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Dealing with adder bites

dog in the grass in a forest

While it’s great fun to let your dog roam free off the lead, it’s worth bearing in mind that the warm summer months can increase the risk of your dog coming into contact with adders. Adders are easily distinguishable by the black zigzag pattern that runs down their backs and are the only venomous snakes to live in the UK. They are mainly found in Scotland, West Wales and the south and south west of England and tend to reside around the edge of woodlands, on rocky hillsides, on moorlands or sand dunes. They are most likely to be spotted between the months of April – August.

While snake bites are rare, they can occur if your dog accidentally disturbs or treads on an adder. Although venomous, it’s important to remember that 96% of dogs will make a full recovery so try not to panic if your dog is the unlucky recipient of a bite. It’s also worth bearing in mind that it’s an offence to kill or harm an adder as they are protected by the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981, so while you may be angry or scared, try not to attack the snake.

If your dog is bitten, your first sign might be a loud yelp, but if your dog is a little distance away, you might not hear this so it’s important to know what other signs to look out for. The site of the bite is likely to swell quite considering and will have two puncture wounds. Your dog may also be bleeding, limping or very lethargic. If your dog has been bitten on the face, be aware that any swelling may affect their ability to breathe.

Dog on a dirt path

Phone your vet as soon as possible to let them know what has happened and what time you will be arriving so they can get everything ready ahead of time. Try not to let your dog walk anywhere as this will increase the spread of venom around the body, either carry them to your car, or bring transport to them if possible. Bathe wound in cool water to help minimise the swelling and do not try and suck out the venom or use a tourniquet.

The treatment that your dog receives will vary depending on your individual situation but it’s likely to include some sort of pain relief and antihistamines. Your dog may also be given a drip to help maintain their blood pressure and treat shock. It is very unlikely that your dog will receive anti-venom, as it is not readily available in the UK.

If you are out walking your dog in the summer months in an area known to be populated with adders, it might be best to keep your dog on the lead or try and keep them on clear pathways to avoid coming into contact with an adder. If you suspect your dog has been bitten, always seek the advice of a veterinarian as soon as possible.