Spring is the breeding season for rattlesnakes. Rattlesnake bites occur frequently during this time of year, and well into the summer. In the warmer parts of New Mexico snake bites can occur year round.

Immediate veterinary attention is required with all pet snake bites, no matter how negligible they seem. The sooner treatment is started, the more effective it will be. Snakes carry a large amount of bacteria in their mouths. Even dry bites can become infected and are painful. The location of the bite, size of the pet, differences in venom, and how much venom is injected all determine the severity of symptoms.

So, what can you do to protect your pet from snake bites? The best way to do this is to avoid encounters between the pet and the snake. Safe practices include:

  • Stick to cleared areas or open paths when hiking.
  • Keep your dog on a leash at all times.
  • Don’t let your dog explore holes, logs, or dig under rocks.
  • Hike during the day instead of early morning or evening.
  • Cats are just better left indoor at all times. If you let your cat outside, only do so during the day.

If you live in a rural area or an area with a high number of rattlers, you may want to consider the rattlesnake vaccine, developed ten years ago by Red Rock Biologics. This vaccine is for dogs only and is made specifically for the venom of the Western Diamondback Rattlesnake, though it reportedly cross protects against multiple species of other rattlesnakes.

Two vaccines, each given a month apart, are initially required to help the dog develop antibodies against venom, should he or she be bitten. Protection typically lasts for at least 6 months and possibly even up to a year. The protection against developing life-threatening symptoms seems to vary significantly; to date, there are no controlled studies that prove the effectiveness of this product.

Consulting with your local veterinarian as to their experience with the vaccine and whether or not they recommend it is advisable. Remember, even vaccinated dogs require immediate medical attention if bitten.

The outdoors in New Mexico DOES have its dangers, rattlesnakes included, but now that you know some of the facts of how to protect your pet, and how to avoid or deal with bites…get your dog, take a ride, walk in the sunshine, and enjoy what New Mexico has to offer.

Don’t forget to Reserve space for you pet when making your vacation plans.