Rattlesnakes: Avoidance Training vs. Vaccines

"This is a guest post by our partners from Animalia Herpetofauna. While the company itself is newer, the people behind it are experts in the field of rattlesnake avoidance training and have personally trained all of my own dogs and many of my client's dogs to avoid rattlesnakes for years. I highly recommend you consider rattlesnake avoidance training for your dog as it can save its life. As you will read below, rattlesnake vaccines have many limits and risks, and don't provide protection like other types of vaccines; they just buy you some additional time. Training to not get bitten is a lot better and cheaper in the long run." - Ralf
CAT vaccination improved survival rate and survival time after challenge exposure with Western Diamondback Rattlesnake venom and may offer limited protection against Northern Pacific Rattlesnake venom but did not provide significant cross-protection against Southern Pacific Rattlesnake venom. (Am J Vet Res 2015;76:272–279)
That was the outcome of a scientific study titled: Comparison of the protective effect of a commercially available western diamondback rattlesnake toxoid vaccine for dogs against envenomation of mice with western diamondback rattlesnake (Crotalus atrox), northern Pacific rattlesnake (Crotalus oreganus oreganus), and southern Pacific rattlesnake (Crotalus oreganus helleri) venom.
Very important to people (and dogs) in Southern California is the fact that, according to this study, it is no help for a snake-bite by a Southern Pacific Rattlesnake. That actually makes sense; if you are bitten on Mount San Jacinto, you have to deal with a powerful pre-synaptic neurotoxin; if you are bitten in Wrightwood, you have to deal with hellerase, which causes microthrombi, that is to say, miniature blood clots; or perhaps, if you are bitten elsewhere, maybe your blood turns to water! Anyway you look at this, Southern Pacific Rattlesnakes are extremely dangerous, and NO “atrox venom toxoid” will help.
I actually had a few veterinarian’s office manager tell me that they could “see” the difference. What they were actually saying, without knowing it, was “they could read a blood titer (how many antibodies are in the blood) on sight (not possible – how do you know the amount of antibodies in their blood before the bite?); of course, this is not possible. No one knows this without a test! How can you make the claim that it helped unless you can see what is in the dog’s blood (keep in mind that 99% of vets use avoidance, and reject the vaccine – also realize that they were office managers, not vets)?
How did “they” decide this? Did they know how much venom was injected (extremely variable)? Did they know the venom composition of the population (Not in Southern California! Check out our studies. EVERY bite is different, and is further complicated by age health and the victim’s weight.
I actually have a better question … if it works, why don’t we have it for humans?
What about Rattlesnake Avoidance Training? Of course nothing is a 100% guarantee! However, we do try to engage their vomeronasal system, which is amazing, to get the best results possible, and consequently, we are told over and over that we saved someone.

By Carl Person, Herpetologist, Geneticist with Ph.D. in Speciation of Rattlesnakes.

Schedule your Rattlesnake Avoidance Training at Animalia Herpetofauna.

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