Veterinarians warn dog owners to keep pets leashed in rattlesnake areas

DENVER -- Summer in Colorado means rattlesnakes can be found living in the mountains near hiking areas you might bring your dog. Veterinarians tell FOX31 it's important to know how dog owners should treat snake bites when they happen and how you can protect your dog from getting bit.

The VCA Animal Hospital in Denver has already treated dogs for rattlesnake bites and it's only May.

"These snakes are here in Colorado, they are Colorado residents. They live here too!" said Dr. Kevin Fitzgerald, "In the last 5 years we've seen 102 snake bites and 2 dogs have died."

Dr. Fitzgerald said it depends on where the dog is bitten and how much venom is in the animal. Dogs need to be taken to a hospital immediately where they will be kept for care and given anti-venom for the bite.

"Medications that I give the animals I treat, they have to be safe and they have to be effective," Dr. Fitzgerald said.

But he believes not all products on the market can be effective, like one preventative vaccine.

"Based on current clinical evidence and studies, there’s not a lot to support this until the company comes forward and does the trials and does the venom challenges and does the peer review work, it’s questionable," said Dr. Fitzgerald.

The company that disperses the vaccine said not all vaccines are 100% effective. They also tell us, "Benefits reported from the vaccine included a delay of onset of symptoms, less severe symptoms, less treatment needed or no treatment needed, and faster recovery time with little or no necrosis."

Red Rock Biologics explains that although the vaccine doesn't eliminate the effects of the bite, the animal could survive 2-3 more times as much venom as dogs without the vaccine.

Dr. Fitzgerald doesn't recommend the vaccine himself but his hospital does carry the vaccine and many patients do ask for it. Red Rock Biologics also says they do have many veterinarians that do believe in the vaccine.

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