in the desert, this is a great way to keep it safe. Again, rattlesnake season is starting now, so this is the best time to get your dog vaccinated. Crooked Tails Veterinary Clinic is happy to offer the vaccine, so give us a call to make an appointment!