Apex Animal Hospital

Exotics & Pocket Pets

Rattle snake Vaccination

The rattle snake vaccination is in a category all by itself.  We have not been recommending giving this vaccination as the usefulness of this particular vaccination is questionable.   None of the regional veterinary schools have been recommending giving this vaccination either. The proposed reason for the possible lack of efficacy of this vaccination is presumed to be because rattle snake venom is not as uniform or homogeneous as one might think.  The type of venom depends a lot on the snake’s age and location.  The venom of young snakes contains more neurotoxin, where as the venom of older snakes contains more neurotoxins.  For example, the venom of a Montana timber rattler is considerably different from the venom of a western diamondback rattle snake found in Arizona.   At this time rattle snake aversion training, done by a qualified trainer, is still the recommended best protection for dogs that are at high risk of exposure.

Bird Vaccinations

Although some people have suggested vaccinating outdoor birds against WNV (West Nile Virus), this vaccination is not currently recommended in indoor pet birds.  At this time it has been used almost exclusively in very susceptible birds such as corvid birds kept in zoos or the susceptible and endangered sage grouse.  The Polyoma virus is often a fatal disease in young birds, but adult bird can be carriers without showing any signs of illness. Vaccination should be considered for susceptible birds such as parrots and cockatiels that live in larger aviaries and are exposed to several other birds, especially if new birds are brought in on a routine basis.   The Polyoma virus vaccination is typically given to chicks at 3 and 6 weeks of age, and then boosted annually.  Breeding birds may be vaccinated to prevent the transmission of the Polyoma virus to the chicks.

Ferret Vaccinations

Ferrets are particularly susceptible to the Canine Distemper virus.  The maternal antibodies they get from the mother is unfortunately not very long lasting, with antibody titer dropping rapidly as early as 10 days post partum.  Thus ferrets should be vaccinated at 6 weeks of age.  This vaccination should then be boosted at 10 and 14 weeks of age.   This vaccination should be boosted on a yearly basis after that. Even ferrets that are exclusively house pets should be vaccinated, as just a few virions can lead to a fatal infection in ferret.  It is very important that only ferret approved vaccinations be used!  Vaccination of a ferret with a dog vaccination will most likely kill the ferret.  Although ferrets are far less susceptible to become infected from Rabies, even if exposed, they do show few clinical signs if they become ill from this fatal disease and thus potentially pose a significant human risk. Because of the lack of clinical signs, quarantine as commonly used in rabies suspect dogs, is not used in ferrets.  Rabies suspect ferrets are immediately euthanized and sent in for diagnostic testing. We recommend vaccinating ferrets against rabies at 14 weeks of age, when they come in for their last Distemper vaccination.  This vaccination should be boosted on a yearly basis.

Pocket Pets/Reptiles/Amphibians

No vaccinations are currently used or licensed for rabbits, mice, rats, chinchillas, or sugar gliders as well as reptiles and amphibians in the USA.  A vaccination against Tularemia, highly virulent and potentially dangerous disease to humans, has been used experimentally in the USA, but is not commercially available. For people traveling out of the country with exotic pets, especially with rabbits, ask us for specific precautions and or possible vaccinations.  A vaccination against Myxomatosis and Rabbit Hemorrhagic Disease, two highly virulent diseases in rabbits, is available and licensed for use in Europe.