GREAT FALLS - As summer approaches, you and your dog might want to get out more often and explore the great outdoors, but there are also some precautions you can take — including the potential danger of rattlesnakes.
The prairie rattlesnake, Montana’s only venomous snake, is found throughout the state, including in and around Great Falls. The prairie rattler likes tall grass, river banks, and rocky outcrops that face the sun.
"Last year was probably a bad year for rattlesnake bites for one thing. Because some of the rattlesnake bites were close to town, I think word of mouth, word spread, and a lot of people got their dogs vaccinated for it because of the increase in rattlesnake bites," said Tim Gilligan, DVM for Animal Medical Clinic.
"The rattlesnake vaccine is to build immunity against a rattlesnake bite for your dogs," said Anna Sims, DVM for Associated Veterinary Services. "The idea behind that is if or when your pet would get bit by a snake, then they would have some immunity of their own to that to be able to fight that bite, hopefully causing less of a severe reaction in buying you time to get to a veterinarian."
Although recommended by many veterinarians, it's still in the early stages of development.
Veterinarians acknowledge that more clinical trials need to be done, which is why it's not a recommended core vaccine, such as rabies, but for those looking to head outdoors this summer season, the vaccine will be offered if requested.
"I do recommend it on a case-by-case basis," Sims said, "and so what that means is I would recommend it if you are hiking, camping, fishing, going hunting, anything like that. I definitely recommend you talk to your veterinarian and see if it's right for your pet."
After speaking with veterinarians, they all said while the rattlesnake vaccine may be recommended, it is also important to discuss this with your dog's vet. Veterinarians say it is a two-shot series that they give to start initially, and then booster annually after that. It is recommended during the springtime.
Other ways to prevent a snake bite is also to keep your pet on a leash, and be mindful of location.