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Adder Bites In Dogs

There are several species of snakes in the UK, but the European Adder is the only one that is poisonous and potentially dangerous to your dog. Find out what symptoms there are and what to do if an adder has bitten your dog…

There have been several reports in the last couple of months regarding fatal adder bites to our dogs. Only 6 days ago The Mirror reported that a Staffordshire Bull Terrier had to have her leg amputated due to being bitten in the park, other reports of deaths from adders bites in Cheltenham, Weymouth, and Dorset have come to light In the last month!

Could there be an increase this year? If so, let’s talk about how we can minimise the risk, the symptoms, and how to treat an adder bite.

Do all snakes pose a risk to my dog?

Simply put, no. There are three species of snake found in the UK, there are:

  • Grass snakes
  • Adders
  • Smooth snakes

Only one of these is venomous and a danger to our dogs, the adder snake.

What is an adder snake?

The adder is grey/brown in colour and has a dark zig-zag pattern down its back and a rusty reddish eye. An adult adder can grow between 60 to 80cm in length and they are quite stocky.

Adder loves the sun and can often be spotted basking in the woods, moors, and heathlands.
They are found throughout the UK, although they tend to be more common in the South West of England and Scotland

Adders are protected in the UK under the Wildlife and Countryside Act, of 1981. It is illegal to kill or harm them. Naturally shy creatures, they’re best left alone, and they’ll do no harm.

What are the signs your dog has been bitten by an adder?

Firstly any bites from an adder are most likely to be on your dog’s face or legs. Usually, you will notice immediate swelling in those areas, if you look carefully you may be able to spot two small puncture wounds at the centre of the bite.

Swelling can quickly become severe, especially if your dog has an allergic reaction to the venom, this can result in breathing difficulty. Other signs to be aware of:

  • Pain
  • Bleeding
  • Bruising
  • Lameness
  • May appear nervous

Factors to consider:

  • A small dog may be affected more than a larger dog.
  • The amount your dog has moved or exercised after being bitten will make a difference.
  • Location of the bite.

What to do if an adder bites your dog?

Your dog will need urgent veterinary care. If possible, you should carry your dog; this will help prevent the venom from flowing deeper into their body. You can bathe the wound with cold water. Keep your dog as warm and calm as possible, again, this is to prevent the venom from spreading.

We will more than likely need to treat your dog for shock and provide pain relievers and antihistamines to reduce the swelling.

Antivenom is an option in severe cases and an effective way to treat a snake bite.

An untreated adder bite can result in your dog becoming dehydrated, having tremors as the venom spreads around their body, and can progress to organ damage if the reaction is severe. Fast action and treatment are key!

Thanks for reading, until next time…