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Snake Bites on Dogs

All you Need to Know

Adder bites are fairly rare; however, they do happen!

The only venomous snake native to the UK is the European Adder (Vipera berus). Fully grown, an adult can reach up to 23 inches in length. Adders are easy to spot as they have a distinct black/brown zigzag pattern along their back and a dark V or X shape on their head.

They are most commonly found in the South and South West of England, western wales and Scotland.

They prefer to moorland, woodland edges, rocky hillsides and sand dunes.

Adders are a protected species, covered by the Wildlife and Countryside Act1981 – meaning it is an offence to kill, harm, injure, sell or trade them.

Is My Dog Likely To Get Bitten By An Adder?

These guys generally only bite in self-defence, so they usually occur when they have been stepped on or disturbed by your dog. Puppies and younger dogs are generally more curious and can unintentionally provoke an adder.

Most bites occur between April and July, as the snakes come out of hibernation in the warmer weather. They are most active in the afternoon and so it is not unusual for this to be the most common time for bites to occur.

How Will I know If My Dog Has Been Bitten?

Most adder bites occur on the legs, face or neck and usually result in a dark, painful swelling. You may be able to see two small punctures wounds from the snake’s fangs, in the middle of the swelling.

If your dog has been bitten, especially around the head or neck, the bodies reaction to the venom may cause swelling and breathing difficulties quite rapidly and so must be monitored constantly.

Your dog will show signs of pain and discomfort, and may appear unusually nervous.

Other symptoms may include pale gums, drooling, vomiting, dehydration, diarrhoea, bruising, restlessness, lethargy or drowsiness.

If left untreated then your dog may suffer seizures, collapse, or develop blood clotting problems.

What Should I do If My Dog Is Bitten?

  • DON’T PANIC! Try to keep yourself and your dog calm
  • DOUSE! Pour cold water over the wound in cold water to reduce inflammation
  • KEEP STILL! If possible, carry your dog to reduce the chance of venom spreading around the body
  • SEEK EMERGENCY VETERINARY TREATMENT! Your vet will be able to monitor all vital signs, treat your dog for shock and administer pain relief. In severe cases, anti-venom can be obtained and administered. (Less than 5% of patients develop more severe signs and complications and 96-97% of dogs make a full recovery within 5 days with the appropriate veterinary treatment).

Adder bites rarely prove fatal (one study found less than 1 in 20 dogs died after being bitten by an adder) however it should always be treated as a Veterinary Emergency and your dog should see a Vet as soon as possible.

For a map of reported adder sightings check out the Interactive Map Tool: https://nbnatlas.org/

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